SINGAPORE — A local gym has banned a male fitness trainer from using its premises after a video of him inappropriately touching a female student was circulated online.
The video, shared on the Instagram account of personal trainer Cheryl Loh, shows a male trainer guiding a female student during a personal fitness coaching session at Apeiro Performance gym.
The student is doing weight training while receiving guidance from her trainer who is standing beside her. The trainer can be seen in the video touching the student’s butt at several points during the exercise.
Loh wrote in her post, “This is absolutely inappropriate as a coach/trainer... When the other party is not comfortable with such action, this is considered a case of sexual assault.”
Apeiro said in a statement provided to Yahoo Lifestyle SEA that the gym had banned the trainer from using the gym facilities to conduct his personal training sessions with effect from Sunday (2 August).
The trainer is a freelancer who was not employed by the gym, which is located on Prinsep Street.
A spokesperson from Apeiro said that the incident happened on Friday. Loh, who was training her own client at the gym, recorded the footage and subsequently reported the incident to the gym’s management.
Apeiro said it was deeply concerned to learn of the inappropriate conduct on its premises and does not tolerate any form of harassment or sexual misconduct against its clients.
Client won’t make police report
Loh and Apeiro did not reveal the identity of both the client and trainer in the incident.
Loh said in her Instagram post that she had reached out to the woman in her video to tell her that the physical interaction displayed was not normal, and was very unprofessional. She also told her that she should speak up if she feels uncomfortable about her coach touching her.
“She told him ‘don't touch my butt’ a few times over seven training sessions, but he still went ahead to do so, using ‘checking muscles’ as an excuse,” Loh wrote.
Loh added in her post, “She will not be making a police report, but she has given me the permission to share about this as she also wants all women, girls, or even guys out there to know that this behaviour is not acceptable and that nobody should put up with any actions that make them feel uneasy, uncomfortable, and disrespected. Anyone that feels this way should speak up and not let the perpetrator have his/her way.”
Trainers should avoid awkward situations
The incident comes on the back of another recent incident of alleged sexual misconduct by a yoga instructor at Trust Yoga studio.
Fitness and yoga coaches say trainers should avoid putting themselves in compromising situations with students, while clients should voice out if they feel discomfort with any touching.
Personal trainer and fitness influencer Jason Chee wrote on his Instagram page regarding the incident at Apeiro gym, “Although most of my clients are guys, I have a fair share of female clients as well. My thoughts on this? Totally unprofessional.”
Chee added, “I do ‘touch’ my female clients but I would ask for permission first. Inevitable if you need to support or spot her. But dude, there are places that you should really avoid man. Sometimes I use the back of my hand to support, so the client doesn't feel so invaded. Or use [something] like a pen or what if you really need to ‘touch’ some places.”
Chee said trainers should not put themselves at risk by putting themselves in such a “stupid situation”.
When contacted, Chee said that the sensitive areas of female clients include their chest, butt, and waist. He added that it is more acceptable to touch places like the arms or back if there is an understanding between the trainer and client.
Ashly Lou, founder of Yoga Inc, had this advice for yoga students: “As long as you feel uncomfortable with any sort of ‘adjustment’, it means that is inappropriate and you must speak up.”
Yoga instructors usually manually correct students’ physical poses, which is called “adjusting” in the field.
Lou said some trainers may take advantage of the trust that students have in them and use adjustments as an excuse to touch them inappropriately. It might therefore be difficult for students to protect themselves in cases of possible molest by trainers, especially if other students are around and the trainer is nonchalant about the inappropriate touching.
“It is easy for the victim to doubt herself and brush it off as an accident or even be manipulated to believe that is how adjustments are supposed to be done!” said Lou.