Sunday, 8 September 2013

What's (Been) Going On: #fitnotthin

If you're someone who hopes that one day your partner (who you love very much regardless) will start working out seriously, really get the bug, and go on to develop the kind of body you have always fantasised about, you could have done worse on 4th August than leave a copy of the Style supplement from the Sunday Times lying around the house for them to come across. That edition of the magazine marked the launch of a campaign whose stated aim is to advise and inspire you to get active. And by 'you' they mean 'women'.

Fronting the campaign is 'model, DJ and It girl' Daisy Lowe.

Now, I doubt Daisy would have been the first woman on your list if you'd been in the editorial meeting to decide who the best woman to represent 'fit' was. And she wouldn't have been anywhere on my list either. But before you get all worked up, the gripes about the fact that the paper chose her, and the moans about why it couldn't have been Jessica Ennis or some other sportswoman have already been and gone. Despite the fact that, to our muscle lovin' eyes anyway, Daisy looks about as fit as your typical catwalk twig, apparently she can deadlift 80kg, which is about what a professional footballer might weigh (one can only suppose the detail there is designed to appeal to wannabe WAGs). And on reflection, it seems, most women's fitness journals and online resources have come to the conclusion that the Sunday Times got it about right by choosing Lowe.

... we’re all for the promotion of female sports stars here, wrote The Sportist, a women's sports blog, [but] having a Trott, Armistead or Ennis to front the campaign wouldn’t have worked as, at the end of the day, it’s their job to do exercise. Daisy Lowe’s job is to be skinny and make clothes look good, something that probably appeals to a far wider audience and consequently these readers may be more ready to follow Lowe’s examples rather than those of a fully-fledged sporting star. It also goes back to the issue that maybe for most women to step up initially they need to not think of exercise as a sport, but instead something achievable by everyone.

Lowe and the other model ambassadors Style plans to use are also a good choice as they’re from an industry that has stereotypically shunned anything relating to healthy body image. So even the mere suggestion that the fashion world is changing their attitude is a huge plus to the world of women’s sport.

And furthermore, this is not a blink-and-you-miss-it one-off. The 'Fit Not Thin' campaign has run for a whole month, with Daisy Lowe the first of a number of positive body role models, and, behind the image, top personal trainers are on hand to guide readers through the difficult first steps, even offering advice in Q&A sessions live on the #fitnotthin Twitter channel.

In the first week of the campaign, readers were invited to take and tweet post-workout selfies, the best of which would win a pair of trainers. A good number of sweaty women did so, and the lady who tweeted the picture below right is now the proud owner of a new pair of Asics.

Over the last couple of years, FMS has tried to keep an eye on the public perception of female fitness and muscularity in this country. We reported on 'The Marsh Effect' - how Jodie Marsh's transformation had inspired a number of women to lift weights and develop muscles. We reported on 'The Ennis Effect' - how the athletic female bodies on display during the London Olympics had brought about a change in the kind of physiques women saw as 'ideal'. Shape's campaign is, I believe, another step in the right direction. The UK isn't about to 'go Brazil' and transform into some female muscle paradise, but when one of the the #fitnotthin personal trainers is introducing the readers to the 'holiday workout' and another is running a daily 'weights workshop' (chest press was the focus on the day of writing), it's hard not to be over-optimistic about what this campaign might achieve in terms of adding to the sum total of female muscle in Britain.

Once upon a time, I could never have imagined that Jodie Marsh would become a positive body role model for women. Now, I'm seriously surprised that a catwalk model has. Above all though, quite honestly, the thing I'm finding most surprising about all this is that I'm plugging a News International publication...


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