In fitness as in every other aspect of life, different things will inspire different people.

If you search #fitspo across social media, you’ll find stylized images of mostly very thin, heavily muscled women along with a catchy slogan.

Fit inspiration, or fitspiration, or fitspo. Take your pick.

The premise is that a few motivating words and an image of a strong, healthy body will get people off their arses and into action. And for some people I am sure this is true. For me however, it seems like just another way to tell women, in particular, that until they match some unachievable cultural aesthetic (in this case one related to strength training) they just are not good enough.

Here’s a reality. Just like models in the mainstream media, fitness models are in those photos because they look a certain way. Yes they work extremely hard to look like that, but genetics play a role as well. I could lift heavy and eat paleo and it would not remove my bottom rib or make my hipbones any narrower, and only surgery would give me the breasts we are often shown to serve as ‘fitspiration’.

Here is what a fit, healthy woman looks like.

Actually, skinny can be very sexy. As can fat, and everything in between. Also, I don't like to tell you this, but you are skinny. Just sayin'

Actually, skinny can be very sexy. As can fat, and everything in between. Also, I don’t like to tell you this, but you are skinny. Just sayin’


But you know what? She looks like this as well.

real fitspo health at any size

These women may not be oiled up, photographed under soft lighting, photoshopped or posed so as to best display their assets, but they are STRONG. They are runners, they are weightlifters, they are endurance athletes, they are cyclists.

And they are all these things not because their fitness careers demand them to be, but DESPITE the time commitments of working or raising a family or travelling or any one of a million other things busy women do.

To me, that is truly inspiring. A woman who prioritises 3.5 hour training runs in preparation for a marathon whilst managing a highly successful business and raising her children. A woman who works out of home leaving two small people with their Dad and still gets up early to train.

What their bodies do is astonishing, because they choose to make it happen. And their bodies are beautiful.

#Fitspo shouldn’t be about meeting yet another idiotic set of criteria related to weight or perceived attractiveness. By definition, #fitspo should be about celebrating women who choose to make fitness a priority in their lives, no matter their age, their size or their shape.

Zoey Dowling

Written by: operationmove

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  1. LOVE this post Kate! I will never look like those ladies no matter how much I work out (what the hell is with all the fake boobs???!!) but I'm ok with that. I'm so much more inspired by the everyday mum who's out there doing the hard yards than I am by these pics. Makes me really angry that all these images are what our girls think they should be trying to achieve, it's just not reality!

  2. Zoey Dowling

    #fitspo is one of the reasons why so many of my friends and family think they're too big or fat to workout, run, wear exercise clothing, visit a gym, shop for a sports bra, swim laps at the pool. It is absolutely heart breaking. I'm also much more motivated by the hard working Mum who's getting out there and by the beginners who are walking for the first time in years. Operation Move had bought together the most amazing group of people. Runners, walkers, cyclists, beginners and absolute legends. Every one of these people supports the other. #operationmove is going to be bigger than #fitspo ever was. Xo

    • Hi Fi Sorry your comment took so long to appear it had been auto caught as spam - my rec is don't put xxx in a post the first time on a forum and the URL has two mm's at the end .comm I edited that hope you don't mind :)

  3. I wont lie.....I'd never heard of #fitspo hahaha i feel im living under a rock - however i would probably just roll me eyes at it if i did - I had a woman once say to me 'you're fat so you've got nothing one me' and my response to her (this was back before baby 2 when i did 3 x a week pt and 2 x gym) 'oh, i am definitely bigger than you but i can guarantee i am a hell of a lot fitter than you'. I think it was that moment when i kind of went, hey, i really am! Bigger does not mean unfit!! <3

  4. Love this xxx I don't have THE PERFECT BODY, but its a bloody amazing one with all that it can do. Despite all the obstacles :D

  5. Zoey Dowling

    I love how you've launched a radical protest against the fitness images that are thrust at every turn Kate. Fitness isn't about aesthetics for most of us, it's about vitality, improved mood, keeping up with our kids and feeling great.

  6. You ladies rock!!! You are all amazing and fit and most importantly for those of you who are mummas your teaching your babies its ok to be you, its ok to be different and you dont need to be ashamed of any of that. You are all strong real woman who battle through lifes ups and downs and get through it will the desire to do better and be better the next time you try. YOU ARE ALL AWESOME!!!!

  7. The great thing about doing this the other day is that it has promoted 'talk' amongst our friends. In particular reading comments on Instagram posts - what's operation move? Is that all from just running? I better go and check out the forums again, looks like a good bunch of girls you have got going there etc etc. By us posting those photos it has given others the opportunity to think about themselves and in some situations think - well if she can do it, so can I.

    • Zoey Dowling

      I noticed that too Nikki! Such a great way to show others that anything is possible and get them all to come here and check it out!

  8. Fitspo to me means (usually) nothing like what the pics *actually tagged* "fitspo' are even though I recognise what the trend is. I started tagging my straggling overweight efforts to get into the exercise habit #reallifefitspo or #realisticfitspo for the distinction actually. Because to me even 2km walk when you're not used to it is inspirational. There's one particular gal I follow on Instagram who has lost an incredible amount of weight but (by her own admission) is still floppy tummy pouchy and I think she's INCREDIBLE - far more inspirational to me than anything like the above pic. I have also come across fitness models on Instagram (I follow a fair few clean eating folk - although I'm off the wagon a smidge at the moment - but I tend to avoid actually following uber model people) who compete on stage and while I admire the dedication, I could sure do without the CONSTANT posting of g-string and big boob pics with the #fitspo tag. One girl in particular frequently includes #boxgap and #bigbootybitches (seemingly) knowing she's throwing petrol onto the adoration flames in the process. I'd rather stick with my paunchy tummy gals for inspiration ;)

  9. You know I always felt a little off when I saw the fitspo stuff that people would post but I couldn't quite figure out why. Now I have. Yes, it's nice to see what hours of hard work and good genetics can do, but I would rather see the second lot of photos and hear those stories, those are what inspire me.