Obsessed with your personal trainer? A psychologist explains why.
They have a body to die for, they look good in ripped singlets (the dream), they make you feel like the only person in the world, and even if you’re in a committed relationship, you can’t get them off your mind… actually, they might even appear in your sex dreams. Awkward.
It sounds like a plot twist in a daytime TV drama – or the opening lines of a Mills & Boon – but ‘I fell in love with my personal trainer’ returns more than 2 million results on Google and is a phenomenon far more common that you might have realised.
I mean, we all know someone who is low-key obsessed with their PT (it might even be you… that’s why you’re reading this, isn’t it?!) but what is it about those breathless one-on-ones that incite such strong emotions?
According to Meredith Fuller, a psychologist and spokesperson for the Australian Psychological Association, there are a range of reasons – some more complex than others – as to why you’ve developed a borderline-obsession with the person who forces you to bench press and burpee.
They’re attractive, plain and simple
No, it’s not the most complicated explanation, but we are naturally drawn people who are healthy. But, besides their glowing skin and impeccable physique, “we find fit and healthy energy attractive, because it makes us feel fit and healthy by association,” says Fuller.
They’re giving you undivided attention – and you like it
Now, this is where things get a little… hazy. Although, essentially, you’re working out, “you’ve got special time allocated with someone – regardless of who they are – who is completely there for you,” says Fuller.
“This is incredibly powerful, and, unless it’s someone very close to you, you just don’t get that kind of attention from people these days.
“Another person is there looking at you, touching you, seeing your progress, helping you, and appears to be intensely interested in you.
“This is incredible seductive,” says Fuller, and if you think back to the early days of your relationship (this one, or any other) that was probably what it was like, then.
“These things create a ‘connection’ that we don’t usually get, because our other relationships are characterised by people feeling busy, tired, stressed and distracted. We’ve all got our phones going, and people are generally more interested in thinking about themselves, looking at themselves and talking about themselves,” says Fuller.
Yes, here it truly is all about you, which, if you lack care and attention in other facets of your life can be quite captivating.
“If you get a lot of this, you might be unaffected. But for someone who isn’t used to it, they are more susceptible because the feeling isn’t dispersed among a range of people and relationships – it’s concentrated,” says Fuller.
“It’s easy to get confused about what you’re feelings are, too,” says Fuller, who explains that (usually) people don’t necessarily like their trainer as a person, they just like how they feel when they’re around them: special.
But before you get ahead of yourself, remember: you’re actually paying for this.
“It’s a contract – you’re paying for X and they’re providing Y. What you need to understand is that your PT has this kind of relationship with all of their clients. It’s a transaction and it’s their job.”
Sorry. But you might be pleased to learn that these ‘inappropriate’ emotions “are more about the relationship between you and the care and concern that you’re receiving, than between you and another person,” says Fuller.
It could also be to do with trust
“Who do we trust the most? Often, its people like our personal trainers, our psychologists, our hairdressers, our doctors – we divulge a lot of personal information to these people,” says Fuller, who explains that vulnerability makes us feel very connected.
“Often with PTs, you’re showing them your weak spots, and it feels like they’re accepting you completely for who you are.
“But if you’re after the honesty and intimacy that you feel in training – isolate what it is you like, and try and apply these things – whether it’s active listening, eye contact or paying close attention – to the other important relationships in your life.”
Ultimately, these are all things we can do more of.
Otherwise, it’s because of a ‘chemical reaction’
Yes, it could all just come down to your hormones.
“When you’re doing something very physical and very intense, you’ve got those endorphins going, and feel-good bio-chemicals occur when you exercise,” so it’s not your fault, per se, it’s the dopamine’s.
So, once again, you’re don’t necessarily like your PT, you like the way exercising makes you feel, and associate that with the person who you’re exercising with. It’s a minefield, we know.
But if you just can’t shake it?
The wise thing to do is end your sessions – especially if you’re in another relationship – and deal with the problems there, whether you’d like to preserve it, or not.
If you’re single, still – “stop the sessions – these are business dealing and after you’ve had some space between yourself and your trainer, meet for coffee in another context, to see if the feelings are still there. But only do that if both parties feel a spark outside the transaction,” says Fuller.