Fitness Conferences and Fashionable Bodies

Superstar presenter Keli Roberts sported the newest body trend for women: strong arms!

This past weekend I was wandering around my local fitness convention. It was a somewhat rare experience for me; I tend to go to Pilates conventions and, honestly, they're really quite different. Instead of my usual "Be kind to your spine," I saw much more "How hard can I beat you?" during the sessions. There is also a big difference in what attendees wear and how their bodies look. I was truly surprised by what I saw and wonder if this will be the looks that we're striving for in the coming year. What's so different? For one thing, at a Pilates convention it's pretty much wall-to-wall lululemon. And I admit that even I have bought a new pair of "lulus" so I'd look "fresh and cute" when attending a convention. You'd smile knowingly at anyone else wearing the same top or bottom you had on. That's no longer as true anymore in Pilates-land; there is definitely a more diverse set of outfits and activewear brands like Prana and ALO sneaking in. But at the fitness conference, it was less than 50% lulu, making me wonder if they've finally lost their stranglehold on the upper-end leggings market. I saw a big mix of both high and low-end styles such as ALO, Marika, Margarita, Zumba, Target's Champion line, and so on. I think that's a good thing ... we shouldn't look like clones! The thing that surprised me the most though was arms. Men, as usual, wore their resumes on their sleeveless torsos; guns popping out everywhere. It's been this way for a long time, but what I wasn't expecting was how many women are now sporting a similar look. This conference was ALL about the arms. It wasn't the sleek, toned Hollywood arms either; it was way more "GI Jane" than Keira Knightley. I don't know how I feel about this. On the one hand, I know how much work these women put into getting their arms to look this way and they were stacked into the hardcore Tabata, HIIT, and Kettlebell classes. No sissy workouts for these females, thank you. On the other hand, it really didn't look, well, feminine to me. Am I just old-fashioned about body types? Will I be embracing and striving for "guns" myself in a year or two? Maybe, but I doubt it. I've always liked a sleek body and I'm pretty sure I'll stay in that wheelhouse. I also don't see very many Hollywood starlets trying for the old "Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2" look, so it will be interesting to see which direction the general public trends towards. Preferences for beauty are so individual that I know there will be a lot of opinions on this. I definitely think to each their own; if you want guns (man or woman), go for it!  If you think well-defined biceps and triceps looks awesome, then, heck, wear tank tops all winter. It's your body, do what you want (as long as it's legal). What do you think? Is fitness fashion changing? Are you more focused on looking sleek or looking strong?  I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Cheers, Lisa

About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.


16 Responses to Fitness Conferences and Fashionable Bodies

  1. Malita November 13, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    I think it’s reaching women that have always wanted this kind of workout and look, they just were always told you shouldn’t do that it’s not feminine. I have always loved strength training but for years was told I was doing it wrong (it being exercise) that I really needed to add more cardio in. I appreciate that there is now a place for women in the strongman world, it took major guts for a lot of those ladies to infiltrate the weight room and put up with some over testosteronized jerks so they could do deadlifts and squats! I don’t want to look like she man but that’s me, but I do love being able to throw around the heavy weights.

  2. Lisa Johnson November 13, 2012 at 11:18 am #

    The first time I decided to do weight training I walked nonchalantly into the gym and then stopped dead when I realized the football team was working out. I tried to find a 5 lb. weight (in vain) and took off back to “my side” of the gym. LOL … I don’t worry about the boys anymore and how you want your body to look is entirely subjective. So yes, to each their own and I’m glad you like to do what’s best for you. L–

  3. Judith November 13, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    Your comment about women with strong arms was really disappointing, even if you couch it as your subjective opinion. Women who lift get enough messaging about what’s “feminine”; I don’t need to hear it from you too. Unfollow!

  4. Tammy November 13, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    I think you are right that beauty standards vary tremendously. In ballroom dance, there is an emphasis on the women being tiny up top: toned, but not muscular. If I use more than five pound weights, I get what my partner affectionately referred to as tranny shoulders. I personally love that slightly more muscular look on me, especially since it is what my body wants to do.

    Now that I don’t have to meet the beauty standards of dance, I do use heavier weights upper body. My goal is to be strong, but not as Malita described perfectly a “she man”. I like muscular definition, but I’ll never be participating in a gun show.

  5. Ashley November 13, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

    Personally I think the reason why lululemon is beginning to lose market share is because they had such a HIGH share before – nobody wants to see 20 other people wearing the exact same thing as them.

  6. Lisa Johnson November 13, 2012 at 7:39 pm #

    Judith I was specifically asking the question am I wrong about this? I also specifically said I appreciate and admire what women do to get those arms, I know it’s really hard work. But feel free to unfollow … not sure how you do that with a blog, but hey, go for it. L–

  7. Lisa Johnson November 13, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

    Tammy, very interesting about the ballroom dance that you had to stay with low weights to look a certain way and that your dance partner was on you if you didn’t! Sheesh. On the plus side you get to do whatever you want now …

    Ashley, you might be right about Lululemon I think a lot of other brands are also getting better at producing great stuff. I do work with and I’ve learned over the past couple of years how truly great some brands are … they deserve a little attention too. :-) L–

  8. Sonia Simone November 13, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    I’ve got some triceps definition now and I am very much “bring on the guns.” And I love my tranny shoulders. :)

    Not everyone needs to look the same (how boring would that be), but I love to see ladies with muscles. To my eyes, strong muscles *are* feminine.

  9. Jenn Powell November 13, 2012 at 9:06 pm #

    Just got back from the PMA and although I saw lots of Lulu, I was struck by how cool some of the other brands looked – not black, designs on the legs, etc. Made me smile when I saw some of the new workout outfits that weren’t the norm. I’ve also seen Athleta stores popping up a lot in the Bay Area and they give an alternative look to Lucy and Lululemon.

    As for arms – I’ve coveted Linda Hamilton arms since she appeared on Arsenio Hall (dating myself!), but I don’t want bulk, I want lovely lengthened, sculpted arms and thankfully Pilates lets me achieve that.

    Glad to hear you had fun at your convention!

  10. Lisa Johnson November 13, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    Sonia, it’s definitely perspective and why I was questioning where my eye was coming from. I tried to get a pic of Keli Roberts at the show but I only got a blurry one. But her arms in the pic above are definitely what she looks like today. I kept saying, is this where we’re going for body styles? But I don’t see it on the Hollywood set yet … I guess my ideal would be Michelle Obama arms … she’s really sculpted and taut but there isn’t the size there like Keli has above. But yes, to each their own, always, always …

    Jenn, so bummed I wasn’t at PMA … I’ve got to get to a Pilates convention next year, completely whiffed on it this year … sigh. If you want a little inspiration for new stuff check out and by the way if you like Prana they have a 50% discount for instructors, pretty darned cool. :-)

  11. Jenn Powell November 13, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

    I just noticed that you posted the link for the tank you are wearing in your avatar and it looks great – I might just get one in turquoise or at least move beyond my basic black look (it’s slimming)!

    Let me know what Pilates convention you are looking to attend next year – would love to meet you in person. That was absolutely the best part of PMA this year – getting to meet all my FB and Twitter friends.

  12. Monica Cohen November 13, 2012 at 9:18 pm #

    I want strong, functional arms that do what I want them to do (in my case, help me swim fast and far). Whatever they end up looking like to get to that goal, that’s what they look like, and that’s fine with me.

  13. Lisa Johnson November 13, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    excellent point Monica, excellent point L–

  14. Malita November 13, 2012 at 11:06 pm #

    Your description of the weight room with the football players is EXACTLY right!! Also I wonder if the Lulu club is loosing some membership because other companies stepped it up a notch and started putting attractive women’s clothes out for mich more affordable prices, remember what Champion used to look like, like the girls basketball team uniforms at my high school, blech!!

  15. Tara Burner November 14, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

    me personally i’d kill for linda hamilton’s terminator arms but that’s me…i’ve been told by many that my cover pic on FB that my arms/delts are too defined…ummmm I dont think so but again it’s personal preference and what YOU want to achieve and what YOU like…
    don’t think there’s a one size fits all answer to this :)

  16. Lisa Johnson November 14, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

    Tara I very much agree, there is definitely no one size fits all answer … L–

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