Let us start by asking what female fitness has looked like in recent years and then magnify it’s strengths and weaknesses. What is female fitness? Is it just female-centered workouts, exercises and eating? To me, it represents a modern dynamic that empowers women in sports. It firstly indicates how effective social media has been at breaking down boundaries and empowering your average female to becoming physically powerful.
How I examine this is by removing the types of connotations female fitness has as an idea. It is not stereotypically suited towards women nor is it in any way gender-specific in how it presents itself in our daily lives. There are no pink gyms nor are there any types of training methods that would not be given to a male.
Fitness as a social trend
It is in any case also gender neutral, and empowering. I would compare the recent surge in fitness trends as something comparable to a social movement but not in intent. I examine fitness as a tool and thus find that women are in large part leading this movement towards exceptional levels of fitness. I see this on Instagram and as I do largely see this as congruent to a socializable aspect of Instagram ideals, I see this as a positive change.
While I do not see any faults in fitness having become mainstream, and by that I mean bodybuilding and strength training, I see it as part of our vernacular, part of our conversations and largely part of how we consume media. The power that Instagram has had as a visual platform has understatedly placed more of an emphasis on users’ physical appeal.
Mental boundaries malleable through Instagram
Anybody who wants to grow a following based on their levels of fitness is understandably under a lot of pressure to do so. With the over-saturation of fitness content and thus competition comes a possible pitfall of this epidemic. Relating to author Malcolm Gladwell’s idea of a tipping point, it seems as though Instagram has provided just that, a social epidemic that has made the idea of fitness and therefore health ‘contagious’. It has spread much like any epidemic and has broken down social boundaries. I can attest to the power of this as fitness has become a huge part of my identity over recent years.
Have it be the pictures of Michelle Lewin that were exposed to me almost daily on Instagram six years ago and I find my own tipping point. It was how three-dimensional Instagram made fitness models seem that made the idea of having that kind of body and lifestyle an attainable (and desirable) endeavour.
Two-dimensional beauty in a three-dimensional world
Despite any difficulty, I am able to circumvent obstacles and just like the consistency of my Instagram feed, push forward into an aesthetic that I can almost feel is in my reach. It adds a certain layer of humanity and in that, creates an almost potent combination for fitness Influencers. The idea of emulation, celebrity-worship and idolization is a feeding ground for users like me who were once horrendously insecure about their bodies. It fed into my pysche much like magazines did to me when I tried to lose weight, emulating a look deemed worthy by the monthly figures of stick-thin fashion models. Only to have myself be a mirror to just a toxic and unattainable ideal.
I wonder about the future of female fitness in the same way that I wonder about stick-thin fashion models or the plastic surgery craze that Instagram pretty much created. I think that if we are to analyze current fitness trends based on behaviors, whether present or past, we can see how malleable behavior is given a proper incentive.
Additionally, given enough proper breeding ground for ideas, and enough social mimicry, any idea can thrive. Behavior and thought are so largely related, we therefore need to become masters of our processes. We need to acknowledge the malleability of our own thoughts and behaviors so that we do not fall prey towards what other trends are to follow in future times. Fitness is not a trend, it’s consumption can be viewed as a social dynamic that needs us to have our thoughts and behaviors towards it in check, for our own sake.
Instagram Vs. Reality
How often and how open are we about the strengths and weaknesses of our physiques, to a point where we are inadvertently normalizing a virtual world into our daily lives. Do we realize that to some who do not chase the pump, the fitness aesthetic or a Michelle-Lewin body, we have created a sub-set to our own ideals? This is certainly not a bad thing, I just mean that it is an infectious and potent power that we have on our hands. We have the power to create sub-groups, cults, normalize behavior and push forward certain aesthetics all because we are connected via Instagram.
It is truly beautiful but potentially destructive. It is only destructive in the sense that if you have an emotionally volatile person who is perhaps not mentally strong, the ideas that I presented may seem without faults, limitless and perhaps an escape. The reality of fitness is that it is mainstream, and that means that it can no longer be shoved back into it’s old box. It can no longer be an “us vs.them” and ego-centric view with the idea of an exclusive in-group. The in-group in real life does not operate in the same way that Instagram does, and we do not have followers at our daily gyms.
It is thus, in my view, an important distinction to make about fitness on Instagram, female fitness on Instagram and both types of fitness in real life. They are in my opinion largely connected but both distinct realities with their own subsets of rules/functions. Mixing them up is a recipe for disaster and the only preventable way of doing so is by building up mental strength, viewing fitness as non-ingroup based, purely enjoyable and healthy endeavor.
Additionally, thriving in fitness looks like educating one’s self on the biomechanics, science, kinetic and hormonal/nutritional benefits of a strength training lifestyle. To make one a silent leader not as a goal but as a byproduct of a fascination with self-improvement and attainment of athletic goals. The vanity part can remain as a driving force, it certainly works. It just does not play out in the same way it is orchestrated on Instagram, curated, and bleached of any sign of humanity. It is the total opposite and will remain one as long as we remain human beings living in a three-dimensional world.