Recently, blogger Kayla Inglima (self-proclaimed “likeable human”) shared a post on why she believed the fitness culture on social media needs to be stopped—citing, among other things—that this culture may be the next pitfall of civilization, and that it could potentially ruin the world. While her target was people in the bodybuilding world, her real problem seems to be with the pride and passion this “cult of people” displays on their social media profiles. I’m not a bodybuilder, but I’m a three-time Ironman finisher…and like bodybuilders, triathletes spend a great deal of time preparing, planning for, and yes—taking pride in—our accomplishments as athletes.
I believe this pride and passion are important to share, and I’ve created a neat little list to argue each of Kayla’s issues with the “antics” of the #FitFam.
Kayla: They make completely average people think they are famous.
Reason 1: Social media connects us to success stories beyond our immediate circles.
When average people do extraordinary things, people not only notice, they begin to think of the possibilities for themselves. I would be willing to bet that for every runner, triathlete or bodybuilder out there, there are a handful of people that person inspired to set a new goal. For some of these people, it may have lead to their first steps toward a healthier lifestyle. For others, it could have been the impetus for reaching out of their comfort zones to grow and thrive in new ways (in fitness or otherwise). If we’re “famous” on social media because we dared to challenge ourselves and were consequently recognized for it by friends, family and acquaintances who decided to share our experiences with a broader audience, what is so bad about that? How is that ruining civilization? In a world where obesity is increasingly on the rise, maybe it’s not the worst thing for average people to see themselves as celebrities, and therefore responsible for acting like role models.
Kayla: They make you feel bad for eating normal food
Reason 2: Social media exposes you to a variety of ideas and methods for doing things.
In the fitness world, you quickly learn there is no “normal” when it comes to success—you have to know your own body and manage it accordingly.
There is also no such thing as “normal food” and nobody can make you feel bad about what you put in your mouth except for yourself. Since Kayla’s post appears on a site that represents “the voice of Generation Y,” I can understand why she might find it easier to blame others for her struggles rather than be accountable for her own actions.
Last I checked, grilled tilapia, string beans and sweet potatoes were standard culinary fare. Even so, runners, triathletes and bodybuilders actually do indulge in a fair amount of “blasphemous” food. It’s called “cheat day” or “post-race dinner.” We don’t deprive ourselves; we just factor in foods that EVERYONE should eat in moderation around other elements of a nutritional profile that helps us to be successful in meeting our goals.
And I’m sorry, Kayla, that you feel bad about eating certain foods. We don’t feel bad about eating the occasional grilled cheese sandwich because we don’t eat six of them at a time, washed down by a liter of soda. People’s emotions with food often have little to do with the food itself.
Rather than feeling “limited and sad” about what you should and shouldn’t eat, use social media to find new inspiration for clean eating.
Kayla: They think this is sexy (insert image of muscular woman). Caption reads, “gross.”
Reason 3: Social media reminds us that “sexy” comes in a variety of flavors, and there’s no “ONE” body type to strive for in order to be a successful athlete.
Kayla, I’m just wondering if there are any other images you’d like to share in your proclamation of what is and isn’t sexy? Perhaps you don’t like redheads either. Do you have any preference on race when it comes to your sexual attraction?
The point is that people come in all shapes, sizes and colors and there isn’t a pre-defined standard to what constitutes sexy. When you look at a woman that has a strong, muscular build, maybe it’s unappealing to you. To others, the landscape of a physically fit body is a symbol of a strong work ethic, unparalleled dedication and a drive to succeed. I’m not sure where those attributes fall on your “sexy meter,” but they rate pretty high on mine.
Kayla: They only know how to express themselves in meme form
Reason 4: Memes are the digital form of motivational Post-It notes, a light-hearted way to overcome excuses and obstacles.
If only we had the luxury of “sitting around all day” to create memes, as Kayla describes. Maybe she’s not aware of how easy it is to put text over an image and post it to Facebook (it took me less than one minute to make the meme accompanying this blog).
To be honest, us crazy athletes find memes to be an entertaining and easy way to share some inspiration and joy during a chaotic day wherein we must juggle full-time jobs, childcare and social obligations around 17-20 hours of training time. Do that math—because it’s a tough equation, sister. Solving it requires sacrifice, compromise and discipline. (Or you can just Choose C, “working out is too hard, I’ll just complain and make excuses instead”).
Kayla, please excuse us if we happen to feel inspired by clever sayings or images while we’re on social media, and that we feel compelled to share them somtimes. Sorry it’s causing you a case of the Mondays. While you’re complaining about memes and hitting snooze on your alarm clock, we’ve already worked out, showered, and are picking up a coffee on the way to our job (yes, we have those, too).
Kayla: They complain about their self-imposed lifestyle (e.g. “meal-prepping”)
Reason 5: Social media reminds us that every lifestyle comes with challenges and therefore complaints.
Think the grass is greener on the other side? Social media would prove otherwise. I’m friends with people from all kinds of professions, and it doesn’t look like ANYONE can escape the urge to share a little bit of their frustration with the daily grind, whatever grind that might be. Misery loves company. Sometimes even the most dedicated athlete needs to know that somewhere out there, someone else is struggling with the same things to get to their goal. Part of the way humans overcome challenges is by commiserating with others.
Kayla, if you don’t want to see updates from people who are “meal-prepping,” you can use the “block” feature to get your newsfeed focused on the things you do care about (which according to your blog, includes pictures of brunch, Italians making sauce and stories of drunken Saturday nights).
Kayla: They upload photos and videos of workouts that anyone can do.
Reason 6: Social media is a go-to resource to learn about fitness—even for beginners.
Kayla, maybe you’ve never been to a gym before (sounds like you probably don’t have that kind of time), but as it turns out, “anyone” can’t actually do workouts. There’s a reason why people hire personal trainers. Working out isn’t as simple as doing bicep curls and squats, and even when these simple exercises are performed incorrectly, a person can become injured. If you don’t need the guidance on how to execute certain movements, don’t watch the videos. I’m just trying to make your life easier, dude.
Kayla: They suddenly believe they are certified nutritionists
Reason 7: Sharing is caring, and knowledge is power. Social media puts that all together for you. Thank you, social media!
Pinterest is full of ideas for decorating one’s home through a series of DIY projects that everyday people shared (from their experience, gasp!). You don’t have to be a professional interior designer to figure out how to make a Ball jar into a vase, or an electrician to figure out how to make that same jar into a cool lightning pendant.
And you don’t have to be a certified nutritionist to know how many antioxidants are in a cup of blueberries, or how many calories are in the foods you eat.
Personally, I think it’s awesome that a quick reference to social media can help us make smarter eating decisions as opposed to having to schedule an appointment and spend a ton of cash on a professional to draft a food plan. (Coincidentally, a lot of serious athletes do work with nutritionists, and are likely sharing information on food and diet based on what they’ve learned in those experiences).
Kayla: They “follow” and “like” people and posts as if they belong to some sort of cult…which they do.
Reason 8: Social media builds camaraderie.
I have to ask, Kayla, did you come up with this “issue” while you were hung-over scrolling through your Instagram feed looking for brunch photos? Because really, it just seems stupid that anyone would have a problem with people liking and friending things they have in common.
Maybe “Italians making sauce on a Sunday” don’t form the same kind of camaraderie as bodybuilders and triathletes do, but in our world having friends to hang out with and learn from is actually kind of cool. “Fitness girls” and “bros who lift” aren’t horrible people, and yes, we cheer each other on because we know how hard it is to maintain this kind of lifestyle.
Kayla: Neon: (Insert image of two buff chicks wearing neon colored sports bras), caption reads: “The worst to happen to neon since EDM.”
Reason 9: Social media is proof that everybody is wearing what they feel comfortable in, and you should too.
If you have concerns about what to wear at the gym, you shouldn’t, and social media can help you overcome those fears. Worried you’ll look sweaty, off-trend, outdated or that you’ll call too much attention to yourself? You’ll be in good company. One of the perks of getting in shape is developing a better self-esteem…and with improved self-esteem comes a liberation that empowers you to wear what you feel comfortable and attractive in, versus what you think you “should” wear. (If Kayla had it her way, I guess we’d all be wearing black stretch pants and gray sweatshirts when we work out).
And Kayla, if you don’t like Electronic Dance Music then listen to something else. You probably can’t handle those sick beats anyway.
Kayla: Their food makes us sad.
Reason 10: A healthy diet doesn’t have to be a letdown—it’s all about your attitude.
Kayla, if pictures of grilled chicken and steamed asparagus make you sad, you might want to take a pregnancy test. I’m speaking from experience when I say the most RANDOM and seemingly insignificant things can elicit sadness when you’re knocked up. And watch your flippant references to antidepressants, because there happen to be lot of legitimate reasons to “pop” pills. Just sayin.
When I see the foods that some of my bodybuilder friends post on Facebook, I actually think that I would like some of it. Egg white omelets with fresh salsa? Whole-grain toast with avocado slices? Those are some of the nutritional staples of the successful athletes I know. Eating clean actually forces people to get creative in the kitchen. The key to embracing (and being excited by) a new diet is to approach it with a positive attitude, rather than finding the worst-case scenario and fixating on what it lacks.
Kayla: They date each other, procreate and form tribes of weight-lifting spawn.
Reason 11: Social media helps connect people that proactively want better things for themselves and others. You can build a network for increased opportunities.
Whether you find your future love interest, a training buddy or a business partner, you’re sure to strike up a conversation with someone meaningful through fitness. Some of these relationships have formed “tribes” that do a lot of good in the world. (I’ve written dozens of profiles on Ironman athletes who have used their sport and connections throughout the industry to raise millions of dollars for charities and generate unprecedented awareness for a variety of causes ranging from mental illness to helping disabled children—or spawn, as Kayla might refer to them).
I’ll tell you what, Kayla. We’ll continue hooking up with each other in the gym, and leave it to you to bear the children that sit in their basements playing video games for hours with Cheeto-stained fingers, okay?
The nerve of healthy people getting together with other healthy people to form strong families with good exercise and eating habits. Really, what is the world coming to?