Feminist Fitness is Complex, Y’all!

This post is about how lately I’ve noticed some tensions, contradictions, and concessions relating to my fitness activities, my values, and my actions.

About a month ago I was at an all-inclusive resort. I went to their giant indoor gym to check it out. On vacation, everyone gets more choice about how to spend their time, and choosing to exercise at a week-long, 3-meal buffet isn’t the worst idea. Yet, I still found myself surprised at how many vacationers were there, choosing weights and cardio machines inside over the swim-up bar in the middle of the sunny afternoon.

Then I looked more closely, and I saw a lot of mirror posing and leisurely, high-fashion strutting in that gym. It seemed as if the workouts were on vacation. As well, the spandexified vacation gym rats were in stark relief to the Dominican Republican employees who were all heads down, cleaning and re-stocking gym items, in their linen uniforms. Although I should have felt good being in that gym while on vacation, instead I felt self-congratulatory and also a bit icky.

A few weeks ago I started seriously prepping for a week-long hiking trip with friends in February. Good gear matters on trips with uncertain winter weather and lots of hills, I am told. So I started researching and comparing and getting advice. And buying. And then buying more. Some FIFI bloggers are challenge themselves to buy nothing for a year. In contrast, I am BUYING ALL THE THINGS. The more things I buy, the more things I seem to need. I want to be prepared and comfortable, but I also reel as if I’ve succumbed to the marketing of the exercise gear industry and the algorithms of online shopping.

Then, a few days ago, I scored a goal in my rec soccer game—the only goal of the whole game, and in the opponent’s net (contrary to my past goals). We won, and I was elated to be part of that win. 24 hours later, I discovered that while I was feeling great about winning I had also lost my 7 gold and silver rings at the sports complex. Attempts to find them have been futile, and I am saddened to have misplaced that which held so much value for me. I shouldn’t have taken them to the sports complex, but I happen to like both exercising and wearing jewelry.

These small happenings don’t easily sort out in my brain, leaving me feeling conflicted: I am torn between self-congratulation and social conscience, between comfort and commodification, and between holding on and letting go.

My conclusion is one we may already recognize: fitness is complex! We often aim for alignment in what we think and what we do, but we also question and challenge what goes below the surface about exercise. We strive for equity, diversity, and accessibility in fitness and sports, but we must also accept that inclusion is a rough journey and not just a simple checkbox to tick.

Some days, I feel a bit flummoxed by the complexity of fitness and feminism in my mid-life. It’s not all simple and straightforward. If you are feeling that way too right now, then I send you all the grace and good vibes I can muster in these perplexing times.

2 thoughts on “Feminist Fitness is Complex, Y’all!

  1. Your post is thought-provoking, Elan! What it made me wonder was why the discomfort in the gym with the contrast described and not at the pool bar or elsewhere?

  2. With you on the gym discomfort at the resort. I wondered about it too. I think for me it’s partly because other people have physically demanding jobs and there’s me, on holiday, exercising in part because my everyday life asks so little of me. I’m not sure that the staff think those of us exercising on vacation are ridiculous but I thought that might be the case. It was weird either being flaked out on a deck chair drinking virgin mojitos or deliberately exercising. No cooking or cleaning or everyday movement.

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