Does Size Matter? Body image within the fitness industry.

Skinny arm

We are all well aware of the media’s constant promotion of “ideal” body types and how this can lead to various body dysmorphia disorders like anorexia or even steroid abuse/overtraining that can affect both men and women, however a fellow fitness colleague this week made a comment that really perplexed me and got me thinking!

My colleague was commenting on a video he’d seen on YouTube from another Personal Trainer who was providing lifting advice and who he deemed as “skinny” – my colleague’s complaint being that “how can someone, that obviously doesn’t lift heavy weights, provide advice on the best lifting techniques to increase size be taken seriously?”

He went on to further support his case stating that “No-one would hire a fat personal trainer either as if they don’t even care about themselves how can they care about a client?”

I can understand where he was coming from – we do live in a very visual world where first impressions count and most clients would probably pick  a trainer that resembles their goal/ideal image.

The thing that niggles me though is that to me it’s a form of discrimination – whether it’s because the person is fat, skinny or whatever.

My colleague is also not alone – a quick look on the internet and many other PT’s feel the same, with the majority of the public also agreeing they would choose a trainer based on their looks first – however…… !

I know a number of personal trainers that fit the stereotypical image but lack adequate knowledge in dealing with anything other than body building, or struggle to explain the science/reason why something is effective.

There are others that have lots of knowledge and experience, but lack any sort of personality to motivate a client to help them stick with a plan and achieve their goals. Clients have also commented that some PTs can make them feel inadequate.

I know there are instructors that despite having “the look”, knowledge and experience – smoke and regularly drink to excess.

An overweight or skinny trainer may be retired from their professional sport, have medical issues, or be halfway through their own “transformation” (maybe they just started within the industry or are in a bulking cycle). I’m not trying to make excuses – they could be just plain lazy!

It is also true that most trainers will find a “specialism” – something with which they can relate and they themselves enjoy whether that’s body building (bulking/cutting/modelling/competitions), weight-loss, medical referrals, older people, children & teens, group exercise, nutrition…… which can lead to a variety of body-types within the industry – I certainly wouldn’t call a powerlifter “fat” – but that shouldn’t mean that they cannot provide guidance on other areas if they have the knowledge/experience.

My point is that although the way a trainer looks is important, when choosing a trainer or assessing their abilities, it should be based on a lot more than just what they look like.

Some client’s may find their instructor’s image a motivation (whatever that image looks like) but at the end of the day, it is the relationship the client has with their trainer that keeps them motivated and continuing to use their services or going to their classes.

If you restrict who you listen to based on pre-conceptions about a person’s looks – then you might be missing out on some really helpful information.

If they have passion for health & fitness, proven knowledge and experience and can show a genuine interest in their clients – for me it doesn’t matter what the person looks like and it is that which will determine how successful they will be and is what we should be promoting within the industry.

This Girl Can video