A Girlfriend’s Response To the Atrocity That Is Women’s Fitness Marketing

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UPDATE: said girlfriend who wrote this post is now my wife. Holla!

It seems I ruffled a few feathers last week when I re-visited my 4 Things Your Girlfriend Should Know article.

For those who need to catch up:

1.  I wrote an article five years ago.
2.  It got sucked into some sort of internet blackhole, and no longer exists.
3.  I used part of the article for another blog post HERE.
4.  I had several people contact me to ask where they could find the rest of the article.
5.  Since I had the original draft saved on  my laptop, I decided to re-post the article on my blog.
6.  Apparently, to some, I’m a chauvinistic a-hole who thinks women are dumb, and don’t deserve the right to vote.
7.  Wait a second…..women can vote?????????
8.  Just kidding.
9.  See what I just did there?  That’s called sarcasm.

Anyways, even though it was a piece I wrote a while go, it was obviously new to a lot of people, and I was surprised at how extensively it made its rounds throughout the blogosphere.

All told, the article was received very well. But as to be expected, there was some backlash, and that’s cool.  I certainly don’t expect everyone to agree with me.

Some women felt I was insulting them and they didn’t like my tone. Well, to be honest, the article wasn’t originally intended FOR women; it was intended (as another reader commented) for the men who hear a lot of the same complaints from poorly-informed women all…the…freakin…time.

More to the point: my goal was to convey that, when all is said and done, lifting heavy things = sexy (or whatever adjective you prefer), regardless of whether you’re a Victoria Secret model or just someone who likes to train for the hell of it.

Nonetheless, my girlfriend and I had a really great discussion about all of this over the weekend during our Saturday “date night.” As far as conversations are concerned, it definitely ranked up there as one of our most intellectual (poop).

Afterwards, we kept the momentum and went and saw a subtitled film. Totally not kidding.

She’s kind of smart, finishing up her doctorate in sports psychology in a few short weeks, so I asked her if she’d be willing to write down her thoughts and share them here.

This is what she said.

[Smoke bomb, smoke bomb, exits stage right]

Unplugged From the Matrix

Women’s fitness is controversial. Women’s fitness is confusing. Women’s fitness may or may not even exist. Learning that women and men should be doing the same basic movements to be fit, healthy, and in shape is the same as being unplugged from the “Matrix”, if you will.

For those non-sci-fi-readers, it is the same as learning that the earth is round, when you have been told your entire life that the earth is flat. Tony’s article on 4 Things Your Girlfriend Should Know is controversial because it unplugs us from the Matrix – it exclaims that the earth is round!

The beauty of the article, aside from its truth, is the passion and controversy it provokes. I say bravo, in small part to Tony, but more so to the men and women who responded to the article – who have feelings about ‘women’s fitness’ – and who, most importantly, are insulted by ‘Women’s Fitness’.

To ‘Yuck’, I am glad that you are insulted…. Say more! What language does the industry have to speak to women? To educate women? To help women to be healthy and efficacious in their fitness endeavors? At present, and in my humble opinion, the language of bullshit. Women, and men, harangue us on television, in magazines, and on the internet with promises of “toned” “thin” “longer” muscles and body parts.

‘Yuck’, are you insulted by Strippercize? By Yoga Booty Ballet? By the Pussycat Dolls Workout? I am. I am insulted that the industry has tried to convince me all my life that steady-state, low-impact, sexualized strutting is the key to me becoming healthy, sexy, and thin.

I am insulted that I am bombarded with false information at my every turn, and I am angry that I believed and followed bullshit advice for so many years. What I love about your comments, and your message, is that it is insulting to be spoken to as if we are “stupid”.

What it means to be a woman, and what is acceptable for a woman to be, has changed dramatically in the eyes of both society and the fitness industry since the 1960’s. Unfortunately, not enough. We may not sit back and wait for popular culture to hand us true, evidence-based, ulterior-motive free information. We must ask for it. We must demand it. And we must make it known that we are pissed off, indignant, and insulted when we are given otherwise.

“NOBODY EVER TAUGHT US!” I applaud “Ambition” for putting it so plainly, and truthfully. In light of the language of bullshit that pervades the fitness industry, how can we expect the average American women to respond differently?

I agree with Kelsey’s suggestion that Tony submit articles to Shape and Fitness magazines – several sources that insist, month after month, that the earth is flat.

Note from TG:  I’ll actually be making my first cameo appearance in Women’s Health this Spring!

Indeed, there are more effective and nicer ways to unplug women, and fitness-ignorant men, from the Matrix.

Christine, I agree that Tony, boyfriends everywhere, and fitness professionals alike could all catch more fitness “flies” with sugar, than with vinegar – But that is another topic altogether.

Sweet or sour, women need to hear the truth

We deserve to hear the truth. How truth is served to us, is up to us, to flavor. “Yuck”, “Well”, Christine, and other readers, tell Tony and the rest of the fitness industry what you want – and how you want it. Don’t stay quiet. Influence the information you receive, and demand what you deserve!

One of the great blessings of my life is that somebody taught me. My father, a bodybuilding, protein-shake-drinking, Arnold Schwarzenegger-admiring man, taught me about and included me in his most beloved hobby for as long as I can remember.I loved him, and in turn, I loved lifting weights.

I was always interested in being strong, in looking strong, and in pulling, pushing, and pressing more. I was never intimidated in the gym, and was often labeled intimidating. I realize that my experience is outside the norm. Most women have never been taught how to take care of and strengthen their bodies, and that is a shame.

Lisa V. suggested that it is shameful for women to be intimidated to lift weights, but the reality is that many are, and that’s not their fault – it’s the fault of society and the fitness industry. We can judge intimidated women all we want, but until we influence them, and until we empower them, we are only part of the problem.

Judgment doesn’t make change… education, communication, and action make change. Bravo to Lisa V., and many other women, for getting to Cressey Performance to train (and Amen that many men are as ignorant as women about how to train!), but the fact remains that you are a beautiful, powerful, exemplary exception – not the rule.

 

 

 

For Lisa V., and “Ambition”, “Yuck”, “Well”, “Speed”, Kelsey, and all of the other women out there who are not intimidated by weights and strength training, who are hungry for the truth, and who are insulted by stupidity and Bullshit – I implore you to keep saying it! It is only through writing, talking, confronting and considering that we can evoke the evolution of the fitness industry – and in turn, of women’s fitness… Whatever that is.

Confront Tony, other fitness professionals, the media, and the images, programs, and bullshit that we are bombarded with.

“Well” expressed her belief that the pictures of the women on Tony’s article were horrible – and I think she may feel this way because these are thin, idealized models who do not appear physically muscular. However, the point of the pictures is to demonstrate that thin and thick women alike lift weights and strength train.

No matter what we look like, or what we want to look like, being fit and strong is elementary to our goal. Personally, I feel that Serena Williams has the hottest, sickest, most amazing body on earth. Will I ever look like her? Unfortunately for me, no. Do pictures of her speak to me? Encourage me? Inspire me? Hell yes.

Whether it’s Serena or Giselle, seeing images of women who weight train is important to women of every shape and size, who aspire to change their body into any shape or size.

Bodybuilders and others who make a career out of their musculature aside, in my opinion, there is no such thing as too muscular. If seeing lots of muscles on a lady is too much for you, than that is you. If a woman wants to kill it in the gym, build muscle mass, and create a physique “outside the box” of acceptable female appearance, good for her! I celebrate her. I admire her. I think she is a badass.

She is healthy, fit, and she sure as hell feels fabulous. As far as I am concerned, saying a woman is too much of an athlete, too masculine, or too far away from the societal standard is chauvinistic, and judgmental. It’s no different than suggesting we should all look like Victoria’s Secret models.

Prakash, and all the others frustrated by the topic of ‘Womens’ Fitness’ – don’t give up! We can create and change the language of the fitness industry – but only if we are active, only if we voice our opinions, and only if we are willing to say over and over again (sweetly or otherwise) that the earth is round!

There is so much more to say on this topic. Thank you for being some of the few who have unplugged from the American Fitness Matrix that is ineffective and insulting.  I hope we will all keep talking – and criticizing, comparing, and kvetching. It is the only way to make change. To make it better. To make us stronger.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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  • deebee

    bravo! i always applaud any woman putting in the effort and sweat at the gym to change their body, no matter if it differs from my ‘ideal’ goal. you’re here, i’m here, let’s all have fun. i am lucky that my significant other showed me the light, that men and women do not have different lifting needs. we should all be doing the same things (depending on goals, obv). i have tried showing this to other female friends and family members but they do not want to hear it and go back to their treadmills and ellipticals. oh well. maybe someday they will give me a 2nd, 3rd or 4th chance and it will stick. 

  • All I have to say is: *slow clap*…………….*standing ovation*

    The first thing I tell the women I train is that they can train however they want.  If they want to get stronger, I tell them how  and how not to do it.  If they just want to move better I teach them how to do that.  Freedom of choice + a little bit of knowledge > poor stereotypes.  

    Great job Lisa.

  • Ahmed

    “unplugging from the matrix”.

    Pure and absolute genius. 

  • Nia Shanks

    Awesomeness, Tony. I actually remember reading that article for the first time it was originally published 5 years ago. I loved it then, and I love it now.

    Some people will always get upset over small things, but whatever. You were spreading a message and doing your best to help people and separate them from the BS that is so common in female fitness. 

    I applaud you.   🙂

    Lisa, you made some incredible points as well! LOVED it!

  • Mike A.

    Fantastic post! I’ve noticed a trend that women who are out of shape and insecure about their own bodies are often the first to judge a strong, fit woman as “too muscular”.

    • deebee

      I find those women are the ones who i receive ‘weird looks’ and snarky comments from. I try to pity them rather than let them make me upset 🙂

  • I love this so much. Sooo well written, and totally hit the nail on the head! AWESOME!

  • Marianne

    What a fantastic read!! Brava 🙂 Thanks Lisa and Tony!

  • Eric

    Fantastic series of posts!

  • going to be sharing this series of posts with everyone, thank you lisa and tony!

  • Emily Socolinsky

    Great post Tony and Lisa. One day, I hope I will have the pleasure to meet both of you. 🙂 Education, education, education. We still have a long way to go to educate women on this matter but it is happening and it is happening more and more….we just need to keep writing and talking and educating! 🙂

  • Ambition

    Beautiful information, thanks for being real people, with real advice and real knowledge.  
     

  • RS

    Tony, you won’t believe this, but I only have four words for you, bro’: You. Are Not. Worthy.

  • Laurski

    Lisa and Tony…you are revolutionizing (is that a word) the women’s fitness world.  spread your word.  

  • natalie

    Lisa, you’re awesome.  I’m still confused on one point, though: why exactly are you dating Tony??**

    **just kidding tony, you are alright sometimes too.  

  • Erin

    Strength training has empowered me in so, SO many ways in and out of the gym.  It’s given me self confidence that i lacked for the better part of my adult life.  Confidence i never developed by running like i was “supposed” to or working out with a bosu ball like i was told would improve my “core” (when i didn’t even know what my core was).  It wasn’t until someone gave it to me completely real about what it meant to “train” for the body i wanted that i experienced a paradigm shift.  The day i picked up heavy things was a day that changed my life.  With appropriate nutrition, strength training shrunk my body in a way i had never seen before.  I’ve been dedicated to strength for a mere 9 months, and in that time i’ve developed abs that i didn’t think owned, and i could probably sell some tickets to my gun show.  But aside from that? I CRUSHED a monster DL PR and hit a chin-up goal i was chasing for a long time (having never done a chin up in my entire life, i can finally say i can do two!) .  After that, anything suddenly seemed possible – including acheiving goals i never knew i had.  Strength training has given me both freedom and a sense of belonging.  I finally have a place in the fitness community where i feel comfortable, confident, and not intimidated to be the only woman in the free-weight area.  I wake up EXCITED to train, which at 430am is not the easiest thing to be.  I have the freedom to live a life without control issues and free of health problems that plagued me for a long time. 

    It doesn’t matter how we hear it – what’s important is that we do.  Strength training may not impact every female like it’s impacted me, and that’s okay.  Women need to know it’s a (damn good) option, and then they find something that gives them the confidence and empowerment to pursue whatever their goals are! There is so much mis-information and garbage out there that we consume thanks to current multi-media and i’m so glad that people like Tony exist to provide some accurate (and entertaining) information on what it means to train like a girl.  And kudos to Nia Shanks, Marianne Kane, Neghar Fonooni, Molly Galbraith, Jen Comas Keck, Alli McKee, and Julia Ladewski – and LISA!!! for being such amazing examples of Girls Gone Strong who provide a beacon for those still in the dark…

    • Lisa V.

      Wow, Erin.  Thanks for sharing.  I agree that lifting heavy & feeling strong is an amazing confidence builder.  My lifting days are the days I look forward to the most, especially my day at Cressey (awesome training environment).  

    • Anonymous

      Erin,

      I really appreciate you sharing your story here. That was truly awesome to read.

    • Norma

      Well said Erin!! Girls gone strong rule!!.I never thought I was going to be able to do a chin up, I was able to do one 2 weeks ago! Last week I did 5, now can pull 5×5 and feels amazing!! The sky is the limit!!

  • James

    Nice catch, Tony 😉

    And GREAT article, Lisa!

  • Barath

    Gentilcore, you’re one lucky SOB……

  • Lisa V.

    Lisa, thank you for such a fine piece of writing.  Definitely sharing these posts.  

    Tony, you should marry that girl.  

  • Cheri

    You two are officially the dynamic duo!  Loved your thoughts, Lisa!  Tony…congrats on the Women’s Health article!!!!!!

  • Amazing post here! Kudos to Lisa for this and to you Tony for getting this whole thing started with your original “5 Things” article. Keep on spreading the gospel, you two! 

  • Madpiggy

    I really love Men’s Health because the articles in it are, for the most part, intelligently written and cover the scope of money, the politics of food and medicine, professional and recreational sports, anatomy and physiology, and relationships (some of the latter contributions of which I find hysterically funny).  However, Women’s Health, while better than Shape and Self and Fitness Magazines, still falls prey to the Leg Pulsing-Pilates Syndrome for Women.  Men’s Health has top fitness contributors from Cressey to Dowdell to Cosgrove and Boyle.  Every once in awhile one of these people makes, as Tony calls it, a guest starring appearance in Women’s Health.  But it’s really disappointing that the same editors and writers who decry the BS on their blogs and in one magazine then turn around and contribute to it in their sister self.  

    As a female trainer and massage therapist who lifts weights and is not bulky, I find it exhausting how much I have to combat the Tracy Anderson Theory of Weight Loss and Exercise with my clients to help them reach their goals.  I didn’t find Tony’s article demeaning at all, but I agree that only having pictures of really hot women can sometimes send the subliminal message that he is talking out of both sides of his mouth:  “Oh, it’s okay to have muscles, but I really dig these waif-thin models and actresses who don’t look like they eat.” That said, if I had a blog, I’d be posting pictures of Paul Walker’s inguinal crease.  So I guess we all have our weaknesses.  🙂

    • Anonymous

      hahahahahaa. Well played on that last line Madpiggy…well played. Thanks for the contribution!

  • I don’t really have much to comment aside from what everyone else has said, but I wanted to speak up anyway and say I really, really, really appreciated this piece.  Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with the world

    • Anonymous

      And I just read your response to the Response on your blog. Thank YOU!

      • SO MANY RESPONSES.

        But of course! I’m just glad it was coherent-ish considering the fog I wrote it in.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for chiming in everyone.  I really felt Lisa hit the nail on the head with this one. Maybe I can entice her to contribute more often on here.

  • Sarahc

    That anyone felt insulted by your funny and honest post on this Tony really beats me.  You are doing a great job.  And I agree totally with Lisa,  It insults me that PT’s in my dumb commercial gym ask me to move so they can use the equipment I’m busy with – as if they would ask the same of a man who is a serious client in the weights section?!

    Anyway keep doing what you’re doing.  People need to hear it as it is. 

  • Prakash

    Lisa, thank you for your encouragement.  I spent the weekend talking to a lady friend of mine who wanted to change her exercise routine which consisted of doing a 30 minute run 3 times a week!!  I’ve managed to talk her into doing weights although she came up with the usual (will I look like a man argument).  She’s placed her trust in me and I hope to bring her over to the “dark” side for good!!   

    She told me this is the most excited she has been about a workout.  Hopefully if I can convince her then she can pass on the word.    Over here in the UK its far worse than in US, or at least that’s my impression.  The majority do the many psuedo programs you highlighted above and are just drones plugged into the many cardio machines.  Although I’d rather people do something then sit on their backside. I do find the poor quality of information and instruction which is being sold by the so called “fitness instructors”, disheartening.  Luckily it is changing (slowly) and more and more instructors are incorporating weights (not tinkerbell weights) into their regimes.  I hope one day it is more common that I am waiting for a lady to finish her set of Squats or Deadlifts so I can get my lift on!  

    I thank TG, EC, Smitty and Mike Robertson for educating me.  

    There is no greater gift than education…although if Tony wouldn’t mind telling me how to get arms’s like his, it would be appreciated!!

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  • Barath

    Wait, where’s Yuck?

  • Laura

    Tony, as always – an important message and entertaining delivery.  Your wheelhouse.

    Lisa, you hit it out of the park.  It’s time to see a little more anger up in here, and I’m 100% with you about the bullshit thrown at women in the name of fitness.  Strippercize?  Are you kidding me?  Objectification masquerading as empowerment.  F. That.

  • Melissa

    Between the two of you, you make a great pair. I’m so happy you wrote this in addition to tony’s blog. My boyfriend (who reads this site religiously) has always commented to lift weights and include more in my workouts and it’s true that I have always been intimidated and unsure if my body would turn out too “bulky” or not. After reading what you wrote, I find my thoughts silly and as I have been completely misguided. I have always thought of myself as a smart and confident woman who finds few things intimidate her and it’s about time I stop letting stereotypes stop me from furthering my workouts.  I genuinely want to thank both of you for such amazing incite (although both approached differently haha) and giving me more confidence to step into the “other” side of the gym beyond the cardio.  

    • Anonymous

      That just made my day. Seriously. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and please, keep “us” posted on your progress.

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  • Tymurds

    Tony – I vote we get a weekly column from your lover.  Fantastic article!  Posting it on FB now

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