How the Fitness Industry Talks to Women

Flirty Girl Fitness. Bad Kitty Sassy Fitness. Yoga Booty Ballet. It is enough to make your head spin. What do all of these “fitness classes” have in common? “Extertainment“. As a fitness manager once told me when I was teaching cycle classes, “You are here to entertain.” Actually, I’m not. I’m sorry, but if you need to be entertained while riding a stationary bike for 45 minutes, then you, my friend, are seriously delusional and the fitness industry is in serious trouble. I don’t entertain. I coach. I instruct. I don’t shout. I don’t scream. I give you the program. I challenge you. But I do not pedal the bike for you. I do not make you work. That comes from you. I will encourage you. I will make you think about how and why you are working. But if you are here to party, I’m sorry. No party here.

Yet, all of these programs, and many others, seem to be here do just that. Make exercise one gigantic PAAAARTY. Exercise has to have pomp and circumstance in order for people to like it, right? It HAS to have people shouting and cheering – “You go girl!”, loud music, people gyrating and shaking their bodies as if they were having seizures for it to be exercise, right? Ummm, I don’t really think so.  Please don’t get me wrong. ANYTHING is better than sitting on the couch, watching another infomercial for the Ab buster or worse, The Kardashians. I am all for people getting out and exercising. But if one more person comes up with another aerobic class and passes it off as the newest thing on the block (seriously, another one?), I will scream. Sure, it may be fun and you may sweat, but it cannot be all that you do.  It is not going to build muscle. It is not going to build strength. In just two classes, your body will adapt to the movement and then what? You will do the same thing over and over again, week in week out, and your body will remain as is. Sure, you may lose some weight from the class, if you are really pushing yourself and watching what you eat. But how much weight will you really lose? How much bone mass are you losing as a result of only doing Flirty Girl and not lifting weights? How much muscle are you building (remember, muscle is GOOD) with Yoga Booty Ballet or Bad Kitty Fitness? How much stronger are you from doing a Flirty Girl class? I would say, hmmm, not much.

Yet, women flock to these classes, day in day out. They continue to wait for the elliptical machine and treadmill. Day in day out, they drag their bodies into these classes, onto these machines, putting their time in at the gym. Hoping and longing for a different body. The promises of these classes lure them in.

Enter Cori Ann Lentz , the creator of Bad Kitty Fitness. OOOOhhh. This is very entertaining. Take a look.

Here she is speaking to a group of women about her classes.  These women need more than Bad Kitty.

“Working out should not be work. You work all day,” she tells the women. Uhhh, you mean all the sitting I do….sitting and more sitting – at the desk, in the car, at lunch. That is really hard work “It should be PLAY, like when you were a kid”. Okay I am with her here – play, as in climbing the jungle gym, hanging from the monkey bars, playing freeze tag, kickball, right?  “…and you were in Junior High and you danced in front of your mirror when no one was looking. That’s what fitness should be like.” Whoah. Stop the presses.  What??? Fitness should be like what you Cori Ann was just doing, hootin’ and hollerin’ and shaking your butt? Do any of those women in the video really need to shake  their booty more, or do they need to strengthen their booties because you know, if they got stronger, they would not feel like crap from sitting all day. Just saying…..

But wait! This is the best part.  If you read up about Cori Ann, you will discover that her favorite exercise(s) are, you guessed it, 1. Bad Kitty Sassy Fitness™ Classes, 2. The Sports Barre®, Dead Lifts – WHAT!,  Squats – Wait a minute!, Stairs – No!, Jump Rope, Sprints – Really???, Pull Ups and Single Leg Balance Work – My head just exploded!!!!!. How can she call THESE her favorite exercises and then turn around and create Bad Kitty Sassy Fitness? Just as I suspected, she may not have gotten her body doing Bad Kitty Classes. Now, I have no idea how she squats or deadlifts (I tried to look for any videos on YouTube…nothing) but if she is including them as her favorite exercises, something has to give. What is she trying to sell to women? Oh right. Crap. Because crap sells.

Speaking of crap….

Flirty Girl Fitness

“Flirty Girl Fitness is an innovative approach to losing weight and getting fit without being subjected to boring workout routines. The creators of the Flirty Girl fitness program, Kerry and Krista Knee, have ensured that this results oriented weight loss and toning system not only produces unparalleled results but also accomplishes this goal in a fun and exciting environment.”

Oh please. Seriously? How is this REALLY different than Bad Kitty Sassy Fitness or all the other dance type aerobic classes out there? Is it really that innovative? I mean, I can shake my booty in  a lot of classes. It doesn’t mean that I am “toning” up anymore than in the last class I took. In fact, I can only “tone” so much from doing the “Woot Woot” and the “No You Di’nt.” And what do they consider to be boring workout routines? Well, I guess if you only do tricep kickbacks and read People magazine while leaning on the stairclimber, then, yes, I guess it is boring. But I do think that my own training and the training that many other women do rocks.  I put my music on and rock out to AC/DC when I squat and deadlift. I have my own party going on and it is all about getting STRONG.  What are you really getting out of this class that you can’t get by going out to the club at night? Inner confidence? Because you can shake your butt without some guys drooling? What happens when you go to a club? Do you still have that inner confidence? I have a lot of confidence….because I know that I am strong and can lift and carry things by myself without help. That confidence came from lifting weights and carries on in AND out of the gym.

Yoga Booty Ballet – There are not enough words for this one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7LLBp0VRkg

I am not sure if this one is worse than the other two or better…it is a real toss up.  What is up with the mash-up of styles of training? Why not just take Yoga? Too boring. Why not just take ballet? Too boring.  Are we really that hard up and lazy that we need to take Yoga and Ballet and put it to hip hop music? What is wrong with the traditional styles? What is wrong with this world? The term “hard work” just doesn’t seem to exist in the fitness world. Everything has to come in a party package. If you aren’t smiling and having fun, then you must not be getting fit. Exercise should be fun and happy and we should all feel like we are at a party everytime we exercise because challenging ourselves  and working hard is, well, boring….and hard. And who wants to train hard? Ewww.

Here is a quote I found in regards to Yoga Booty: “I didn’t notice that I was losing weight until a co-worker asked me if I had been working out. I weighed myself and I had lost ten pounds. So this whole “exercise” thing seemed to be effective! I kept it up, and the weight flew off. During this time, I gradually cut out fast food, started eating more vegetables [my emphasis], and did a YBB DVD four or five times a week. It fit really well into my life, too, which is vital. The longest YBB workout is an hour. Most are around 35-40 minutes. So I had a choice: I could sit on my patootie for another half hour a day, or I could get buff and hot. Decisions.” Interestingly, when you re-think your eating habits, the weight seems to start coming off. Funny how that works. And yes, ANYTHING is better than sitting on your patootie, but I can think of better ways to spend my training time than Ommming to hip hop music.

Now, I will be honest and come clean. I used to take aerobics classes when I was in my early 20’s. In New York, I loved my Funk Aerobics class. :-) This was 1997. And I taught aerobics. And up until this past year, I taught a class called Dance Fitness to the Oldies and yes, I loved every minute of it. And do you know why? Because the women in the class were between the ages of 45 and 70. Yes, 70. And they rocked. It was their dance class. They were not there to tone up or firm up or lose weight. They were not there to shake their booty among other women because they were intimated to do it in front of men. They were there to keep moving and enjoy the fact that at 50 and 60, their bodies still moved.  My class description was as basic as they come. “Workout to your favorite music of the 60’s, 70,’s and 80’s when it was recorded on vinyl! Your favorite dance steps combined with dance aerobics to make you feel great!” Nothing in there about toning, lose weight, get strong, get fit….just come and move.  These women were fun and they enjoyed moving. Many of them did other activities but Friday was their dance day. And at a dance studio, this class was just right.

Now before you shout, but wait a minute! You don’t like Flirty Girl Fitness but your class was just fine?? No, I don’t like Flirty Girl Fitness if that is ALL that you do.  Is it better than sitting at home on your patootie (I love that word!) eating Cheetos? Of course it is!!! But ask me if this class is really the best alternative for a 20 something or 30 something who is looking to change her body and I will say NO. You may make some changes but honestly, a young woman in her 20’s or 30’s who is looking to lose weight, lose body fat and get strong should skip the dance fitness and head into the weight room. This class may be “fun” but it is not a class I would suggest to someone who is looking to make real and significant changes  in her body.  All of the women who took my class knew that I did much more than just teach that class.  They never looked at it any differently than what it was and I never tried to make it any more than what it was.  They came. They moved. They felt better. End of story. For someone who is looking for real change, first take a hard look at your diet. Then take a hard look at your training. If you are eating crap or not eating at all, you will not look much different after hours and hours or twisting and shaking.  If you change your diet and begin eating clean 90% of the time, then yes, you may lose weight. You may lose inches. But if you cleaned up your diet, hit the weight room or tackled a real kick butt conditioning class, you would lose inches, weight, gain muscle and get strong! And isn’t that what we all want? Only thing is, it takes work and it takes patience.

Unfortunately, some of us look only for quick fixes to our problems. Take this pill. Use this cream. Eat only____. Flatten your stomach in three days with these exercises. Drop fat! Lose weight! Nowhere do you ever hear the words “Get strong” uttered in these ads, commercials, videos.  Get strong.  What is so wrong about wanting to be strong? Tone up, get fit….words that sell to women. Why doesn’t strong sell.  Too manly sounding perhaps. Perhaps. But real. There is nothing wrong in wanting to be stronger. We should all want to get stronger. Men and women alike.  Think about it. The next time you walk into that booty shakin’ class, ask yourself, could I be doing more for myself? Then walk out, hit the weight room and get strong.

emilyHow the Fitness Industry Talks to Women

33 Comments on “How the Fitness Industry Talks to Women”

  1. Marianne

    Hi Emily – Loved your rant! And I agree 100% :) Too many women are sold this shite as a way to tone up and get the sexy body with the defined muscle, yet it won’t do any of that, not without some resistance training added to the mix. It’s like Tracy Anderson and her selling tactic to get “long lean muscles” by doing 100 reps of a 3lb lateral raise for your ARMS?? mmm Soomething is amiss!

    Good on you you tackling this topic and I hope that more women will see strength as a strength !

    1. emily

      Thanks Marianne! I, too, hope that more women soon realize the benefits of lifting weight and getting strong! The message is always “Get toned! Lose weight! Get ready for bikini weather,” instead of “Lift weights! Get strong! Carry your own bags!” :-) Being strong just feels so much better. And the journey is way more exciting and inspiring than hours and hours in an aerobics class or on the treadmill. Hitting PR’s in the weight room is my kind of party! :-) I loved your recent post….keep up those rants!

    1. emily

      Hi Stuart,
      I know how you feel. :( I only found out about Bad Kitty when I was thumbing through what I thought was a reputable and professional magazine and saw the ad, right above Yoga Booty Ballet. In fact, all three were advertised in this magazine. I have officially lost all respect for this organization. Pretty scary, I agree.

  2. Jill

    I think what I find most offensive about all these programs is how they only serve to further sexualize and encourage women to be less. Where lifting and hard work makes you strong throughout, this just seems to encourage women to play further into our media driven portrayal of women as bimbos. I can’t even imagine the messages our daughters get when they see their moms falling for this crap. And we wonder why there are 4 year olds out there thinking they are fat or starting to develop eating disorders. I don’t see anything wrong with aerobics/dance, namely because it is so much fun as you suggest, but making it out that you have to dumb yourself down and act like a whore is the part that annoys me. Good post!

    1. emily

      Absolutely Jill. A friend of mine said the exact same thing. Only if you are “hot” are you considered healthy and fit. The commercial for Flirty Girl was a little too much even for me. When I showed this post to my sister, my 4 year old nephew was sitting on the couch with us and he wanted to watch the videos. After about 5 seconds, my sister asked me to turn it off. She did not want him to watch these women “exercise.” :-) Ummm, a little too close to porn I would say. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Martin

    Brilliant post, I’m gonna send this to all the girls I know, and hopefully they’ll read it and actually make change for the better in their lives.

  4. Sean

    Simply…THANK YOU. Won’t lie, threw up a little in my mouth after viewing the videos. I should know better that someone would sink to this depth to water down something that has been watered down for over 100 plus years. Sad but glad to know there is this out there.

    1. emily

      Sean, I hope you cleaned yourself up after you threw up. ;) I lost my mind when I watched the videos. Actually, there were quite a few to choose from…it was a little hard to pick the ones I wanted. Glad you liked the post!

  5. Juliet

    Hi Emily! I found your blog on Tony Gentilcore’s site this morning. I must say, this piece was so perfectly written. I loved every minute of it. Okay, I lied. I hated the videos. I turned off the bad kitty or whatever one about halfway through and refused to play the rest for fear of losing my lunch. But that was the point, no?

    Anyway…! It is always a breath of fresh air to find another woman willing to ‘stick it to the man’ (not men, mind you) as you have here. I think what irks me the most is the false sense of security in these programs; as you pointed out, the ‘instructors’ strength train but market gimicky crap. As with any woman who watches her diet and training, it is incredibly frustrating when women come to me, asking what I do, and then say NO WAY I WONT DO THAT when I tell them.

    It just doesn’t make sense. They say they want to look like me but think they will get bulky if they do what I do. Obviously, not.

    Oh well…. Keep fightin’ the good fight!

    1. emily

      Hi Juliet,
      Thank you!!! I really appreciate the feedback. It was a good post to write even if it made me mad the entire time I was writing it. ;) I really hope that more and more women turn to real work if they want to make significant changes in their bodies and spend less time listening to this crap. Whatever happened to ” I want to be able to do for myself?” Meaning, I want to feel strong, fit and healthy, not weak and skinny. These programs get you no where and give women a bad name. ;( Thanks again!

  6. Steve

    Great post Emily. I work in a commercial gym where part of my job is co-ordinating the studio classes, I can attest to everything you wrote. Keep fighting the fight, getting women to step away from the hours of toning to lifting proper weights and being strong. With women like you in the ‘industry’, hopefully things are slowly changing.

    1. emily

      Hi Steve,
      Just checked out your site….I am looking forward to reading more from you! Thank you for your comment. I hope to bring more women around to this way of training. What is awesome is that I have women in their 40’s and 50’s, even 60’s who see the benefits of strength training and are excited to see their numbers go up each time they come into the gym. Being able to do for themselves, carry their own groceries, move better… this is what matters, not how much “tone” they have. Now if we can just get the younger women to see the benefits….I am working on it. Thanks for the thumbs up! :-)

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  10. ALN

    Your post was right on! I was watching a few minutes of each video while my 13 year old daughter was behind me. She asked me, “what is this?” and I explained to her about your philosphy on strength training (one that I share and do–and she knows this). And that these instructors in the videos probably look like they do because they strength train and not because…….and she said, “dance like strippers?” Exactly, thank you!!!

    1. emily

      Thank you! Smart girl! I could have touched on sooo many things with this post. I am trying to think of what a follow up post may be! My sister would not even let my 4 year old nephew watch the videos….ummmm, a little too racy perhaps even though they are supposedly “exercising?” :-) Thanks for the thumbs up!

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  12. Tiffany

    Hilarious and true article, thanks. BUT, if I had to choose between weights and high-intensity endurance training for long-term benefits, I’m not sure which way I would go, personally. I know that’s not what you meant by women lining up for the elliptical and shaking their booty in dance class, but there are good cardio classes out there…

    1. emily

      Absolutely Tiffany. :-) There are some great cardio classes out there. I loved teaching my cycle class and taught for six years. However, as those years went by, I found myself teaching less and less and by my last year, I was only teaching once a week and lifting weights all the other days. My strength improved. My conditioning improved. And I was leaner than I had ever been. But to take a class every now and then….I would if I had the opportunity. But I am really enjoying the benefits of my new training. :-) Thanks again for the comment!

  13. carmina

    “when i was in my early 20’s… that was 1997. yes, i am that old”. that makes you late 30’s now? i agree with your entertaining article but why do you undo all your good advice by perpetuating the idea that youth is the ideal. just like skinny is the ideal? i am in my mid 40’s squatting 200+, doing pull-ups and handstand pushups. stronger and (frankly) hotter than ever. what is your problem with aging? your offhand comment is as demeaning and ridiculous as those poor women pursuing a long lean look with constant cardio. you lost me.

    1. emily

      Hi Carmina,
      Thank you for your comment. I apologize if my remark offended you. It was not intended that way! I was trying to be a little tongue in cheek with it, and I apologize if it did not come across like that. The intention of my post was not to perpetuate the idea that youth is ideal. On the contrary! I run a strength and conditioning gym and most of my clients, men and women alike, are between the ages for 40 and 60 years old. And we are one big happy strong family. I am a huge proponent of weight training, regardless of age and wish that more younger women would see the benefits of strength training and conditioning as all my female clients do. I am always telling my clients, “It is never too late to get strong.” That is why the come to me. They train to get strong. They train with barbells and kettlebells and dumbbells. They do push ups and chin ups and deadlifts. They love how getting stronger empowers them and makes them feel good. They are proud of their accomplishments, as am I. I push them and they push themselves. I hope that as I age, I continue to get stronger. I am stronger and more fit now at 37 than I ever was at 21. I only wish more women would train this way. I wish that I had discovered this way of training earlier, when I was at the peak of my dancing career too. It would have saved me from many injuries!

      Carmina, I am proud of my accomplishments as I know you must be proud of yours. You and others like you are the women that I admire and respect. You are strong, fit and confident. That is all I want my trainees to be when they walk out of a session. Thanks again for your comment. I hope to hear from you again.

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  19. Michael Thompson

    LOL! I can’t believe those videos! I was embarrassed for them! In my opinion, the REAL issue is the system we call capitalism. One of the major flaws of our fitness community is that it is unregulated and unscrupulous money makers can clean up on people’s ignorance and laziness. As long as convenience and shortcuts seem like a possibility, there will always be someone ready to exploit this. I can laugh about it now, but I was really bitter with the supplement companies that use Photoshop, steroid and hormone supported professional bodybuilders to advertise their products. I have spent fortunes on the latest powders, only to end up with gas and water retention. Ha! Now, I realize that I can have an amazing body, but there are no shortcuts. My secret formula / diet plan that is guaranteed to work: Warm up, workout hard, stretch, recover, eat real food, sleep well, eliminate destructive behaviors, repeat 5 – 6 days a week for the rest of your life!

    1. emily

      Mike,
      Thanks for the reply!!! I agree with you 100 percent. I discovered these programs while thumbing through what I thought was a reputable magazine. ;( The ads made me scream. When I actually went the websites and watched these videos, I wanted to die. As a woman, I was offended. Is this what the fitness industry thinks of us? Is this what it means to be a woman? Is this what we should be doing?Unfortunately, many people think yes. Can’t lifting heavy weights be sexy too? I say HELL YES! In fact, when I see a woman deadlift, no matter how much weight, it is damn sexy. I, too, was embarrassed and ashamed when I watched the videos. I am lucky that the women who come to me appreciate lifting and getting strong. In fact, one of them bought me a 1 pound weight (pink no less!) and gave it to me as a gag gift. She was shocked that they even sold weights this small! She then proceeded to bust out a few KB swings with the 20 kg bell. :-)

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