Mat and I have disagreed about how motivating or negative "fitspiration" can be. I see it as using highly sexualized images of women to promote fitness, often with quotes attached which seem motivating until you deconstruct what they're really saying. He sees it from the body builder's perspective, because he knows how hard the people in the photos have worked to get themselves to fitness-model levels of preparedness. Tosca Reno's argument about how fitness is portrayed in the media covers both angles, addressing head-on the issue of making fitness into something sexual.
Gazing at images of caricatured breasts, buttocks and biceps gives you the impression this is how a fit body should look, that every fit body needs to be shaped in the same vein. Fitness magazines use exactly these images to "inspire" women to look this way. Yet most of us can't identify with what we are looking at because we don't believe ordinary us could ever be them.
What we don't realize is that when we are looking at the faces and bodies of women in these physique magazines, is that most of them have dieted for months to look that way. Or most of them are just days prior to a contest where they have put themselves through rigorous training and dieting to get lean enough. Or they have just competed and won't look the same in a few days time.
In other words, she is acknowledging both Mat's view and mine: those bodies were hard-earned. They are not fake, they are real people. AND they are simultaneously not realistic expectations, even for the women who live in those bodies, because they represent one very specific moment in time. A moment which is often well lit, professionally photographed, perfectly posed and positioned, and oiled to highlight every bulge and fibre line. When those women take off the high heels, go home and relax hours later, do they even look as fit or as buff as they do in the photos? Yet these are the images that are ubiquitously used for inspiration.
Perhaps from my vantage point of 55 years of age, one willingly accepts that there is more to fitness than pornography. Somehow the butt-baring image just doesn't work after a time. So what then is the new direction of fitness? If you ask me, the key to fitness is being able to move your body in the way it was meant to move.
It means you can run, jump, swim, play, bend, walk and lift with all parts of your body from joints, muscles and bones to hands and feet, all body parts working in unison. It means that if you had to run 5K to get away from danger, if you had to swim for 20 minutes to save yourself in a flood, if you had to lift a heavy weight out of the way to free yourself, something or someone else, you could do it.
The new fitness trend is not about prostituting yourself but about doing the hard work measured in reps, sets and sweat to create a body, an entire organism engineered to sustain itself in this brave new world. It means you can help yourself -- not be dependent on someone else. It means you train differently, think intelligently, respect powerfully, sensing a new strength in yourself that comes not from the desire to have a cutie booty but a strong one that can move when it has to, along with the rest of the magnificent machine called YOU.
Being fit in a functional rather than sexual way means you are entirely capable of being powerful no matter what your height, bust size, shoe size or hair color. You are empowered from the depths of your DNA because you did the work, you earned your place and you walk confidently because of it. A functionally fit You welcomes all sizes, shapes and colors, your boobs and butt are incidental. What we really need to build in the gym is a sense of self and what we are capable of. Believe it!
She concludes that the pursuit of sexiness stops being important. Her definition of fitness - something functional, based on what your body can do - is in line with what I'm trying hard to believe 100% of the time. I believe it about 85% ... but when I am surrounded by so many images of sexiness, it's hard not to aspire to look like them. It's the 15% of me that still buys in to fitness-as-synonym-for-sex that stands up and applauds Tosca Reno for voicing her philosophy so eloquently.