The Biggest Lie In Women’s Fitness

As a blogger, I am extremely fortunate to be contacted by many fitness studios, brands, and other things fitness related to try out their products, classes, etc. I normally love these offers, and even when something is not necessarily in my wheelhouse, I’ll usually give it a try, unless it’s something that I do not feel comfortable supporting on my blog.

However, recently I was contacted by a new fitness studio about giving one of their classes a try. I’m not going to specify here, because I’m not here to make any enemies, I just want to get my point across. Anyway, this particular studio described their class to me in the email. And I’ll admit, they had me for most of it. I was just about to click “Reply” and write, “I’d love to try it out!” when one of the last lines of the email stood out like a sore thumb.

Our classes help to create lean, elongated muscles, they said.

Wait, what?

 I’m open to trying different types of fitness classes. I’m not so stuck in the weight room that I can’t see the rest of the fitness world out there. But when you flat out lie in your marketing to women about your product, that’s where I draw the line. There is no class or fitness routine that will elongate your muscles — that is actually physically impossible.

If your class is something that gets women off their couch and gets them moving and having a good time, that’s wonderful, and I’m all for it. But it’s these lies that get to me and make me question your product. Why are we perpetuating the myth that women should work out to create “lean, elongated” muscles? Why are we not teaching women the truth, that if they want to appear more defined, they must build muscle and lose body fat. And if they want those muscles to appear longer than they already are, than the only option there is, quite frankly, to get new parents.

It’s this lie that keeps women paying for these fantasy fitness classes, even when they’re not developing the ballerina’s body they’ve always dreamed of. Scientifically speaking, the length of ones muscles is determined strictly by genetics, and cannot be changed over time into a longer, leaner form.  Do you know why ballerinas have the long, thin bodies that they do? Genetics. Trust me, years of plie squats will never turn my legs into dancers legs, and I know that because it’s pure science. Some woman who is promised “long, lean” muscles who dreams of that dancer’s body? She may believe that that can be achieved by certain classes because she does get an awfully good burn by doing endless reps of leg raises. But what happens when she never achieves this look — has she failed, because she can not recreate her genes into a thin dancer’s body? Of course not, but she may not know that. 

I recently had a conversation with a local fitness instructor who told me that most of the women that come to her classes only want to do body weight exercises, because those are what they think are going to give them the body that they want. Should this instructor continue giving her clients what they want, even though those desires are built upon the “long and lean” myth of women’s fitness? It’s a tough call, especially when you consider that because there are plenty of classes out there pushing this myth, going against the grain could potentially cause this instructor to lose paying clients.

So I guess the question is, are fitness studios just savvy marketers for using the key words that women want to hear — lean, long, sculpt, and tone? I, for one, believe that it’s not smart, but deceptive, and there is a huge disservice being done here. Women’s fitness should not be built upon lies, it should be built upon positivity, motivation, and reality. Women need to know that they will not develop a long, lean dancer’s body just by going to certain types of classes, just as they won’t turn into hulked out body builders by going to other types of classes.

Women need to be taught that the Tracy Anderson’s of the world are frauds, and that their legs will not become too big from spin class, nor will they become bulky from lifting heavier than 5 lbs.

This all being said, I just want to be clear here. There are many types of classes out there that are so far outside of what I normally do for fitness. This doesn’t mean that they’re bad, or that they’re not worthwhile, there are just certain things that I feel are more beneficial and more fun for me. When something comes across my inbox, I’m not usually one to poo-poo it just because it’s different, or because it’s not my go-to fitness method — I’m certainly not of the mindset that everyone out there has to be following the same routine in order to be fit. Heck, I’ll try a Zumba class if it’s offered to me, mostly because I just want to dance!

It’s the lies and the wrong information that I have a problem with — feeding into women’s fitness myths through shady marketing is not the way to help women become healthier.

Buzz words aside, women deserve realistic expectations of how their bodies can change and what their bodies can do. There have been some amazing campaigns lately, such as the Like A Girl from Always, I Will What I Want from Under Armour, Be More Human from Reebok, and my personal favorite, This Girl Can. These are the types of marketing campaigns that truly show us what women’s bodies are capable of, and that show us that there is so much more to fitness than creating impossibly elongated muscles. Luckily, I think these are the future of women’s fitness, we just need to get more fitness studios to realize that there is so much more to a quality workout than creating a slim aesthetic.

Readers: Are you more attracted to classes that promise a long, lean look? What is it about a fitness class that attracts you to it? If you don’t really do classes, what types of fitness marketing appeal to you more– Aesthetic or performance based? 

8 thoughts on “The Biggest Lie In Women’s Fitness

  1. awesome post !

  2. I used to wonder if there was anything I could do to get thinner calves. Not because I wanted skinnier legs but because I love wearing tall boots and I can’t fit into the standard shaft. I went from class to class that promised long lean legs. I stopped going when a trainer looked at my legs muscles and told me that my lower legs were pure muscle and the only way to get them skinnier was surgery (something he didn’t recommend). I stopped wasting my time and money on those dance classes after that.

  3. Love this! I think it’s just natural to be draw to those words (if you’re not as interested in fitness as the small niche of us who are!), so of course women will be draw to try classes out at places that advertise things like that. One way to look at it is: at least they’re getting to the gym and being active! but on the other hand, I agree that it’s so sad that marketing people basically have to lie and false advertise just to get people in the door. With that said, I recently had a new member come up to me after class and talk about how in my class, we lift heavier than most classes she takes and that she’s afraid of getting bulky because of it. I had all I could do but shake her and tell her that wouldn’t happen! Women who get really big and bulky work SO HARD to get that way… but for women who just go to the gym to go to the gym, they don’t see or understand that. They’ve always been taught that you’ll get bulky if you lift and it makes me so sad! I love the passion you have towards this- very inspiring!

  4. This post reminds me of those infomercials that promise a tight, toned body from sitting in some strange contraption. Usually they show a lean or very muscular woman, and you know she did not get that body from sitting in a “thigh reducer” three times per week.
    Great read.

  5. LOVE IT 🙂 Thanks to social media I see a lot of myths being debunked, and many more women at least verbalizing that they understand the importance of weights. I’m still not seeing much shift of women from the cardio section over to the weights, but it’s happening thanks to blogs like this!

  6. Women are fed so much BS when it comes to fitness and their bodies it’s unbelievable. And this whole thing ‘long & lean’ being the only ‘right’ body type for women – ugh.

    Great post. Will share.

  7. This article is so true. I used to do long stints of cardio, and attend classes (because that’s what I was told to do by society) – and yes I lost weight but I was just skinny. I wasn’t happy with my body, and when I look back at photos I can’t believe I let myself get so thin. But I now solely lift weights, and have noticed such a change in my body, I feel strong and confident and I now no longer care about what my body looks like in the mirror – because I feel good in myself. You are 100% correct in that women get filled with so much incorrect information, but again I also agree that something is better than nothing 🙂

  8. I totally understand your frustration with this – it’s like how I get frustrated when I see claims about foods alkalizing your body or detoxing your liver. Puh-lease! Companies just want to jump on whatever sounds appealing to potential customers, whether or not it’s based in science. Drives me nuts!

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