Do you avoid the gym because you worry about the way you look? Cast fear aside with this expert guide to looking and feeling your best.

Another picture of a crop-top-clad gym girl( abs pops up on your Instagram feed.does it make you feel? Inspired? Impressed?Intimidated? Fitspiration – or #fitspo to its followers – is a growing trend born out of the digital age, in which exercise devotees from all over the globe post inspirational pictures to encourage others to get fit. It’s supposed to be empowering – ’strong looks better than skinny’ and all that – but evidence suggests that idealistic images like these can make us feel pressured to look a certain way.’“Strong is the new skinny” has spawned a proliferation of similar phrases and accompanying motivational posters,’ explains Jacqueline Hooton, founder of Women In Fitness Empowerment (WIFE;


’On the face of it, you’d think this was a positive thing for women – the pressure to be thin is off – but the problem is that it’s simply another “ideal” women are being urged to aspire to.’ In fact, experts report that associating fitness with appearance can have a demotivating, rather than inspiring, effect on women. It suggests that those who are fit must look a certain way – when the reality is that women of all shapes, ages, colours and sizes can work out. and it’s okay to do it just for the heck of it rather than for body goals! ‘There’s a real issue when we start linking fitness to aesthetics,’ says Hooton. ‘Fitspiration images tend to speak to the already converted while alienating those who feel they will never measure up. It reinforces the idea that the fitness industry is exclusive.’ But exercise isn’t exclusive; activities such as running, weight training or swimming are available to us all. And it doesn’t matter how much you sweat, whether your boobs bounce or if you’ve got cellulite popping out of your bikini bottoms – if you’re moving (no matter how slowly), you’re doing it right.


The problem is that a worrying number of women claim they don’t have enough body confidence to exercise – something that was highlighted when Sport England looked into university and sport foundation research in 2014. Realising that there was a disparity between the number of men and women who play sport, the organisation discovered that a whopping 75 percent of females would like to exercise more but are concerned about their appearance, ability and being judged. It turns out that a lack body confidence is holding us women back We listened very carefully to what women were saying about why they felt sport and exercise wasn’t for them and found that there was a unifying fear of judgment,’ reveals Tanya Joseph, director of business partnerships at Sport England Further research shows that 42 percent women feel that having more confidence their body would help them play sport or exercise more.’Time for a change, so the This Girl Can Campaign – a fair representation of women who exercise – was born. ‘We launched This Girl Can in January 2015 and the response to it has been truly incredible -the campaign has resonated with women all around the world,’ explains Joseph. ‘We’ve been overwhelmed by how many women have wanted to be part of the campaign – to share it, celebrate it, and ownit for themselves, whether that’s uploading an image and sharing it with #This Girl Can or joining a This Girl Can Zumbathon.’



Clearly, women worldwide want to get fit-body confidence. But if you still feel too self-conscious to exercise, know this – you’re not alone. ‘However much you imagine other people are judging you, you’re most likely wrong.’ says Hooton. ‘Fit is not about being a work in progress, as though there’s something more you need to be. You’re in control to define what “fit” means to you.’ Body insecurity gets the best of us all from time to time. Read on to find out how Hooton quashes it.


‘Be mindful of negative self-talk and make a conscious effort to replace disempowering words such as “I have fat thighs” with something that lifts you up such as “I have powerful legs”,’ says Hooton. ‘TheWIFE campaign #WomansWorld seeks to promote greater awareness about the negatives us women use when it comes to body image. It’s time to take control and think about the rhetoric we use when we talk about our bodies to ourselves, our daughters and our friends.’


Has a group of model-like women just entered the gym? ‘Avoid comparing yourself to other women,’ suggests Hooton. ’We tend to want the good bits we see in someone else and forget that everyone has bits they don’t like. Instead, make a mental note of all the things you like about yourself, reinforcing the many fine qualities you have.’


Don’t think about what your body looks like but about what it can do. ‘If you’ve had children and feel you’ve been left with a mummy tummy, recognise the power and strength your body has to grow and give birth. When you start to acknowledge the way your body works, you create a better relationship and appreciate it more.’


Want to get body confident? Here’s how the H&F team banish insecurities when they’re exercising.

.‘When I’ve had time out from exercise and feel less confident, I remind myself that athleticism isn’t only about what I can physically do. it’s mental too. When my body isn’t at its fittest, my mind can still be super strong – and that gives me confidence.’ Sarah Ivory, fitness editor

.‘I’ve worked hard to get to where I am and know how to push my body to its limits. But if I feel I can’t complete asset or run, I remember how I Felt the last time I did it and that spurs me on. And a bright pair of trainers always puts a spring in my step!’ Lucy Pinto, art director

.’I swear by lightly padded sports bras that don’t flatten my boobs and are great for smaller busts (try Shock Absorber Active Shape Support, £22.40, johnlewis. com). Emma Lewis, chief sub editor.


A study by Curves Gym Australia shows 53 per cent of women worry they won’t look good in their gym gear while they work out. But finding kit that makes you feel great can boost your motivation. We tapped top athletes for the kit that gives them confidence

‘When I’m on court can go full throttle into points knowing that my Asics Gel- Resolution 6 trainers will give me the stability needed when changing direction quickly.’ – Johanna Konta, tennis player little black number that makes us feel unstoppable. For me, it’s my Helly Hansen Pace Tights. They fit to perfection, support my every move and make me feel strong – and are made for rain, mud and sweat!’ Avril Copeland, adventure racer 7 trust my adidas Ultra Boost trainers. Off the track, it’s lovely to train and relax in them. They give me great support, whether in the gym or away from training, and are so comfy. It’s like having two pillows under my feet!’ -Jodie Williams, sprinter.

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