What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
Truth: I am an NYC fitness instructor who has had a trend of dating my students. Even more truth: I have three failed teacher-student relations under the elastic waistband of my spandex, a.k.a. belt. At the time, they all seemed like…not not a good idea. But I was wrong.
I like to call myself a “professional sweater” in that I am a certified trainer who specializes in group fitness. I’m an exercise science nerd — I paid a lot of money for the pretty plaque on my wall showcasing my BS in Exercise Science. I love the body and love exercise, so I eat, sleep, and breathe working out. I love what I do.
Every day, when I teach group exercise classes — usually two to three full-body, cardio-driven classes a day — I’m in front of a total of hundreds of people who are working on working out, and my goal is to help bridge the gap between the body and mind, in pursuit of whatever physical, mental, or emotional outcome you want. Point being: I take my job seriously.
However, as successful as I am in my career, I am, in fact, human and have made human errors in said career. I’ve mixed business with pleasure, or better said, I’ve eaten where I shit (or shat?). Like many single women in their 30s, I’m a hopeful romantic who occasionally makes questionable choices. Those choices being I’ve dated not one, not two, but three students of mine.
The good news is the third time's the charm, and I think I’ve finally learned the lesson: Dating your students is actually not recommended. In my experience, students don’t make for the best partners, and, similarly, I’m probably not your kind of gal anyway.
I think part of the allure of dating a woman in charge of your heart (rate) is the commanding role I assume. And maybe since my job is to know your body and I’ve boosted the testosterone levels coming from your gonads, you think I’m all about that control and will wind up being a dominatrix/control-freak-in-the-sheets if we happen to find ourselves in a situation sans the spandex. The truth is, hours of working out in the day leaves for very little energy and a very tired lady in the eve. At the end of the day I’m ready to turn it in, not turn you on.
By virtue of my career, I am a morning person, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get breakfast in bed or a good morning “job.” What it does mean is if you’re committed to your fitness, then I will hold you accountable to daily workouts. In one of the three student-dating experiences, one man became so overzealous in his new fitness regimen that he went from student to S.O. to stage 5 clinger. His zeal led to such an addiction to exercise euphoria that he actually adopted my teaching schedule and made it his weekly workout routine (I’m talking 10-plus classes per week). At some point, he might as well have been my coworker.
And let’s talk about eating where you shit. Obviously these men added value to my life, I enjoyed parts of our relationship (until I didn’t), I did want to spend time with them, and I truly cared for them while we were together. However, when a majority of the time we spent together was at my place of work, it became suffocating and, in retrospect, unprofessional.
When routines and habits in relationships form, it’s important to hold onto something that is yours. And your place of work should be your place. Of. Work. I’m not saying work can’t be fun — in fact, it should be. It should also be a place of professionalism, a creative outlet for you to express your passions. If you’re passionate about your work, like I am, then your energy at work should be focused on building your empire, because at the end of the day, the boy or girl will go away (until you find the one that doesn’t), but you still have to show up for work the next day.
The lines between my work and my personal life became so blurred that I didn’t realize how connected the two were until the breakup(s). One of the student-boyfriends was so involved in my work life that my bosses established relationships with him, so when we broke up they kept the party going. For months, everything at work reminded me of him, and on the inside I was crumbling, yet there I was, trying to be professional and inspire people to be their best self. I felt like a fraud.
I had been so passionate about my job I didn’t realize I had this major blind spot that was making things messy by bleeding my personal life into my professional life. I created this weird toxic combination of work and play that left me uninspired to be inspiring.
But I turned that shit around.
After spending months nursing the most recent heartbreak, trying to find my way in the world while still remaining true to my work, I chose to stay single. I focused on my job, I rekindled my hobbies, and I rebuilt a life starring me. I took my personal life out of the gym and made my work work. My focus became allocating all my energy into building the brand of me and making it the best.
Today, I am even more passionate at my job than before. It took three failures to start taking my own advice to make a change in my life. After owning my failures, I owned my career, became the best at my job, and continued to educate myself about fitness.
Today, I am still educating myself and working on building an empire sans a man. I date outside of my bubble and abandon all relationships that don’t have balance or serve me. No men of interest get the introduction to my work and, better yet, participants of my class...well, I will never date you...no offense.
It’s not you, it’s me.