A Harper’s Bazaar article recently popped up in my Facebook feed asking me, “Is Spinning Making You Fat?”
You might ask yourself, how could exercise possibly make me fat? But according to the article, women are cutting down on uber-popular spin classes because they feel the workout is making their butts and thighs bigger.
The article quoted a “celebrity trainer” who forbids his fashion model clients to ride at all, and explained another reason women are quitting spinning: It “makes them really hungry.” The article incited an online uproar, and scientific sources quickly stepped up to assure us cycling-loving ladies that the Bazaar article was bunk. But wonky facts aside, the Bazaar article shed light on some fascinating facts about our fitness motivations as women.
It begs the question: Why are we working out? Is it because it feels good to challenge ourselves and get stronger? Because we love the stress relief? Is it because we know it’s good for our health? Or because it helps us get better at the things we love to do: hike to beautiful places, ride more fun trails, climb harder routes?
Or because we want to look like models?
If we’re to believe Bazaar, we’d think women have completely lost sight of the benefits of real athleticism, and are completely obsessed with images of super willowy, tall, skinny women that fill the media aimed at us. We’re only working out because we want to look like those models. Models who are genetically predisposed to be tall and skinny. And whose trainers forbid them to ride bikes, lest they—gasp!—develop quads or glutes. Or get hungry and enjoy a big post-workout meal.
I like Foodie Underground founder Anna Brones’s perspective. She pointed out to me the other day—after a long run in the mountains—that part of the beauty of a post-workout meal is that distinct satisfaction of an earned hunger. Not so much a mindless face-stuffing feast, but a conscious, grateful enjoyment of the nourishment our bodies crave after working hard. It’s part of the beauty of the human experience—and a part of why many of us enjoy working out and playing hard.
Have we forgotten the thrilling feeling of strength that comes from pushing ourselves harder than we thought we could go? Or the adventures that open up to us when we’re willing to work hard and get fit and strong?
Do we think we’ll really be happy if our thighs are a half-inch thinner? Even as we’re depriving ourselves of the most basic human joys—movement and food?
Bikes are fun. Hiking is fun. Running is fun. Climbing is fun. If we’re not working out in order to increase our health—and therefore our ability to have fun and be happy—what exactly are we working out for, anyway?