Endless selfies of slender bodies. Impossibly taut tummies. Perfectly pert posteriors poured into skin-tight Lycra.
Fitness gurus on social media might mean well, but these images are enough to make even the most confident of exercisers feel not quite good enough.
Earlier this year The Mail on Sunday reported on the phenomenon of ‘fitspo’ – fitness influencers who sell the idea that you have to be sexy to be healthy.
And a backlash has been brewing, with a growing number of high-profile trainers showing that what matters when it comes to working out is fun, not how flat your stomach is.
There’s something for everyone in this new approach, from mirrorless gyms to make them feel more welcoming to the less confident, to social media influencers with normal bodies who aren’t afraid to let it all hang out, and dance classes that are accessible to everyone no matter what their mobility needs may be.
Here are just a few examples of this new phenomenon…
Trainer who won’t help you lose weight
Tally Rye believes fitness has little to do with size and that we shouldn’t be exercising to just change the way our bodies look
Tally Rye’s latest message was as refreshing as it was counter-intuitive for a person who makes a living promoting exercise: ‘No, you don’t need to lose weight after lockdown.’
Given that 40 per cent of us have piled on the pounds during the pandemic, you might think she was also going against the grain.
But Tally believes fitness has little to do with size and that we shouldn’t be exercising to just change the way our bodies look.
Tally, 30, who teaches spin classes in London, added: ‘During this past year we’ve seen a rise in disordered eating behaviours, which makes people extra vulnerable to these things.’
Her book, Train Happy, published last year, is billed as an ‘inclusive fitness guide’ and carries the provocative tagline: ‘If exercise had zero impact on your weight and appearance, would you still work out?’
Train Happy: An Intuitive Exercise Plan For Every Body, is out now. tallyrye.co.uk
Gym twins showing women the ropes
Twins Rhian Cowburn and Faye Mouse Bell decided to start their own exercise studio, which they named Strong And Bendy, after getting fed up with mainstream gyms ‘shaming’ their customers with before and after photos.
While it is open to both men and women, one of the studio’s aims is to help women build strength rather than slim down.
Twins Rhian Cowburn and Faye Mouse Bell decided to start their own exercise studio, which they named Strong And Bendy, after getting fed up with mainstream gyms ‘shaming’ their customers with before and after photos
There’s boxing, dance fitness and heavy rope whipping – also known as battle ropes, in which Rhian holds a world record, having whipped from hip to shoulder height a 44ft rope weighing 1.5st (10kg) for an hour.
Most of the activities take place in an outdoor ‘playground’, complete with monkey bars and gymnastic rings.
Both trainers are qualified to run classes for women who are pregnant or who have recently had a baby.
From £20 per class (cheaper packages are available). strongandbendy.co.uk
If you have ever secretly wanted to learn to dance like Beyoncé, but worried you might not be cut out for it, West End choreographer and top fitness trainer A. J. O’Neill (above) might have the solution
Anyone can learn to move like Beyoncé
If you have ever secretly wanted to learn to dance like Beyoncé, but worried you might not be cut out for it, West End choreographer and top fitness trainer A. J. O’Neill might have the solution.
He’s offering live streaming and prerecorded dance classes, with easy-to-follow routines like the ones in pop videos by Rihanna, Ariana Grande and of course Beyoncé – and best of all, no previous dance skills are required.
There are also seated/wheelchair-based versions of the classes, Saturday guided meditation sessions to help wind down – and hopefully soon a return to in-person classes like the ones he ran at London’s Pineapple Dance Studio.
‘The dance world can be incredibly stressful,’ says A. J., 40.
‘When I went into teaching, I wanted to show people they could enjoy dance without fear.
‘What you look like, or what size you are, shouldn’t come between you and being able to express yourself, connect with others and just enjoy a class.’
£25 for a monthly subscription to on-demand/online classes. movewithaj.com
The no-mirrors gym with no pressures
Gyms can be daunting places for women.
Recent research found roughly a third of women avoid them because of worries about how they look when working out, while a shocking three quarters have been harassed by men while exercising.
To get around this, a mother and son from Leicestershire set up the Wigston branch of Gymophobics, a women-only gym chain which has about 50 sites nationwide.
A mother and son from Leicestershire set up the Wigston branch of Gymophobics, a women-only gym chain which has about 50 sites nationwide
Their twist: no mirrors, no male trainers and ‘no pressure’ to achieve a specific fitness goal.
Co-owner Neil Davies, 29, came up with the idea after hearing his mother, Sarah, 59, complain about feeling intimidated in gyms. ‘The name speaks for itself,’ says Neil.
As visits are appointment only, there’s no over-crowding, and sessions with an instructor take just 30 minutes.
Membership costs from £29 a month, which includes diet advice and home exercise routines for days when you can’t attend.
You don’t need to be thin to exercise
Fitness instructor Becky Scott set up MissFits Workout ‘with plus-size bodies in mind’ after spending years feeling ‘not at home’ in a gym and ‘failing’ to diet.
There’s a host of free workouts on her YouTube channel – from ten-minute dance sessions to 30-minute full-body workouts, including warm-ups.
Scott also runs classes in the Essex area, most of which can also be performed while seated.
£6 for in-person classes, online from free. missfitsworkout.co.uk