From the Atkins diet and Jane Fonda aerobics-videos, to Goop and Peloton’s world domination, it’s safe to say the world of fitness has changed a lot over the last decade. From our perspective, one of the biggest shifts we’re currently seeing, is what it means to be a fit female.
How has the female fitness industry changed?
In the last couple of years, fitness marketing has changed from being solely about how to ‘lose weight’ to now focusing on women’s strength, confidence and holistic wellness. In short, slimming shakes are out and heavy weights and meditation are in.
Who is driving this change?
Through powerful marketing, opinion-led journalism and changes in consumer demand, we’re seeing a real positive step for females who want to incorporate fitness (in all shapes and sizes) into their lifestyle. Different versions of fitness for different types of women are being championed and we couldn’t be happier. Here are some of the most recent, thought-provoking activities we’ve seen.
MARKETING: STYLIST STRONG STUDIO
We recently visited Stylist magazine’s very first fitness studio. The team at Stylist has cleverly called it the Stylist Strong Studio, because this space is not for ‘fat-loss’, ‘calorie-burn’ or ‘beasting yourself’. This studio is a safe space for women who are trying to strengthen their minds and bodies.
Positioned within The Allbright (a member’s club created by women, for women), Stylist Strong hosts classes, events, talks and panel discussions on fitness and strength-training. The tailored programme was created by Nike Global Master Trainer, Joslyn Thompson Rule, which has been designed to encourage and inspire women of all physical strengths.
Lisa Smosarski, editor-in-chief at Stylist, discussed why it was important to launch this studio: “We watch trends closely at Stylist and we have seen a real growth in women strength training – for body, for mind and as a way of reclaiming a traditionally male space.”
It’s important to point out that this studio and experience is not anti-male. But it is a chance for women to call the shots on the gym-floor and work on a holistic wellness routine for themselves in a sector where mostly white, middle class men have been making the rules for the last few decades.
OPINION-LED JOURNALISM: ALL WOMEN EVERYWHERE
Launched by news website, Huffington Post, this platform highlights that women face challenges daily, which differ hugely based on their age, ethnicity, social status, sexuality and gender identity. In the past, women’s experiences and goals (especially in the fitness industry) were grouped into one lump category (usually defined by white, affluent, first-world needs). These days, platforms such as All Women Everywhere gives a home to voices in different fields. One such example is award-winning journalist, Poorna Bell’s shift into the weight-lifting world:
Why Weight(s) Matter: Following her husband’s suicide, Poorna Bell spent years trying to learn coping methods. Unsurprisingly, she’s found that exercise has been one of the best therapies for her and has landed on weightlifting as her holy grail. Her essay looks at how she had always seen weightlifting as a scary, intimidating, male-focused activity on the gym floor (sadly, most women used to experience this too). However, after realising she needed to try something that terrified her to change her perspective, she found weightlifting didn’t turn her into the female-Arnold-Schwarzenegger, but gave her power, confidence and a new life skill. The response she received was phenomenal. To continue this conversation, she recently launched a new Instagram channel called See My Strong which curates stories of fitness across colour, culture, age, body size and ability. The goal? To inspire and empower beyond the mainstream.
CONSUMER DEMAND: NIKE MANNEQUIN
Possibly one of the most controversial and most discussed topics of 2019 globally, was Nike’s decision to start showcasing their range using plus-sized mannequins in the London flagship store. Inclusivity is the word of the season for major brands and this was Nike’s time to shine. Many took offence to the move, claiming that the sports-wear brand was glamorising obesity. However, we don’t see it this way at all. Fitness doesn’t come in one shape or size (look at Serena Williams vs Kimmie Meissner – both world class athletes in their fields) and Nike’s acceptance of this showcases that big companies need to cater to all populations to be considered worthy of purchase.
As the saying goes, haters going to hate – but Nike had the last laugh when clicks on the Nike One Luxe Tights, which are featured in the photo of the mannequin that went viral, increased by 200%.
What’s next for fit females?
The fitness industry is an ever-evolving mammoth of activity, with lots of hits (hello This Girl Can) and some definite misses (see you later Protein World). What’s important is that consumers continue to challenge stereotypes and push brands to get better, more inclusive and more sustainable now, and into the future. We’re making progress, but there’s still a long way to go.