Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Fit vs. Fat: Does It Matter If Your Trainer Is Overweight?

I stumbled upon a Washington Post article about Black Women & Body Image about a week ago although it was published months ago..Michelle Gibson is featured in it. Michelle is a size 14+ full-time fitness instructor. One reader comments stood out to me..."I remember a trainer at a gym I belong to who looked similar to the women in the post. Honestly, she would be the last person I would ask to help me train."

(Here's a photo of Michelle)

The trainer I worked out with was 40lbs overweight. I never second guessed working with her because of her size. I chose her because of her energy and professionalism. I lost 25 pounds working with her (and of course eating right). She created a workout plan for me to follow on my one after an intense workout session. We updated the plan every 4 to 6 weeks. I also did several one on one sessions when I wanted to kick up my progress before a trip to Miami. 

My trainer pushed me to give it my all in my sessions and encouraged me to eat well and stay active outside. In fact, I think the fact that she too had to work hard to keep her weight in balance made her all the more relate-able to me. Her struggle - similar to Ms. Gibson's - was eating.

So...should it matter if a fitness professional is at an ideal weight? 

That comment got me thinking about another one I saw a few months ago on a blog post about trainer Jeanette Jenkins & Destiny's Child Kelly Rowland's new workout video. "I'm personally not interested in the DVD because neither one of them have a frame like the average woman. Both are very athletic shaped. Kelly has never been thick or overweight and Jeanette looks like she played sports in high school…(Beyonce's) workout tape would interest me more ONLY because her body frame is average. Physically fit yet curvy, voluptuousness and feminine."

So...do we need more instructors who have softer features? Ones that shows that no matter what you weigh you can be active?

Fitness instructors/trainers are almost damned if they do...damned if they don't. If they're too fit, their bodies aren't attainable...If they're overweight, they're a poor role model or ill-equipped. I have taken classes where the teacher didn't look like she stepped out of Fitness Magazine but gave me a GREAT workout and vice versus. One of the best Zumba instructors I had lost 100 pounds and still have 60 to 70 more to go, but, she worked us out! She taught Zumba, Zumba Toning, and ran (including a half marathon).

Ideally, I would think an fitness professional would showcase progress not perfection moving towards a well balanced life including exercise, nutrition, rest, and stress management. 


Papi's Girl said...

I struggle with this thought as well. I am close to getting my certification and I feel inadequate because I don't fit the "ideal" trainer body type.

I think that most people would want a trainer that has a nice fit body because it shows they know what they are doing.

Then I think of the ones that might be intimidated once I have reached that physcial goal.

I want to be relateable but yet inspiring to my clients. So like you said "you are damned if you do and damned if you don't" sometimes.

I taught Zumba and still needed to lose weight. I also ran a 1/2 marathon with 40 lbs left to lose. So I know you can be active and fit at a larger size.

Thanks for the post it got me thinking.

Crys said...

Tough question. I think it would matter to me. But I also don't trust skinny chefs. Just seems... strange. Definitely a thought provoking post.

MissHaneefa said...

Hmmmmm. Maybe the trainer has lost 100 pounds and looks the way she does? I am of the school that I want someone who knows the struggle, whether they are a mom that has had a child and gotten in shape or someone that has lost a good amount of weight. I don't think that I would mind someone larger to train me.

Kimberly said...

This is a sticky issue. I would be lying if I said that I internally judge some of the "less fit" trainers at the gym.... until I see how they work out themselves or other clients. As long as the trainer has the knowledge and experience to train me and help me reach my goals, that is all that matters to me. You also never know someone's story.

My trainer looks pretty average, but he showed me his licence where he was at least 50 lbs overweight, so he is extremely fit compared to where he was. He knows the tools to get smaller, if he chooses too, but he is happy with where he is at.

I think that this really stems from the notion that many people would like to train with someone who has the IDEAl body. Because, then of course, they can help us get that body. This is not always motivational or realistic though...

L said...

I agree that someone can be fit and overweight. I'm overweight and in better shape than all of my friends who are skinny. However, I think if someone is training me they have to appear to have reached my goal. I mean, aren't they helping me get there? It's like learning math from a teacher who can't add. It's hard to believe they can teach what they don't know.

Lady KararD said...

I deal with this directly. I am a plus sized fitness instructor in Atlanta for Big Boned Fitness. I Too many times I have gone to classes where the fitness instructors seemed to look down on me disapprovingly as if I had shot the kid. I work on my eating and exercise every week. But that seems to be motivation to a lot of other women. At least we can relate and feel great about the continued journey to a better waist line and overall health.