Tuesday, September 1, 2015

"Do you feel that a personal trainer needs to be in great shape?"

I'm in a few Facebook groups for fitness professionals and today someone said that they were in another group for personal trainers and this question was posed. "Do you feel that a personal trainer needs to be in great shape? Why or why not?"  Some people argued that a personal trainer's body is their business card and that they should be an example to clients and the general public.

The person who told me about this conversation said that she tried to give the group more to think about, namely the idea that personal trainers and exercise instructors can be thin, but not necessarily good teachers.  I found the original comment thread, but by that time it had devolved into insults, and I don't have time.  There was discussion about what "great shape" means, and someone remarked that "great shape" for a bodybuilder is not the same as for a swimmer.  I understood that commenter's point, but I wanted to dig deeper.

When we choose a fitness professional to work with, how are our preferences displays of bias?  Far from just dismissing choices as simply people liking what they like, it seems that paying attention to the ways we like one body type over another or one gender expression over another has real importance for thinking about fitness.  After all, are we not conditioned to expect men to be in powerful positions of authority, to see muscular bodies as aspirational, and to see white bodies as neutral?  Whether we choose a male trainer because we think he will be tougher on us or because we believe that a male trainer is more serious than a female one, these preferences, this liking, has real economic consequences for folks working in the industry.

This reminds me of an article by law professor Randall Robinson, "Structural Dimensions of Romantic Preferences."  I teach it in my classes on race and sex.  Here's an excerpt:

Law and social norms create structures that channel and limit our interaction with people of various identities. This structuring of our social environments determines, in part, the romantic possibilities and inclinations we imagine, express, and pursue. However, the presence of such structures and their influence on our romantic choices is often overlooked. People often report that they just like what they like, expressing little awareness of the structural influences that might account for their preferences. 

Robinson brilliantly links residential segregation to romantic choice.  He suggests that it's hard to think of a person as a potential romantic partner if there aren't many of those group members in your neighborhood.  So what does this mean?  It means that if people don't have exposure to a wide range of professionals with body types and approaches to fitness, consumers are less likely to seek them out. Therefore, we need to attend to the structuring of our social environments.  

I'm really intrigued by this idea of preference and the idea that fitness professionals are selling their bodies.  Of course, I'm wondering where this marketplace leaves people who do not fit the picture of fitness that we have been sold, but whose bodies resemble those of the people doing the choosing.  

In the meantime, here are some pictures of what I did today!

Here's today's shirt!

Tortilla with bacon, mayo, and spinach for breakfast.  Really good!

September Races
Circle Triathlon
Pumpkinman Triathlon
Killington Beast
Tough Mudder

Today's workouts
hip hop cardio
HIIT class (with a bike ride to and from the studio)

I'd love to hear what you think about this question!  Also, if you dig what you see here, catch me on social media.   

"Wrong Is Not My Name: Black Feminist Fitness"
Facebook: www.facebook.com/blackfeministfitness
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Twitter & Periscope: feministfitness

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