Let me explain. In running my personal training boutique I spend time online looking for social media content, pictures, memes, and quotes. In this process, I see a lot of fitness images. Most of these images contain half-naked women who are very fit to extremely fit. I am not judging these women. If you are one of these very fit women and you are comfortable working out like that, go for it.
I have been a personal trainer for 17 years and for 14 of them I worked in big chain gyms. Believe me when I say there are very few women working out with their midriffs exposed in sports bras and shorts so tiny that they could be underwear.
Most women are wearing fitness clothes. Some are in fancy coordinated outfits. Others are in more simple outfits, still, they are wearing shorts, pants, tops, and even comfy looking sweatpants that cover rather than expose most of their body.
Here is my dilemma. If this is how most women dress for the gym, where is that representation in fitness images and media? It goes beyond the clothes. Where is the inclusive representation of women’s bodies? Where are the women in good shape, average shape, and not-yet-in-shape?
Fitness facilities everywhere are full of women of diverse sizes and shapes in various stages of their fitness journey, but many are ignored in the media.
This topic has been wearing on me for a long time. Looking at images of what the fitness industry thinks are ideal female bodies does not motivate me. I wonder, does it motivate most women? Looking at these women wearing workout outfits the size of a handkerchief does not succeed in making me feel included or welcome in the fitness world. Many of the images I see online border on gym porn.
Instead, I am motivated by the thought of a diverse cross-section of women of all shapes and sizes taking action to improve their health. Gyms and fitness facilities can be intimidating. Maybe if women saw more images of women who looked like them exercising they would be inspired to give it a try.
My frustration level has been growing by leaps and bounds with fitness images and I feel that the time for change has come. I am going to take the plunge and start with myself and my fitness business. My goal for 4Fitness is to use images that contain a more realistic portrayal of women in fitness environments – even if I have to create them myself. If stock imagery sites refuse to portray the diversity of women in gyms, then I will find another source that is more inclusive.
At the end of the day, I love what I do because I am fulfilled when I am allowed to help someone succeed on their journey to health and fitness. As I write this blog, I know I could be doing more. While I have never loved having my picture taken, I can get over that and start taking photos of myself exercising. I can invite clients who want to show their confident side to participate in this with me. If I need to, I will find models that represent an authentic cross-section of the 4Fitness client base. In the end, if I inspire even one woman to feel welcome and start exercising, then I have succeeded.