On my soapbox

I'm on my soapbox (hang on while I do a couple of sets of tricep dips will you?). I'm sick of competitive clean eating, £600 designer running pants and the unhealthy industry that's propping up our modern concept of 'wellness'. Stretch, limber, RANT!

OK, it’s time to clamber back onto my soapbox. Actually, can you just bear with me while I do three sets of tricep dips off it first? As is the drill in January, I’m using this relatively quiet time of year, undistracted by mulled wine and stilton, to ramp up my health and fitness. Eating a bit less, moving a bit more, trying to jiggle into my lycra leggings that I’m sure didn’t feel like tighter than clingfilm this time last year.

My beef is this. The rise of ‘wellness’ as a commodity to be stuffed down our throats like a spirulina energy ball with a gojo berry chaser. Healthy living is no longer about that old chestnut of, you know, living healthily, it’s now about the gadgets, kudos and one-upmanship that surrounds the idea. Never mind owning a Hermés handbag, the pursuit of wellness has become a dead-cert signifier of wealth and style.

Case in point –  there’s a new pop-up (of course) fitness space (these kind of places are always ‘spaces’)  in Notting Hill (naturally) which promises to ‘bring in the outside world’. It’s basically a gym with loads of greenery dumped in it – vertical gardens, pot plants, turf where mats would be, plus workout bars made of branches. The idea is to make gym-goers more connected with nature, and aid mental wellness as well as physical health.The same fitness gains you’d get from, oh I dunno, going for a jog in the actual outside? An activity that is as free as it is straight-forward.

The biofit gym. Bring your own secateurs

I’ve also heard word of a new restaurant in London with a gym bolted on; the idea being you have a workout before sitting down to lunch or dinner. Why would anyone want to do this? Who wants to sweat it out on a treadmill before their hors d’oeuvre? It’s best suited to those who want to show off their calorie stats in a readymade Instagram boast.

And that’s the nub of what bothers me about health and fitness 2017 style. It’s the endless showing off and splashing of cash involved – the pursuit of ever-fancier weird and wonderful (OK, just weird) ways to get your endorphin kicks and tone your thighs. It’s the snazzy fitness trackers that tell all your Facebook friends every time you move your legs (did a workout even happen if it fails to record it? And what if no one ‘likes’ it?). It’s the rise of Amanda Chantal Bacon, the LA  ‘wellness boutique’ owner who sells £50 health ‘dusts’ to pimp your smoothie and makes Gwyneth Paltrow look positively sane. Go on, google her for a laugh.

It’s scarily competitive ‘clean eating’, and the ever more extreme personal fitness challenges – really just for fitness? It’s the £600 Fendi running leggings and sweatshirt set on Net-a-Porter (my top tip: H&M sportswear). Each to their own, of course, and if all the trappings and gizmos spur you on, then that’s great. But equally, there’s nothing wrong with going back to basics. That might be doing a £5 yoga class in your village hall or digging out your ancient home workout DVD. Or going running down country paths and whizzing through the fields in the winter sunshine, leaving your phone and gadgets behind and not telling a soul about it.

What do you reckon? Let me know in the comment box below. If you don’t agree, just let me know and I’ll clamber back off the soapbox and go and hide in it until the coast is clear.

Hero x

42 comments on “On my soapbox”

  • Debbie January 19, 2017

    Always envious of my other half who find the motivation to just open the front door and run – for free. x

    Reply
  • Tracy Wathen-Jones January 19, 2017

    I use free outdoor gym, yoga class if can afford or yoga at home if not, no fancy clothes. Don’t feel need to tell people I’m ‘working out’ and I do enjoy a wide variety of food, yes I’m into organic etc because I can see the advantages to animal welfare and regenerating soils etc!

    Reply
    • muddystiletto January 19, 2017

      Glad to hear it Tracy – see you in the village hall! x

      Reply
  • Helen January 19, 2017

    Spot on thinking, Hero. Just read an article about Amanda Chantal Bacon that’s just about finished me off.. in fact, I think I’ll go and stuff down a double cheese and bacon sarnie right now, while I lie, couch potato style, on my sofa, in protest!!!

    Reply
    • muddystiletto January 19, 2017

      I’ll join you if you throw in a side of chips x

      Reply
  • Barbara D January 19, 2017

    It’s January – we’re all a bit panicked after a spell of indulgence!
    But if you look behind the facade of these pop up gym spaces or restaurants with gyms (sounds neurotic to me), see them for what they really are which is fashion moments. If fashion is your thing – do it.
    Otherwise – keep it real! – choose whatever activity makes you feel good – stroll round the park, dancing, Yoga, wild swimming, ultra marathons – make it your choice. Don’t obsess about how it makes you look (unless you’re a professional model), do it just because it makes you feel good.

    Reply
    • muddystiletto January 20, 2017

      Agreed Barbara! x

      Reply
  • Kathy Eldridge January 20, 2017

    I regard it all as a firm of self-punishment. The very antithesis of well being. My granny used to advocate “everything in moderation” and she lived to be 100.

    Reply
    • muddystiletto January 20, 2017

      I agree about everything in moderation – I think I’ll have that second morning gin then. Hero x

      Reply
  • Ann January 20, 2017

    Wellies and my dog for a route march every day. Can’t beat it. Fresh air and solitude to clear my head. And it’s free.

    Reply
    • muddystiletto January 20, 2017

      I’m going to do the same today – beautiful day for it Ann! Hero x

      Reply
  • Hannah January 20, 2017

    I so struggle with being healthy. I keep trying to go out and do Couch25k but I don’t manage it for more than a few days especially given how cold it is (-2 currently according to my phone. Walking
    Home having done the preschool drop off isn’t so fun!)
    But then the gym. I went to an aerobics class at the local swimming pool/gym. I did enjoy it but spend the whole session pulling my baggy t-short back down again because it kept riding up and showing everyone my “post-baby” saggy muffin top tummy. I’m grateful for all that my body achieved in having a baby especially as mine resulted in surgery but I would just like it a bit more if I wasn’t so squishy round the middle. Is that possible or do I need to go sit ups and crunches?

    Reply
    • muddystiletto January 20, 2017

      I’m no expert Hannah, but I love the simple mantra of eat less, move more. I never follow it personally as I’m always on the scoff but you can’t fault the logic! Hero x

      Reply
  • Victoria M January 20, 2017

    This really made me chuckle, I am a fair weather runner and cyclist that means that it has to be above 15 degrees and the sun shining before I even venture outside. However, that said we are hill walkers and there is nothing more invigorating for the soul than standing on top of a mountain (or very big hill) and looking down and thinking I just walked up that.
    My biggest bug bear at the minute though is gym wear for fashion, you see people out shopping in lycra and I can never get my head round have they been to the gym, going to the gym or just wearing it because it shows of their fit and toned body???

    Reply
  • Emma January 20, 2017

    Oh, I’m so glad someone else has said it. What’s wrong with opening the door and going for a walk.? My other bugbear is smug people on Facebook “checking in” every time they go to the gym or out for a run. WHY?!?!?!?!

    Reply
    • muddystiletto January 20, 2017

      You can always rely on me to open my big mouth Emma. x

      Reply
    • Caroline Davies January 20, 2017

      Part of the reason I think people post on facebook is not for the likes, but almost to hold themselves accountable. I started a run streak (daily runs – I lasted 5 days before I couldn’t work it around kids!) – but I posted onear Facebook that I was doing it, because when I was wavering on day 6, I was nearly guilted into going. It held me accountable that I said I was going to be healthier… for 5 days anyway!

      Reply
      • muddystiletto January 20, 2017

        Yes fair enough Caroline. I think there probably are a whole raft of people who do the facebook thing to motivate themselves and that’s totally cool. It’s more a general comment about the extremes of fitness really. I’m not prodding at you I promise! x

        Reply
  • Natalie January 20, 2017

    I love this Hero, totally agree! My best friend got a fit bit for Christmas and I’m dreading the year ahead- already hours can go past with accounts of how much exercise she’s done each day- love her to bits but when did it become regular chit chat to detail your every movement and mouthful! Dancing in the kitchen works for me which I definately don’t share and document!

    Reply
  • Julie January 20, 2017

    You are so right. Eat less junk and move more. I get up at 5.30am 3x a week to jump around my living room before the kids get up so that I can fit in a bit of weekly exercise before going to work. Weekends are for outdoors running around with the little sproglettes. Each morning I look like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards coupled with my 10 year old trackie bottoms and t-shirts, just stunning, and I would happy running around aoutside like that too. It is not about paying a fortune to look good while trying to feel good. There are already enough pressures in life.

    Reply
  • Deborah Simister January 20, 2017

    Well said. I agreed whole heartedly with everything you ranted. My dog and the Chiltern hills keep me fit and fresh. At age 59, dreading the next 0 birthday I joined a boot camp and in old joggers and plimsolls ran up and down Ivinghoe Beacon until I lost 2st, then climbed Snowdon on my 60th. The biggest high ever. 6years on I still do BC in the village hall twice a week and enjoy the laughter and friendship. I have bought new joggers and trainers, though.

    Reply
  • Janet January 20, 2017

    At last, a voice of reason and sanity. Exercise should be fun. Healthy competition one thing but some of my mates are just getting obsessive.
    Would write more, but, going for a free walk/jog in this beautiful weather in amazing countryside. No sweaty, music pumping, people preening gyms for me.
    Enjoy your day ladies

    Reply
  • Josella January 20, 2017

    I’m still laughing at that Biofit gym! Isn’t there a rather large park round the corner?!

    Reply
    • muddystiletto January 20, 2017

      Yes but unfortunately you don’t have the kudos of paying a large monthly fee to use it!

      Reply
  • Tina Gibbons January 20, 2017

    You are so right – especially as I am one of those yoga teachers stretching away with my classes in my local village hall – definitely no designer lycra in sight, just fleeces and woolly socks!!
    Now just off for a brisk walk in the sunshine as (very early!) preparation for the London Moonwalk!

    Reply
  • Melanie January 20, 2017

    You should watch last night’s BBC2 Horizon programme on clean eating. Well researched and a good summary of all that is wrong with this fad.

    Reply
    • muddystiletto January 20, 2017

      I saw it Mel – really interesting stuff isn’t it?

      Reply
  • Sangita January 20, 2017

    Insecure people need to tag on and latch on to the lateast fad, diet and fashion. Try not reading or watching any articles, blogs and videos about ‘how’ to live and home in on your own instinct and intuition. We all know what to do, deep down, we really do. So listen to the ryhthm of your own heart and sanity.
    Ditch being addicted to the lastest media hype (to profit no other than the industries which fuel your insecurity), avoid at all costs thinking the ugly woman on the gym bench in heels is something to aim for. Images like that do nothing for females except keep us in the sexual position as seen by others, ie men. Its disgusting and makes my blood boil.
    Take responsiblity for your own mind and body and do the right thing. YOU know what to do and how to be. Rant over.

    Reply
    • muddystiletto January 20, 2017

      You’re better at ranting than me Sangita – respect to you, LOL!

      Reply
  • aliagnew January 20, 2017

    Hi H – as you know I was a health & fitness editor on national mags for many years. Clean eating is a ridiculous fad, like the rest of them. And a watch that monitors your steps, food intake, weight, sleep…? It’s not just a terrifying wellness trend – it’s a total fun sponge! Eat a (reasonably) balanced diet. Keep (reasonably) active. Done. xA

    Reply
    • muddystiletto January 20, 2017

      Totally agree. Pass me that doughnut!

      Reply
  • Sian January 20, 2017

    £600 for leggings?!? Ludicrous! My favourite pair are from Tesco for £18 – they fit well, have hi-viz for night runs & look flattering. And as for gardens in the gym ? – get outside! Parkrun is totally free, great fun, good way to meet people and completely embraces all abilities. Also lots of local running groups, again for all abilities, even those completely new to running, and very low cost or even free. Getting active doesn’t have to be expensive.

    Reply
  • Julia January 20, 2017

    Want to know my pet hate? Brand name yoga. Grrr.

    Reply
  • Penny January 20, 2017

    Ok I have to lose a stone before my daughters’ wedding but need motivation. So telling people I am going to the gym means I have to go. Drinking wine too much and too often piles on the pounds so promising myself something healthy, new, exotic might just stop me reaching for the bottle every night.
    And oh joy, if the wobbly bits are not to be too embarrassing then there is some amazing jazzy, less wobble Lycra? You do have to live up to that look and sweat a bit.
    So I do sympathise with those weak people like me that need treats, a nice warm gym, cool clothes and to keep telling everyone to take away their wine glass?
    Don’t be too mean to us?

    Reply
    • muddystiletto January 20, 2017

      Hi Penny, OK I’ll lay off! Hero xx

      Reply
  • Sharon Ritchie January 20, 2017

    I totally agree. I’m a fitness instructor and personal trainer and although I’m not suggesting to go and eat a whole pack of doughnuts, if eating a little of something you love, even if it’s right up there on the naughty foods list, makes you feel happy, then why not!!!
    It’s all about balance, I’ve just taken an exercise class and now sat reading your posts enjoying a rather large, delicious almond croissant and coffee with a very big smile on my face!! Now if that’s not wellness, then what is?!! Sharon x

    Reply
  • Teresa January 20, 2017

    I’m sat in my bold and beautiful yoga leggings laughing at this rant. You are so right. I still love my leggings though….

    Reply
    • muddystiletto January 20, 2017

      Ooh they sound cool! Send us a photo LOL! x

      Reply
  • Natalie Nicoll January 20, 2017

    I’m afraid I am one of those people that will put on FB that I have done a 10 mile run as it keeps my motivation. I like to share my achievements doing that Half Marathon, going out with Running Club at -1 degrees to do hill training. Why shouldn’t we be able to shout out from the rooftops to our friends because after all with FB it is just your friends you are sharing this with isn’t it

    Reply
    • muddystiletto January 20, 2017

      Hi Natalie, true enough. I’m sure most people use FB as motivation, my rant is directed at the ones for whom it’s more preen than practical. Clearly you’re not one of them! Hero x

      Reply
  • MEL January 20, 2017

    You ladies inspired me to go out for a run…..in my cheap Sports Direct leggings, my daughters old t-shirt and a fleece I bought from a charity shop. I had the wind in my hair, the sun on my face and leaves underfoot, none of which I would get in a ‘bio’ gym.

    Reply
  • sharonryan January 20, 2017

    …..and with that, Sharon dusted off her Penny Smith Yoga video circa 2001 and reacquainted herself with the Downward Dog in her living room. Lucky dog-walkers over in the park across the road…

    Reply

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