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.