Traditional fitness spaces are very tied into the consumer culture and focused on aesthetics that are just impossible (If not unhealthy) for the vast majority to attain. Go into most globo gyms and people are huffing and puffing on treadmills, working with trainers on balance balls, pulling on any number of pullied cables, and inevitably there are mirrors on every wall. Aesthetics is the thing that gets most people into the gym, and is also the main thing that gets them out, frustrated at slow progress or no progress even when following common “fitness” knowledge. This ties directly into the gimme gimme, immediate satisfaction culture of the industrialized west.
This culture is a symptom, patriarchal capitalism is the illness. Under this system women’s bodies are comodified and women are dehumanized. The ideal woman becomes ultra feminized and physically week while gender becomes inseparable from biological sex. On the other side men are idealized as physically strong and ultra masculine. This dichotomy assigns impossible extremes of physical, emotional, and character traits to people. This dichotomy leaves little validation for people who don’t fit into these norms on either end of what I would call a spectrum.
Fighting this system has been the mission of women, gender deviants, and their allies for generations. From policy shifts to consciousness raising, to arts there has been a multitude of approaches to getting rid of this system of oppression.
What of fitness was a new front in this fight?
What is gyms became places of group liberation from this dynamic through creating a place where overall health and fitness is pursued for each individual? What is gyms became containers for self improvement, the collective dedicated to individual improvement.
Weaknesses are reframed as challenges. No longer are people measuring themselves against outside models of impossibility but only against their own performance, their own advances and retreats.
How people relate to fitness, to the path of healthy lives, could be significantly improved if we divorce ideals of aesthetics from the gains made from regular and effective fitness programs whose aims are overall health.