As someone who is easily bored with routine, I’m always on the hunt for a new workout challenge. I jumped on board with surfing-inspired fitness. I’ve bounced like a kangaroo in Mario Godiva’s Plyo Dance class. I’ve Zumba’d like nobody was watching. But even a fitness flirt like me understands the benefit of exclusivity to some degree, especially when it comes to trainers and mentors. In the workout world, there is fierce loyalty to instructors who inspire a positive but physically demanding atmosphere.
Fitness Monogamy: A Deeper Understanding
Dedication to a single instructor has grown as a whole, so much so that there’s actually a term for it – fitness monogamy. Students around the country are traveling far and wide just to downward dog with their favorite yogi. Knowing this, I had to wonder…what’s in it for us?
Natalie Cohen Gould is an indoor cycling trainer for Flywheel Sports in New York City who estimates that about 90 percent of her students are return clients.
“I take pride in seeing familiar faces throughout my week,” she says. “I love knowing I’ve helped improve someone’s day or workout regimen.”
Josh Rothstein, a longtime student of Natalie’s, says it’s her ability to foster a community that keeps him coming back.
“I see Natalie talking with her regular riders, and she is genuinely invested in them,” says Rothstein. “When someone is your friend and not just an instructor, you look forward to seeing them each week.”
Okay, so it’s nice to feel like you’re a part of something bigger, but can a personal connection with your trainer yield better fitness results? Peggy Hardie of Minneapolis thinks so. She wakes up at 4 a.m. on the regular and drives 15 miles to Life Fitness for her class with expert Chris Freytag.
“A few years back I wanted to lose about 20 pounds, and Chris guided me through heart rate training and proper nutrition,” Hardie says. “I lost the weight within six months and have kept it off. Chris is always educating her students on what works and what doesn’t.”
Freytag says her strategy is to make her workouts accessible to everyone.
“I push athletes in class, but I am positive,” she says. “Everyone gets the most out of their workouts, no matter what their fitness level or modifications.”
And this whole fitness monogamy thing? Freytag’s not so sure it’s a “trend,” after all.
“I’ve been teaching for 24 years, and I think people always go where they find someone they like and where they see results,” she says.
Registered dietitian and co-founder of Fit Mapped Anita Mirchandani agrees.
“I remember the days when I hopped around different NYC’s because I liked this one instructor,” says Mirchandani. “Life is busy, and when we have limited time, we want to make the most of it.”
“These days with boutique prices, an instructor can make or break your fitness experience,” she adds. “Having a comfort level is a good feeling.”
It makes sense. When a single spin class runs upwards of $30, it’s nice to go in knowing what you’re going to get. Still, most of the instructors I interviewed say fitness monogamy is more about the personal connection. Andrea Galbreath, who leads Hip Hop Hustle and cardio kickboxing classes in Orange County, Calif., sets aside an extra 20 minutes in her daily teaching schedule to catch up with students.
“I do my best to learn their names, so I can encourage and praise them individually during class, instead of making generic statements,” she says. “I want to know their stories.”
“Teachers have this amazing privilege of being a regular presence in someone’s life,” adds Rebecca Pacheco, a yoga instructor at Equinox in Boston. “Our most fundamental need as human beings is to connect and feel like we’re part of something – a family, a community, a team, a tribe. I think a fitness experience can offer that, too.”
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