THE NEW (Fitness) Class War
Expensive memberships, invite-only classes and selfies in the gym… When did working out become so exclusive, asks Lucy Devine
Let’s be honest: in the dark depths of winter, we think just getting to the gym is an achievement. After all, if we had our way, we’d be hibernating right now.
Whether it’s leaving the house while it’s still dark out or having braved the ridiculous cold (and snow!), we feel pretty chuffed when we drag ourselves out of bed for a workout. That is until a post-session Instagram trawl, when seeing endless gym selfies and ab pics makes us feel, well, a little empty.
Turn to social media post-exercise and the inevitable workout shame ensues. Sunday mornings are made for fitness Instagram posts: a sea of fresh faces, Sweaty Betty leggings, poached eggs and Barry’s Bootcamp hashtags – and, if you’re really unfortunate, an Instagram story confirming our worst fears: nope, it’s not just good angles; they really do look like that. Abs and legs everywhere. We’re pretty sure being collapsed on the sofa in Primark pyjamas just wouldn’t have the same effect.
Over the last few years, fitnessrelated posts on social media have snowballed. Despite them being rated as the most annoying type of update (followed by those who post photos of every meal), it seems we’re addicted to showcasing how we’re working out, where we’re doing it and what we’re doing it in. It’s easy to see why. With certain brands and classes being en vogue, seizing the opportunity to be part of an elite fitness community is motivation to exercise in itself. Showcasing this on social is all part of the fun.
Glenn Mason, a psychologist and cognitive behavioural psychotherapist, agrees. He says: ‘Many people live and share their life through social media. Hitting the gym in the latest fashion trends and sharing this with our social networks is no exception. Social media is an easily accessible platform where people can live out idealised lives and portray certain perceptions to others online.’
But could this be causing a deeper problem? In 2014, a study by Sport England found that three quarters of women were put off exercise for fear of what other people would think, for being judged over their appearance and their ability in the gym. Elite training wear can cost up to £100 per item, while premium gyms are popping up all over the country, charging upwards of £30 a class – that’s as much as a month’s gym membership for some.
Standard classes at the local gym had their moment, but now they’re being replaced by fashionable branded workouts. Tori Halman, a PR account assistant from London, regularly attends spin and HIIT classes that cost £20 per session. She says: ‘I think they offer a better quality of workout. That, along with the atmosphere – which is usually much more energetic and pumped – motivates me more to work out than an ordinary class; I often find those lacklustre and slightly dull. There’s a certain element of self-righteousness that comes from going to a branded class you often see celebrities going to, but I think the trainers are genuinely excellent and really inspirational.’
Phoebe, a nurse from Sheffield, doesn’t agree, ‘I’d love to be able to try these ‘celebendorsed’ classes but I can’t afford it,’ she says. ‘I guess it makes me feel a bit inferior.’ While it’s hard to stop the onslaught of posts, it’s worth taking a moment to put things in perspective. Glenn Mason says: ‘Social media represents people’s virtual lives, which often can be far removed from the reality of their offline lives.’ Remember that next time you’re poring over glam fitspo shots, eh?
Social media is often far removed from reality
Some typical #fitspo found on Instagram