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?