October 23, 2016 | life

A Letter To the Fitness Industry

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Back in ’09, I took my first steps into leaving my couch potato life behind. I boxed, then I started running. I felt amazing, I tweeted about it and shouted it from the rooftops. This was pre-Instagram, pre-hashtag-fit-fam etc. There were no daily pictures with captions detailing my start weight and goal weight (mainly ’cause I didn’t give a crap about any of that). There was just a genuine, growing passion about pushing the limits of my body, how incredible that was making me feel and how it was affecting every area of my life.

By 2012, that passion had grown to a point where it warranted its own website and Spikes & Heels was born. Frustrated with how women’s fitness was portrayed in mainstream media, this was for badass women, who pushed the limits of what it meant to be feminine and fit. I glorified red-faced sweatiness, messy hair and finding a form of exercise that made you so happy, you’d gladly exhaust yourself for it. It was all about just getting moving, how exercise made you feel, embracing that there are far more benefits to it than simply aesthetic ones.

And the tide started to turn. Fitness blogs popped up all over the place, suddenly everyone was working out and it was glorious. People were documenting their sweatiness all over Instagram. The message did seem to be more about how great fitness can make you feel. We all celebrated the achievements of those who tested the limits of their spirit and endurance with crazy goal after crazy goal.

What a time to be alive.

But the 2016 fitness scene is, well, a disappointment, quite frankly.

The bubble has burst. It’s oversaturated. Everyone has a fitness blog. Everyone puts their pre and post workout pics up on Instagram with a zillion hashtags. Everyone makes sure to tag all the sportswear brands they’re donning in the hopes that said brands will pay attention and make them the next big ‘influencer’ (spoiler alert: using workout gear for its intended purpose is not that radical).

And perhaps most telling, the scene seems to have come right back around to just aesthetics. For all the promise at the beginning of this fitness explosion that exercise can serve a greater good, it’s the ones with the stereotypically ‘perfect’ bodies who prosper. People can moan all they want about how the media don’t show a wide range of body types, but we create our own media now and have shown time and time again the young, the slim and the six-packed will get the double tap every time.

I look at the fitness scene now, at every new fitness blog that pops up and think ‘Great, but what is your message?‘ Do you have one or are you just adding to the noise? Do you just want a free pair of leggings and invites to flashy fitness events? Where’s the passion, the authenticity, the genuine desire to want to help and inspire others?

I feel very lucky that I work in this industry as an instructor and communicate with people beyond Instagram filters every day. I get to see the changes in attitude, the endorphin rush, the increased drive and determination in other areas of people’s lives. That’s what I do this for. I truly give not one single fuck if anyone who trains with me has a six pack. If you leave my class smiling, feeling better than when you came in – mission accomplished.

I don’t know what the future holds for this weird and wonderful fitness world, but I do wish we’d do better. I wish we’d demand more, I wish we’d understand that slim + six pack does not always equal healthy, that just posing in your workout gear does not actually equate to doing a workout, that you are not walking advertisements for brands (nor should that be your goal). I wish we’d stop reinforcing the stereotypes of what is deemed to be a ‘perfect body’ by only elevating those who have it.

But mostly I wish we’d get back to there actually being a message beyond the vanity of it all.

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6 Comments

MrsB @ Mind over Matter

So true. I’m 40 and don’t give a f*ck about whether I look like #kaylasarmy or not. Fitness to me is fun but also to keep me sane & not fragile as I get older. I often think there’s no point in “preaching” the health part of fitness because the young ones will always go for the looks… But you made me think that maybe I do need to be clearer on my blog just what I’m all about because maybe somebody out there needs to see that there are alternatives to just being a fitspo fittie.

Nina

Loved your blog post. Read about it through an Instagram post. Since having my kids I have tried every fitness/diet going! I have been taken in. Y every Wellness guru going and have realised after a lot of money and a lot of frustration that actually working out and looking after my diet in a natural way is the only way for me to be happy and healthy! I have also realised learnt that like raising kids here is no one fix way of doing it! Everyone is different and everybody’s body is different. Although I do still follow a lot of fitness bloggers I now can just read he blog and

Nina

And not beat myself up wondering why it’s not working for me! It’s taken a while but I love your attitude to all this. I feel amazing after every workout/meal and day and I love seeing changes in my body and realising what my body can do and certainly don’t give a fuck about a six pack!! Xx

Bethan

You know I’d been feeling something weird about the industry for awhile, like I was less comfortable there than I’d been in the past, I put it down to no longer running marathons (go big or go home!), but actually you’ve nailed it. What was a bit subversive and all about the feels and the sweat is back to a place where it’s all archetypal forms and transformation pictures. It’s sad, it misses the point of the activity. it’s not about instagramming it, it’s about how the hell it feels, and sadly the tone of the feels coming across is punishment and not joy. x

Roshni

I love this post and really agree with you. But I also think the levels of racism in the fitness industry need to be addressed too. It’s not just that I don’t understand the ‘instagram stars’ or care about their weight but I literally don’t look like them. I am rarely reflected in any media (social or otherwise) and for me that’s a massive reason why I instagram and why I post pictures of myself. I want people to see themselves in me, just as I want to see myself in them.

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