Hands up if you’ve ever made a somewhat poor excuse in order to rain check your date with the gym? So that’s everyone, yes? Now hands up if you have ever seen a piece of online content, specifically designed to inspire you to still turn up to that gym date fashionably late? Okay, a few people. If not, you’re about to be introduced to the world of ‘fitspo’ (short for ‘fitspiration’).
We all know someone in our lives who runs everywhere, or rocks up to work in the latest Sweaty Betty leggings. Maybe you know a person who just has to shake up their protein whilst walking the entire length of the office floor. We get it Steve, you have protein shakes for breakfast. Congratulations. As with most things in today’s society, there’s a trend for almost everything. Avocado for every meal, unicorn themed coffee drinks and a ‘strong is the new skinny’ mantra. This idea has turned your Average Joe into a ‘Body Coach’, famous for posting workouts and snappy videos of healthy recipes online. It has also got Tina from high school posting motivational quotes about ‘going to Church (the gym) on a Sunday’.
Body image has always been a somewhat taboo subject. The media says one thing and health officials are always saying another. To add to this, we are continually faced with adverts which instill in us non-existent insecurities about ourselves, for which their products can claim to help us fix.
“The name of the campaign itself suggests that by not pushing yourself to the absolute limit, you’re not human enough.”
In 2015 Reebok launched their ‘Be More Human’ campaign. The campaign spanned across a number of social media channels and encouraged people to post their gym selfies, all using the hashtag ‘#breakyourselfie’. The name of the campaign itself suggests that by not pushing yourself to the absolute limit, you’re not human enough.
This is quite off-putting for someone attending the gym daily, let alone someone who is looking for inspiration to get into going. Gym classes specifically created to ‘break your selfie’ were also rolled out across a very select group of London based gyms. It was clear the campaign only wanted to speak to a very select group of people, promoting an exclusive rather than inclusive view of fitness.
Now, I’m not sure about you, but breaking yourself and spending two hours on a foam roller doesn’t sound like fun. Nor does ending up being prodded by a physiotherapist, who charges hundreds of pounds an hour for the pleasure of doing so.
The ‘Be More Human’ campaign is a fine example of how brands piggyback off the latest fad, in order to push their products. However, using this incorrectly this can have a serious negative impact on self image and alienates a large number of people who don’t feel they are part of the fitness ‘elite’.
“There’s no need to ‘go hard or go home’. No one will high five you for puking in the gym.”
On the flip side, a number of companies are coming together to combat these negative connotations of physique and arduous sporting activities. Recently, Sport England joined forces with the National Lottery to fund a campaign designed to get women from across the UK moving. The idea behind ‘This Girl Can’ targets the negative view created by the media/adverts, that you have to fit certain criteria to take part in sports. It ‘is a celebration of active women who are doing their thing no matter how well they do it, how they look or even how red their face gets.’
Women are encouraged to use social media to share their real life sporting stories: including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. These include both tales of failure and victory, no matter how insignificant they may seem. The campaign is positive use of female empowerment, intended to encourage others and inform women that they can do it, regardless of their shape, size, or ability. If we want a world where fitness can be enjoyed by everyone, we need to continue this realistic view and challenge the creation of these unrealistic body goals created by media outlets and brands.
Unlike food, or fashion trends which change like the seasons (literally), ’strong is the new skinny’ is set to hang around for a while. However, whilst you’re being bombarded by the media and what others are saying, you are the one in control of what makes you happy. If happiness is eating cake and being merry, so be it. If it’s going to the gym every day, just remember, there’s no need to ‘go hard, or go home’. No one will high five you for puking in the gym. Gross.
Photo provided by Bekki Fletcher