Friday, September 13, 2013

Fitspiration: Friend or foe?

Greetings Horizontal Stripers!
     It's been a busy week for us at Horizontal Stripes. Though the weather isn't cooperating with my fall wishes, I haven't let the blistering sun deter me from going to the gym. There are many reasons that fitness is a beneficial piece in the puzzle of life. There are a bunch of health benefits that you can receive from working on your fitness -- more restful sleep, improvement in body systems, and having more energy during waking hours are just a few. Yesterday morning I did step aerobics for the first time in ages, and while it was tough, I felt better for the rest of the day, and I slept better than I had in ages. Getting back into my fitness groove has left me thinking a lot about fitspiration memes. For those of you who haven't heard of them, they are picture phrases that are supposed to be encouragement for exercise and healthy living, but can really send strong messages, some of which I'd consider harmful. There are some amusing ones like this one below:

or this cute and fun one:

But many of them follow along these lines:



      Now I'm certainly not trying to be Debbie Downer, but I do feel a responsibility to talk about this as someone who promotes body acceptance and likes many types of fitness. If these images are motivating for you, I am not trying to tell you, you're crazy. If you have trained and you look like this or your goal is to look like this, I am not telling you you're in the wrong.  My main concern with these images is best summed up by this article. There is a lot of fitness misinformation and misconception out there. It can prove to be dangerous, if you're not careful. Also, looking like the people above is not a guarantee for happiness, which is alluded to over and over in fitspiration around the web.
     The context into which these memes are put asserts that if you want to be considered healthy, you have to look like X. This is nothing new of course. We've seen something similar in fashion for years, and that mentality can definitely take a mental and emotional toll on individuals as studies have shown. With physical training though, there is also the possibility of injury if you are trying to do things your body can't handle, and many of these images have pushed people to injure themselves. Most importantly though, many of the fitness models (yes, models) that are in some of these memes are doing a million things to their bodies behind the scenes that the average Jane doesn't have the time or resources for. So don't beat yourself up, if you follow the Shape or Women's Health regimen of the month, and you don't experience similar results to our friends above. If you look like this naturally, kudos to you, I'm not hatin'! I do suspect, however that not too many of us are born with rippling muscles in these "idealized" proportions. 

If the above is true, then why is the only way to be "healthy" to look like the women above?  They are beautiful in their own right, please don't get me wrong, but just speaking personally, I could follow their routines to a T, and not achieve the same results. I look completely different from them to begin with. My point is to take these images with a grain of salt ladies and gents.  If you use the same products and do the same routines, there isn't a guarantee that your body will react the same way. Below I've rounded up a few pictures of some other women that are also beautiful and healthy and are working on their fitness.  

The US Air Force Volleyball Team 2008

They may be animated, but the message is true. Pole fitness is for everyone!

  Women's rugby teams know how to kick butt!

                           A Zumba instructor working her class hard, if the sweat is any indication!

 These Yogis are getting in some meditation.

She's got game!

     I hope no one takes this post as me bashing gym rats or those who want to look like fitspiration models. My point is what it always is: you don't have to try to look like anyone else to be healthy. Accept your body for what it is and be grateful for all it does for you everyday, instead of picking at every flaw you think you see. If you hate working out, you don't have to! That's up to you too! If you decide to though, just be safe and realistic with yourself. That will protect your mind and body. In closing, I will see you on the flip side Stripers. Keep calm, and take care of your bodies!


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