My Love/ Hate Relationship with Fitspo

I have a mixed relationship with fitspo, the trend for fitness-related pictures going around Pinterest and Facebook. Chances are if you are a fit person, you will have at least seen, if not pinned or shared, these pictures. If you haven’t seen them, they are images which are meant to act as ‘fitspiration’ or motivation in your journey toward fitness and good health. Fitspo will have photos of athletes or actresses whose body shape has been deemed aspirational, a motivational saying or motto, or a training tip. On Pinterest, fitspo is often pinned up alongside advice columns from blogs, websites and magazines about how to tone a body area or train for an event.

In one way, I freaking love fitspo. It encourages women to move beyond the old paradigm of exercise is only useful for weight-loss, something your doctor has ordered you to do or worse of all, only enjoyed by those girls from school who actually enjoyed PE classes. We all know those myths are wrong but yet, they endure.

Good fitspo offers a different opinion. It tells us that we are strong, we shouldn’t give up after the first week, and we can reach our goals if we just persevere on through the boring or tough parts. We are reassured that it doesn’t matter whether we’re running 2 kilometres or 10, steadily running or wheezing along, as long as we are out there doing exercise, we’re doing great. The three images below are, in my opinion, good examples of fitspo.


Then again, there also is some terrible fitspo out there. Too often they present one body type, a slim lean hourglass, as an ideal shape while body-shaming the obese, overweight or those unwilling to restrict their diets to the point of misery for a ripped body. Fitspo fans say ‘fit is bone deep’, yet much of fitspo is about skin-deep appearances.

Crappy fitspo can only serve to make someone feel awful about themselves. Crappy fitspo thinks that shame and regret are appropriate ways to motivate someone. The culmination of this negativity lies in certain fitspo which asks would you rather have the pain of the workout or the regret of not being able to wear a bikini that summer. Have we not been getting this message for years from women’s magazines?

And like women’s magazines, fitspo likes to assign blame and ignore the reality of people’s lives. It holds up examples of people who made the choice to be fit and healthy while ignoring the social issues which feed into cycles of poor eating and no exercise. Eating a healthy varied diet is expensive and time-consuming, the cost of joining a gym is often prohibitive, and getting out in the horrific Irish weather is a challenge, that’s if you even have anywhere safe to run or cycle. This doesn’t include any other problems like taking care of children or an ill relative, working and studying at the same time, a long commute, or illness.

In whole, bad fitspo equates being healthy with being thin, and then conflates health with virtue and worthiness. If you are good, exercise, practice ‘self-control’ and eat clean, you will get the body you deserve (in this case, a lean ripped body) and be happy. In that exact order.

I’ve posted up some of the worst fitspo below, the ones which made me snort out loud with their daftness, scream at the laptop for their body-shaming or simply despair that someone might actually take its message seriously.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on fitspo. Am I being overly critical or are there some mixed messages in the fitspo community?






5 thoughts on “My Love/ Hate Relationship with Fitspo

  1. To be honest, 90% of it makes me incredibly angry. Most of the time I feel it’s either made by men, or worse, made by women brain washed into thinking that this is exactly what they should be thinking. Images of women in bikinis and really tight yoga pants etc is ridiculous and insulting. If it’s meant to be motivational regarding a persons fitness there’s no need for it. Your very first two images are prime examples of what it all should be. At least dress the women appropriately, create real role models. I feel there’s probably more men going through those pictures all day than women.

  2. I totally agree with you, and I think the problem also lies in thinspo, I was trying to motivate myself to become fit (I have never been fit so it’s going to be an uphill battle-heh almost literally in my case :p) and when looking on tumblr at fitspo a lot of the images were also tagged with thinspo and proana tags.
    It’s really scary what kind of support there is online to encourage unhealthy living habits, it’s actually terrifying what you can see even in a five minute browse.
    I learned more than I would care to about the red bracelet diet (abc) which encourages starving yourself etc.

    • Thinspo is terrifying and I’m glad Tumblr have at least made the effort to shut down obvious pro-ana websites. Then again, there are so many more blogs which disguise eating disorders under tags like healthy eating.

      The best way I’ve found to motivate myself with fitness is starting off slowly and gradually seeing the changes.

  3. Compleatly agree with you! Keep spreading the word and hopefully people will start to realise that not all fitspo is healthy, neither for the body or mind 🙂

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