January 31, 2005
The VERY PERSONAL Trainers; More Women Are Having Affairs With Their Fitness Gurus
EARLY one dark and dreary January morning a year ago, Alison Vaughan, 36, a director of an art and design firm, dragged herself to the gym.
Joining the gym for the first time was her New Year resolution. Her gym instructor, Jeremy, had brown hair, a toned, lithe body and a cheeky smile.
And the fact that he was ten years younger than her, charming and devastatingly attractive certainly helped motivate Alison in her bid to get fit.
Before she knew it, he had not only talked her into agreeing to do three gym sessions a week, but also persuaded her to get up at 6am for a personal cardio workout.
Jeremy was extremely attentive and his compliments made Alison feel good.
She was proud of herself for finding the motivation to get fit.
At Pounds 25 an hour three times a week, it was an expensive hobby, but she reasoned that if it had worked for celebrities such as Kate Beckinsale, it would work for her.
She also knew how proud her husband Andrew, 42, a director at the same company, would be.
Though they had no children and Alison didn't have the excuse of pregnancy weight gain, she had noticed that she was getting flabby around her waist and thighs. She wanted to make sure that Andrew still had eyes for her alone.
Within weeks, Jeremy offered to take sessions in her house as well as at the gym.
'Soon, I started to look forward to the sessions perhaps a little more than I should,' says Alison.
'If I'd been honest with myself, the real reason for booking more and more gym sessions with Jeremy was that I enjoyed his company.
'My husband worked long hours and I enjoyed the easy banter with my personal trainer. Without wanting to sound like a woman with a schoolgirl crush, I was enjoying the way he made me feel.' The workouts became an escape from the boring outside world of meetings and hard work.
'It was addictive. The fact that Jeremy made me feel attractive even when I was sweaty and not wearing makeup was hugely appealing.
'He made me see the potential in myself to look sensational. I loved his company, the fact he was always complimentary and courteous, and treated me like a lady. After a few weeks, I found myself fantasising about wrapping my body around him.
'I still loved my husband and had never been tempted to cheat on him before but the more I saw of Jeremy, the more I wanted to be with him.
'I knew there was the potential for something to happen between us.
His physical fitness was a huge turnon.
The fact his skin would rub against mine as we were working out and I could smell his sweat was so exciting and intimate.' Jeremy's ability to make Alison feel as though she was the only woman in the world was an incredible aphrodisiac: suddenly, she was ready to walk into a trap which is proving a temptation for many women.
Plenty has been written about relationships between celebrities and gym instructors. Madonna's personal trainer, Carlos Leon, fathered her first child, Lourdes. VANESSA Feltz found long-term solace in the arms of her trainer, Dennis Duhaney, after the break- up of her 16-year-old marriage.
And it's not just famous people who are drawn to their gym instructors.
With more than 5,000 registered personal trainers in the UK, the number of ordinary women using their services is increasing.
And the number of wives finding themselves embroiled in locker room love affairs is growing, too.
The attraction is not purely physical. Cary Cooper, professor of psychology and health at Lancaster University, says that because of the intimate role personal trainers play in women's lives, and the positive encouragement they offer, they can appear to have all the qualities of the perfect partner.
'Busy women with equally busy partners crave the sort of attention that a personal trainer can give them,' he says.
'He takes the role of a confidant in much the same way as a hairdresser does, someone who sees you regularly and will listen to your problems and concerns.
'Working one-on-one can be incredibly intimate, physically and emotionally. The personal trainer has a vested interest in your health and wellbeing, and is there to help you look and feel better. He is supportive and encouraging.
'Moreover, he sees you at your worst, with no makeup and looking sweaty and unkempt. Yet for all that, he still accepts you for what you are.
'Essentially, he is behaving in exactly the same way you would want your ideal partner to.' However, like any affair, a relationship with a personal trainer is inextricably linked with lies and deceit.
In the case of Alison, she found herself acting entirely out of character and actively pursuing an extramarital affair.
'I made the first move,' she admits.
'During one lunchtime session, Jeremy was adjusting some equipment I was working on and I spontaneously kissed his ear. As soon as I had done it, I felt mortified. Not because of my husband but in case Jeremy thought I was crazy. But he responded by telling me that he was extremely attracted to me.
'Later that day, he called me on my mobile phone - he had my number to arrange our training sessions - and asked me to go out for a drink with him the following day.
'I was so excited but my stomach was churning with guilt. He'd awakened feelings in me that I hadn't experienced for many years.
'I knew deep down where it was leading and over the next few weeks our drinks turned from flirty chats to a fullblown affair.
'Once a week, I would tell my husband I was seeing girlfriends, when I was really having the best sex of my life. Sex had suddenly become forbidden, exciting and sensual, unlike with my husband, who was predictable in bed.'
Naturally, Alison's affair started to dent her marriage as she found herself comparing her husband unfavourably with Jeremy. And while he continued to work long hours and so didn't suspect anything, Alison was aware of an unspoken gulf growing between them.
She made the classic mistake of thinking she was the only client Jeremy was involved with and so was devastated to discover he was having a similar relationship with another woman.
'When a gym client I was friendly with told me she, too, had been sleeping with Jeremy, I felt sick. I confronted him and he didn't even try to deny it.
He just said he still fancied me but it was "just one of those things".
'At first, I was hurt, then angry and finally I was overcome with utter shame at what a fool I'd been.
'Of course, a man as good looking as Jeremy was going to have lots of women throwing themselves at him. I couldn't believe I'd put my marriage on the line over an affair; but for him, I was just another perk of the job.
'I quickly changed gyms and although I still have a personal trainer, I made sure this time I chose a woman.
'When I see other women in the gym flirting with their male instructors, I feel sorry for them. I know how easy it is to be conned by their flattery and hope they don't make the same mistake I did.' PAUL COOK, a 27-yearold personal trainer from Wimbledon, South- West London, says women throwing themselves at him is just part of the job.
'Flirting with clients has always gone on, and most of the time it's harmless.
The majority of the women aren't my type anyway,' he says.
'It's usually wealthy, married women in their late 30s with children who come on to me. It's not that they're bored housewives - most of them are intelligent career women with great jobs, who probably should know better, but can't quite stop themselves.' Dr Nick Neave, evolutionary psychologist at Northumbria University, says the attraction between a woman and her personal trainer is often inevitable purely in terms of how humans have developed.
'Women prefer physical fitness in men because it indicates they are healthy.
They like broad shoulders, a narrow waist and guys who are hunky but not too muscular,' he says.
'During exercise, the body releases chemicals called endorphins, which make you feel relaxed, happy and can even dull pain. When women feel some of these emotions, they can be far more sexually receptive.
'This natural high makes them feel sexy and, subconsciously, they start looking for a mate.
'Also, exercise releases chemicals called pheromones from a man's armpits, which increase his attractiveness to a woman. These chemicals can even change her perception of his face so she finds him more attractive.' A potent combination of sexual evolution and the fact that many women use their relationships - sexual and non- sexual - as an escape from unhappy relationships and marriages reflects a deeper problem in modern society, where increasingly both partners work hard, leaving little time for intimacy.
This is certainly what happened to Susan Woods, a 30-year-old marketing executive from Jersey.
Deeply unhappy in her live-in relationship of three years, she found her head was turned by the obvious flirting when she started gym sessions with her personal trainer, David.
'It was obvious he was a real ladies' man and the more I saw him, the more the flirting escalated,' she says. HE WAS extremely tactile.
Whenever he helped me use a new piece of equipment or do a new exercise, we would touch and I'd feel a spark between us.
'Sometimes, he would just pat my shoulder or arm but at other times he'd put his hand on my stomach to check I was working my muscles properly or put nearly all his body weight on me to help me stretch, which felt incredibly sexy.
'I had been confiding in him from the beginning about the rows with my boyfriend. At first, it was just like having a male friend to confide in. But then one day, a couple of months after we met, I broke down in tears in the gym after another row with my partner.
'David took me by the hand, led me into another room, closed the door and kissed me full on the lips as I leant against the wall. It was late in the evening and no one else was around.
'I was shocked when it happened - so much so, that I couldn't speak. He smiled and suggested that we finish the workout.
It was surreal, but I wanted more. I felt terrible that I had kissed another man after all, I had never been unfaithful to my boyfriend before.
But I couldn't stop thinking about David.
'The next time I saw him was by coincidence.
The following day, I was walking back from work and he passed by on his bike. He stopped and asked if I wanted to go back to his place. I said 'Yes' - and that's when our four-month affair began.
'While I was seeing David in secret at his flat, I didn't want sex with my boyfriend but he never even questioned it or asked if there was anything the matter.
'This reinforced my decision to have an affair. If my boyfriend didn't care about me, then why shouldn't I find solace with someone else?
'I knew my relationship with David would never go anywhere because I was just another conquest to him.
'I suspected he was having other affairs while he was seeing me - he often used to go outside to speak on his mobile phone and was always flirting with other women in the gym. I never asked him because I didn't need to.
'Looking back, our relationship was based purely on sex. He was passionate in bed and taught me things I had only ever read about. Eventually, I was the one to end things when I moved to Kent to take up a new job.
'Seeing David made me realise that my relationship with my boyfriend was all wrong - so I left him.
'I ended my relationship with David around the same time because I wanted a clean start. He wasn't upset when we split up: he wished me luck and accepted I had to move on. THE AFFAIR served its purpose and I eventually went on to meet someone who was not a ladies' man. I don't think all personal trainers are womanisers, though it would be easy to fall for one because most are charming and you spend so much time with them.
'I wasn't the first client David had an affair with and I'm sure I won't be the last.' But relationships with personal trainers don't have to be sordid affairs. Fleur Rhiannon, 23, who is single and a personal assistant for an actor's agency in Kensington, West London, dated her gym instructor for nine months.
She hired her trainer, Paul, to help her shed a stone in weight. But a feeling of closeness and camaraderie soon developed and they became friends outside the gym. One night, eight months after the training sessions began, they went for a drink in a bar together.
'Trainers have a really bad reputation. I know a few people who have had a fling with theirs,' says Fleur. 'So I assumed Paul would have women falling at his feet and had no intention of being another conquest. But that drink was the start of a relationship that proved me wrong.
'Even though we were dating, while we worked out at the gym he was totally professional and treated me like any other client.
'One of the attractions was the physical element of our training together and the accidental physical contact.
'I was worried that after spending the day with beautiful bodies, he'd come home and find fault in mine. But he never did. He wouldn't even pass a comment if we went out for dinner and I ate fatty foods.
'At the beginning of the affair, I asked him if he'd had a relationship with a client before, but he said I was the first. I still believe him.
'He was friendly with the women he trained and I can see how easy it would be to misconstrue this for something more. I felt jealous of the more attractive ones he worked with. But I felt sorry for the women who made themselves embarrassingly available to him because they must have been lonely and misguided.
'We split up after nine months because the relationship had run its course. I would never put anyone off going out with a personal trainer, but it isn't the easiest relationship to have. The temptation for many gym instructors is too great.' Of course, not all personal trainers take advantage of the situation. Kristoph Thompson, a 23-year-old gym instructor from Eastbourne, East Sussex, has faced women with a crush many times and has learned strategies to deal with it.
'Almost all of my clients are women and about 75 per cent of them flirt with me. If a woman approaches me, I make it very clear that although I'm flattered, I don't mix business with pleasure,' he says.
'I think it would be unprofessional but I know a lot of trainers who don't think that and are more than happy to take advantage.
But they're the ones who give this profession a bad name.'