Home Page

Stereotypes: Hunks and Hotties

Contact Mike Gascoigne
Contact Mike Gascoigne

If you think that fitness instructors are all hunks and hotties, you have probably been watching too many films. Most instructors are burning off enough calories to get rid of any excess fat, and lifting enough weights to make our muscles work properly and improve our posture and balance, but otherwise we are just ordinary. When you go to your local leisure centre, they might give you a brochure with some impressive looking pictures of hunks and hotties, working out and lifting weights, but it's not always obvious who these people are and where they come from. If it's a small, local gym, they might take some pictures of the best looking members of their staff. Larger organisations and franchises obviously have more people to choose from, so they might use people within their organisation who you are unlikely to meet because they work elsewhere. Alternatively, they might go to a fitness modelling agency where they will find lots of people who market themselves purely on their appearance.

However they do it, when you sign up for your gym membership you are likely to get an instructor who doesn't look anything like a super-model. They are just ordinary people, and they do some working out to keep fit, but they spend most of their time walking around the gym helping other people, and they do some administrational jobs and some cleaning and maintenance of equipment. It's just an ordinary job, nothing particularly glamorous.

The myth of the hunks and hotties is largely perpetuated by films, TV and the advertising industry. It bears no relation to real life and deceives people with false expectations that most of us will never achieve.

Most fitness instructors are fully aware of the myths, and they pursue their own fitness goals for their own personal reasons (and they know about defining goals because it's part of their training). In many cases their goals have got nothing to do with their work as instructors. They might be involved in sports clubs and their goals might depend on their chosen sport, for example:

  • Weight-lifters, wrestlers, and field athletes such as shot-putters and hammer throwers tend to develop big muscles, giving themselves a hunky appearance.

  • Sprinters tend to be quite muscular, but they also have high definition because they can't afford to carry around excess fat.

  • Long distance runners tend to be thin and skinny. They are quite muscular but they have a different muscle type from the sprinters. They have smaller, slow-twitch muscles, good for endurance, not the large fast-twitch muscles of the sprinters.

  • Cyclists tend to have large quads (front upper leg muscles) because their main effort is pushing the pedals and straightening the legs.

  • Swimmers tend to have good upper body strength and slightly more fat than other athletes because it's a non-weight bearing activity.

  • Football (soccer) players tend to be fairly average, with a body profile that allows them to do a wide range of activities that require speed, endurance and frequent changes of direction.

If you participate in sports you can probably identify yourself in one of these categories. As a marathon runner, I suppose I should be thin and skinny, although I'm not, I'm just average. The thin, skinny people are the ones who win races and I haven't won anything, I just finish somewhere in the middle. I've lost some weight since I started running and I find that my performance depends on my weight, so I try to keep it under control. I'm a bit too big in the shoulders to be really good, but it doesn't matter. I enjoy the sport and I've always got a list of compatible rivals who I try and beat.

Returning to the question of hunky appearance, you will find that at most gyms there is a minority of customers, mostly the men, who ignore the aerobic exercises and go straight for the weights because they want to build up their muscles and look good. Their success will depend on their genetics and the levels of testosterone that they naturally produce. If they don't have enough testosterone, they might take steroids but it's a risky activity, contributing to high blood pressure and heart disease, and they will get banned from sporting activities. A safer option, for someone who can't develop big muscles, is to go for high definition so that you get a "ripped" or "rippled" effect and you can show off a good abdominal six-pack. You can achieve it by a combination of aerobic and resistance exercises, building the muscles to a moderate size and burning off the fat so you can see them. We all have a six-pack somewhere, but you don't see it because it's covered in fat.

Women tend to go for high definition because their hormones don't allow them to build big muscles. There are some very muscular women, but they look masculinised and unattractive, and it's virtually impossible for them to get like that without steroids.

Body-building is in any case a minority activity, practised by people who already have a healthy body composition and want to take it further, sometimes to extremes. There is a much larger number of overweight people who simply want to start doing something, and some of them would feel out of place and embarrassed in a gym full of hunks and hotties. They don't feel inspired by the super-models in the advertising brochures, and I think they feel relieved when they discover that most of the instructors are actually quite normal.

Mike Gascoigne

Is this a super-model and does it matter?
Is this a super-model and does it matter?