I did a Google image search on 'fitness class' and this is the result:
My first impression is that some kind of neutron bomb of positivity must've gone off when I typed in those words. I imagine hordes of little Google gnomes rushing to squeeze as much enthusiasm onto the screen as they possibly can. Trillions of colours assault my eyes as I struggle through each nauseatingly predictable image, my soul gradually leaking from my pores. Look how much fun they're all having! See how they're all moving in time with each other! What toned abs! What slender, young frames! What a sea of glazed-eyed frozen-smiled aspirational wonder!
Well, of course, that's all bullshit. I hope you've all got your sarcasm radar on, because, holy fuck of all fucks, these pictures piss me off. I get so many people say to me that they're too scared to try a new class, they're too intimidated to exercise in front of other people, or mirrors, or, God forbid, BOTH. Yet, these are the people who need to exercise the most. The people who lack confidence in their looks and their abilities are the ones who find it hardest to embark on a fitness journey, and who potentially could reap the biggest rewards - and these pictures play a big part in the reason why. The fitness industry wants to sell you a dream, a vision of perfect health, but in reality, it works like an enormous reinforcement of high school peer pressure: you're either part of the all-smiling, totally-coordinated, in-crowd, wearing the latest trendy brand limited edition - or you're an outsider, shunned until you either prove your worth, or toddle on back to your messy troll-cave to lie on the sofa eating crisps forever more.
Of course, all fitness businesses want to promote their product in the 'best possible light'. But in reality, there is so much that goes unmentioned in the interests of keeping the fitness industry's cheerleader smile beaming at you. Nobody talks about the prevalence of eating disorders amongst fitness instructors and presenters. It seems taboo to mention that it's possible that someone a bit overweight, training well, can be significantly fitter than someone skinny who doesn't. It's barely even touched upon that there are hundreds of thousands of thin (and young) people in this country in abysmal health, with atrocious fitness levels. Nobody admits that there are very few fitness classes 100% coordinated at the first attempt, or that sometimes you sweat so much that you think you've wet yourself. Or, that sometimes you might actually wet yourself (or worse). Not to mention the fact that a significant number of people only exercise as a chore, because they feel like absolutely have to.
The truth is, fitness is as unsexy as it can be sexy. It is as weak as it is strong, because when you're truly pushing yourself, you never really get to the end. There will be achievements along the way. Small ones, big ones, and in equal measure, there will be disappointments.
There may be endless fucking perfect pictures, there may be cliques, there may be bitches, but that cannot dictate to you whether or not you grab your fitness bull by its horns. Find somewhere you feel comfortable setting your #fitMess free. It may not be the first place you try. It might not be the fourth. But remember two things: firstly, it is YOUR journey and anyone who gets to join YOU is lucky as fuck. Secondly, airbrushing doesn't just happen in pictures - don't be intimidated by anyone, because you don't know who painted on their cheerleader smile this morning.
You do not need to be or act like someone else to be more active. Pick up your fine, sweet #fitMessy self and ignore the voices telling you what to do. You don't have to be the best at anything at all. A little bit better is progress. A little here, a little there.
And stay away from Google images.