The Power of Positive Fitspo

By: Alicia McElhaney ’17, Campus Recreation Services Group Fitness Instructor
positive fitspo

Body positive fitspiration exists! I keep a collection of my favorites on a Pinterest board.


Let’s talk fitspo.

For those of you who do not know, fitspo (short for fitness inspiration) is a form of motivation used online to get people to work out and to go to the gym.

Lately, fitspo has come under fire, and for good reason. While there are a ton of reasons fitspo can be negative, the biggest problem with it is that it equates having a thin, toned body with being physically fit.

While viewing fitspo images on Instagram or Tumblr can be inspiring for some, it can have some seriously disparaging effects on those susceptible to restricting their diets and overexercising. As Beauty Redefined puts it, “fitspo may be thinspo in a sports bra.”

Don’t give up on following motivational Instagram posts or following fitness Pinterests board just yet, though. There are a ton of accounts and pages that post positive motivation – you just have to know how to find it.

Before you go searching though, let’s talk about why positive fitspo can be good for you.

Research shows that getting positive feedback from a fitness instructor or even just social media during a workout can keep you coming back to the gym.

Think about it – if you’re constantly being told that you’ll never live up to a certain body type, a perfect gym routine or a spotless diet, does that really make you want to continue? Or would you rather say screw it and forget about making healthy choices because “you’ll never live up?”

In addition, research shows that positive memories associated with fitness keep you coming back to the gym. So, if you look at an inspiring quote during a workout that really resonates with you, you’ll be way more likely to hit up the gym again.

So what kind of images should you be viewing?

Let’s start with what to avoid. Images that include only one specific body type (aka, a bikini-clad, washboard abs fitness model or super muscled body-builder) can be harmful.

Instead, look for a variety of body types – some can be fitness models, some can be overweight, others in between, but all should be working out hard.

Remember, weight does not determine a person’s fitness level.

Also avoid images or messages that tell you can either have fitness or something else, like an enjoyable food or a negative feeling. Here’s an example: jealous

Sometimes strong people are jealous. And sometimes weak people aren’t. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, which is something to keep in mind when looking for motivation or inspiration.

Finally, avoid images and messages that tell you to not listen to your body.

Something that says “don’t stop when you’re tired, stop when you’re finished” is telling you to ignore some of your body’s most important signals.

So where do we find positive fitspiration? Some of my favorite websites include Greatist and the American Council Exercise. Both are great resources for fun workout ideas, fitness news and discussions of different types of workout programs.

Another favorite fitspo of mine is the This Girl Can video series on Youtube. Talk about sweat motivation!

It’s also important to think about what kind of fitness you enjoy. If you’re into fitness of all kinds, check out @umdcrs or @chaarg on Instagram.

Are you a yogi who loves to get into nature? Follow accounts like @eugene_yogi and @yoga_girl for a taste of positive fitness in pretty locales.

Are you all about lifting heavy? You definitely need to be careful because you can run into a lot of bikini competitors, but it is possible to find those who love to lift for a different purpose. Check out @jillfit or LIFTmeupFitness.

Need a taste of body positivity that isn’t solely focused on fitness? Follow @healthyisthenewskinny, @effyourbeautystandards or @honorcurves.

What about healthy, pretty food? My favorites are @tallulahalexandra (a D.C. native!), @jaimeoliver and @nomyourself.

Some of your own fitness instructors and trainers have awesome accounts online that share both fitness and UMD pride. Kylie blogs about fitness and health foods. Dris, Catalina and Brandi have great Facebook accounts that are certainly worth a follow! And yoga instructor Cynthia shares information about yoga, traveling and health on her Instagram.

I personally share tons of fitness information on Pinterest. Check out my Body Positive Fitness Board!

What are some of your favorite places to find positive inspiration? Share in the comments below!

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