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He Said, She Said: Difference in Male & Female Fitness Instructors

From the Show: Train Your Body
Summary: Feeling comfortable with your exercise instructor is important. But, should gender be an important part of your decision?
Air Date: 5/19/15
Duration: 10
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest Bio: Neal Pire & Grace DeSimone
Neal Pier better resized-horzNeal Pire is a nationally noted expert on fitness and personal training. He is a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and has served on the Executive Council of ACSM's credentialing arm, the Committee on Certification and Registry Boards. Neal served as vice president of a leading national health management company and now serves as an Exercise Physiologist at HNH Fitness, a medical fitness center in Oradell, NJ. He is widely sought after as a consultant for athlete training programs, performance enhancement centers and fitness industry management. As a 35-year veteran with deep understanding of the subject matter, he is often asked for background, commentary or analysis by media covering wellness, fitness, and personal training.

Grace DeSimone has been in the fitness industry for over 30 years and brings a variety of experiences in commercial, corporate and community settings. She is the editor of ACSMs Resources for Group Exercise Instructors (LWW, 2011) and is an ACSM certified personal trainer and group exercise instructor. Grace is the National Director of Group Fitness for Plus One Health Management, an Optum Company.
He Said, She Said: Difference in Male & Female Fitness Instructors
When choosing your exercise instructor do you take gender into account?

Qualifications aside, choosing the gender of your instructor(s) should be based on your comfort level.

With instructors often having intimate access to your body, this decision is an important one.

On this week's installment of "He Said, She Said," Neal Pire and Grace DeSimone help you make this all-important decision so your workout experience can be as comfortable as possible.

RadioMD PresentsTrain Your Body | Original Air Date: May 19, 2015
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guests: Neal Pire & Grace DeSimone

Your trainer, Melanie Cole, is here to motivate and help you perform. It's time for train your body.

MELANIE: In this day and age of the increasing popularity of female doctors, female gynecologists, female pediatricians, does it make sense to have a trainer, fitness instructor of the same gender? Do you feel that uncomfortable? Most of my clients, as a trainer, are men. So what is it about the gender thing? Is there anything it? Guests today, He Said/She Said Grace De Simone, National Director of Group Fitness, for a Plus One Health Management, an Optum Company and Neal Pire, exercise physiologist at HNH Fitness, Medical Fitness Center in Oradell, New Jersey.

So, guys, I'm going to start with you, Neal. Is there something to gender? As a man and kind of a big man, do you find that women are more attracted to you as a trainer, more drawn to you or do you feel that sometimes they are like “I don’t want you like touching my body parts”?

Neal: I have learned over the years that if you touch, it's how you touch and how you communicate touch to the client that’s most important. And I really don’t think that it’s an across the board gender thing. You have to be able, as a fitness professional, to be able to manage and communicate and develop a level of rapport with your client, regardless of gender so that they feel comfortable. It's that comfort level that you need to address as a professional and the comfort level that as a customer, as a client, you need to have with the trainer, be it male or female. Again, the personality traits and how they communicate with you really, I think, are integral in making that happen and not necessarily just gender.

MELANIE: So, Grace, what do you have to say about this? How do you feel comfortable and do you feel comfortable with a man training you? And what would you tell somebody who maybe says, “I'll try a man” but then all of a sudden gets the wigglies and doesn’t feel comfortable. What would you tell them about finding a trainer of either gender and how they can feel more comfortable?

GRACE: Well, a few shows ago, I'm sure you both remember, we did a show on breaking up with your trainer and breaking up with your instructor. So, whatever you choose, think about the long-term effect. If you are working with a trainer or you are working with an instructor, it’s something to just think about just like when you choose your dentist or your doctor. You are hoping that it's going to be a long-term relationship, so if you get yourself involved in something early on and you really don’t feel comfortable, move on. Don’t feel like, “Oh, I have to work this out. “

That’s why test drive, get to know people, ask questions and really go with your gut. It is a very personal thing, much like choosing a medical professional. Some people prefer same gender, other people prefer different gender. And I can tell you from somebody who I have been transformed from, I only went to female gynecologists until I met the doctor that was so awesome. Gender doesn't matter because his personality, his rapport, his education, all those things that Neal was talking about are there. So, it's very much a personal decision, there's no rhyme or reason. But I would advise our listeners to follow your gut. If you are feeling uncomfortable on day one, you’re probably going to feel uncomfortable on day 21. So, take that under advisement and really get to know who you’re talking to, have conversations with them because it’s a very long hour that you are spending with a trainer or a half an hour, if you are not comfortable.

MELANIE: Well, it is and there's certainly, as you say, that very intimate element. And as I work with all these men and most of them are in their 70s and 80s and even 90s, things happen. Things fall out, things happen, they do.

GRACE: Yeah, things can fall out.

MELANIE: Things fall out and you have to be their trainer that is able to take that whether they fart or whether something happens and just kind of let it go.

So, Neal, what if it’s a woman and something like that happens? Because to me I'm training this old guy. If something falls out it's like, “Okay. Whatever. Let's go on.” But if it’s a man and it happens to a woman or is there any difference in that feeling? Do you feel as a man that you have to be more careful with women?

Neal: Well, I mean, I think that because of society’s pressures, for lack of a better way to put it, you need to be careful and you need to be respectful and professional above all. I'll give you a perfect example and let me tell you, I was a rookie. This is going back to 1979 and there I am, an unseasoned professional but always very respectful of women, and just adults in general as I grew up. But there I am and I'm instructing a new member at this health club how to use the old Nautilus hip and back machine. Do you remember that machine?

MELANIE: I I love those.

Neal: And, of course, you'll never find one these days. But there the woman is, lying on her back and she is extending her legs and using her hips, etc., the way you would use the machine. And I'm instructing and I’m coaching and I'm there within reach of her personal space, right? And with my little chart I'm recording her reps, etc. And this is 1979. Back then you didn’t have the assortment of exercise gear that a lot of the women wear these days at the gyms. And this woman was wearing a leotard with sheer tights. And the leotard had snaps in the crutch.

MELANIE: Oh, oh.

Neal: And you know the exercise I'm talking about, you know the movement and as she extended one leg down with the other knee up towards her chest, the snaps popped.


Neal: And here I am.

MELANIE: There you are in full view of her sheer tights.

Neal: I’m like, “Oh boy.” And I didn’t say a word. Just…


Neal: "Okay, good make sure you’re breathing. Excellent, exhale. Awesome. Let's move on to the next machine." And I just turned very slowly and walked towards the next machine, giving her an opportunity to fix herself.

MELANIE: And if she hadn’t caught it, then would you have said, we only have a minute left but I'm going to go Grace, but would you have said something? Did you say something?

Neal: I didn’t say anything. Well, I would have said something if she hadn’t caught it but, obviously, her leotard rose up around her waist now and there she is-- so there was no pretending.

MELANIE: There was no pretending. Grace, you have about a minute, my darling. Tell us about how to pick the gender? How to figure out if you’re comfortable with that gender and when things go awry and there's, what do they call those slips in Hollywood, ‘things happen’, then how do you deal with them if it’s a member of the opposite sex?

GRACE: Well, couple of questions that I would suggest people ask themselves when making a choice. Some people naturally gravitate towards one gender or another for most things. You feel more comfortable with a man or you feel more comfortable with a woman. So that would be choice number one. Go with your gut. How do you like to be motivated? And for some women, they like a man motivating them because there's less chit chat, sometimes two women together, it's like two kitties in a litter box. You have to be really careful with that if you know that you are going to be chatting with this person all day long.

I choose men for that reason because they keep me out of the gossip mill. It’s like, “Come on. Stop talking. Stop complaining. Let's go.” I know that about myself but if I'm with another girl I'll be chatting away. So, that’s something to think about it. What's your goal? Do you really want to be with somebody that’s going to keep you in line and say, “No we’re not talking now. We are working now.” And that’s not going to upset you, because that's what your goal is. Think about that.

What's the knowledge and the experience of the person which I think far outweighs the gender. If you find somebody who's got the right background, it might not matter. But if you do have those uncomfortable sensations like, “Oh, how come he brushed up against me that way? I feel uncomfortable in that way,” that’s a red flag and you really need to address that, either by saying, “I'm not comfortable,” or you go to someone else in this facility to say, “Hey, let me inquire about this. Am I off base or should this not have happened?”

MELANIE: All good advice. All good advice. Look for the gender you are most comfortable with and how you feel about it. You know your instincts.

You’re listening to Train Your Body right here on Radio MD. Stay well.