One of the saddest things I’ve witnessed in my years in the fitness industry is what happens when young women blindly let their boyfriends become their coaches. I’m talking about beautiful girls who follow their meathead lovers to the gym and the disastrous results to which it leads. They’ll do anything their guy suggests without asking questions—until it’s too late.
Fast-forward, and these cuties have turned into train wrecks. They have mindlessly done anything and everything that their sweetie said, making themselves unrecognizable to their size-25 jeans, not to mention their friends and family.
Back in the 1990s, when I first started working the free “technical hotline” maintained by my company, Nuclear Nutrition, I took many calls from women whom I accidentally called sir because of their deep voices. I quickly smartened up and avoided being gender specific until I heard someone’s name, but the point is, the calls had common themes. The caller would either have an abscess, be overweight from metabolic rebound, or be crying that she didn’t recognize herself after following the instructions and information her “ex-boyfriend” had given her.
Twenty-five years later, married to the “Metabolic Fixer,” Ron Noreman, I hear the same nonsense all over again as the ladies sit and sniffle about their problems. It’s a constant in the industry, but one that can be easily avoided, and it breaks my heart that so many young women lack the confidence to ask questions and say NO to their boyfriends when it comes to training and supplements. You can add new vernacular like, “swolemate,” “peak weak,” and “re-feed,” but the song remains the same.
What goes wrong? Well, let me tell you how it works…
An adorable, petite girl—let’s call her “Barbie”—is excited to be invited by her boyfriend, “Ken,” to join him at the gym. Barbie is so blinded by her love for Ken that she thinks he knows everything about training and exercise. After all, he told her he did. Before you know it, Barbie is doing everything that Ken does. She does not ask any questions and follows his every move like a lost puppy. Ken has Barbie using all the exercises that he does but with less weight.
Ken is what I call the Saturday Night Gym Guy. He trains for going out to the clubs and to look good in a T-shirt. He takes a peek at his abs in the gym mirror every two minutes and hits a bicep shot every five. Oh, yes, you know Ken, too? When Ken started training seriously, he quickly hopped on some quality stuff because, in his ever-so-humble opinion, it meant that he did not have to do cardio. As time goes by, Barbie starts to look like a mini Ken.
You can see how this scenario goes down the highway to dysfunction and the destruction of Barbie’s once adorable physique. Grab the Kleenex because Barbie will be calling the hotline or reaching out to the Metabolic Fixer after her breakup, which often occurs because Ken gets angry that Barbie looks different, or Barbie gets smart and asks questions.
What if the boyfriend is actually a trainer? The title of “trainer” is used very loosely today, with many different types of credentials. For the purpose of this discussion, I mean a certified professional. If that’s the story, a crucial question is, Does he have sex with his other clients? If it isn’t, the fact remains that a sexual relationship changes the dynamic. The old saying applies here: You don’t mix business with pleasure. If you have a boyfriend who passes the qualified-trainer test, it really needs to a be a mature relationship in which you feel confident that you are strong enough to ask questions and no one is pushing you to do anything that you do not want to do.
That said, to work with a trainer, you have to be willing to listen and play the role of follower; you’re not equals. It’s a dicey formula for a healthy relationship, so proceed with caution. It may be wise to wait until after you’ve established a solid foundation for the relationship.
Am I completely against training with your boyfriend? Absolutely not! This is about the new gymgoer who allows her boyfriend to become her coach—and the sole source of her information. There is a tremendous difference between that and a couple who may do a few sets together or meet at the gym, divide and conquer, and then leave together. Many couples enjoy training and hanging out together at the gym. That is not a coach-trainer relationship.
A good alternative if you’re just starting out or you want to improve your physique is to look around the gym, scope out women whose physiques, training styles, individual body parts, or overall presence you like, and ask them questions. Lead with a compliment because too often so many of us do not share those thoughts with each other. Giving another woman a compliment is a great way to put a smile on someone’s face—a little pay it forward—and it may be the start of a valuable conversation.