January 09, 2008

Icky Fitness Ad Roundup

Usually, it's fun to see advertisements for healthy products and services. You know, like running shoes or organic natural food, cool gym equipment, bikes, or whatever. We love to see the great gadgets and cute outfits and sturdy functional gear and all these happy people! They're all working out in gorgeous settings doing the very things we're trying to motivate ourselves to do--but suddenly it looks like a blast, not drudgery.

But then there are the other ads--the ones that make you want to take your healthy little magazine and shred it, spit on it, and then set the whole mess on fire. Or at least sigh and grumble a bit.

Now Cranky Fitness could fund an expedition out to the local newsstand to dig some of these up--but well, we'd rather just steal from acknowledge the contributions of some of our favorite bloggers who have found some awful ones already.

Faux Elitism: Let's Trash the Joggers!

First up: Katieo over at Sister Skinny had a great post about this obnoxious ad campaign by Pearl Izumi. (Note: coincidentally, Katie and the two authors of Cranky Fitness all happen to own this brand of shoe. Since I can barely ever find them in a store (and won't be looking quite as hard now), this was a surprising discovery. Are bloggers naturally attracted to pretentious shoes? If it's any excuse, none of us had seen the ads before we bought them.)

Anyway the point of the ad is to separate the wild, daring, dangerous, heroic "runners" from the lazy, boring, half-assed "joggers." You're supposed to identify as a runner, no matter how slow you yourself go, and look down on mere joggers. The ad portrays runners as "endangered" by all those joggers messing up the purity of their running experience by merely existing.

Not sure if you're a runner or a jogger? Some tips: if you do your "running" on a treadmill or with a stroller or an iPod, sorry, you're not really a runner. (You may, however, be a runner and own a plasma tv or an expensive car). The answer, if you're a poor pathetic jogger and want to be a runner? Just go faster--and buy their shoes.

Yeccch. Wouldn't it be great if they were pushing health and fitness for everyone, not just the "special" people? Why do they feel their experience is cheapened if others are allowed to have it too? Jogging is great exercise! Screw you, Pearl Izumi.

"Fit" Women

Kelly at Fitness Fixation found this ad for Champion products--which looks kind of normal until you check out the width of the women's arms (particularly the one in the blue shorts). Kelly has a great rant not only on model selection but on the general assumption that women should aspire to be skinny, not muscular.

It's annoying enough when underwear or high-fashion models look dangerously thin and/or airbrushed. But when you're in the sports clothing industry, wouldn't it be nice to pick a few women who look like they could lift a ten pound weight or even a can of Diet Coke without breaking an arm?

Women as Scantily Clad Cuts of Meat:

This skeezy ad for Equinox Fitness Clubs was spotted by Leslie, who has a great blog called The Weighting Game over at iVillage. (She has also written a book, making me jealous, about women and body image called "The Locker Room Diaries.")

The ad is awful enough as is, with a collection of vapid, plastic, women-as-pieces-of furniture. (Why in the world does anyone aspire to be furniture?) But what I would have missed, had she not pointed it out, was the fact that these women have been marked up like pieces of meat with a marking pen. It's creepy and confusing, too--does anyone have any idea why that's supposed to make you want to go to the gym?

And Finally, Combining The Most Loathsome Elements of All the Rest: the Anti-Gym!

Amy at Shaping Up My Life directed us to this rather amazing gym. Or sorry, anti-gym. No, wait, it's "Denver’s only health and vanity lifestyle boutique!" Think that's weird? Oh, hang on, it gets weirder.

Like the Pearl Izumi people, they need their second class citizens, the "chubbies," to make fun of. Naturally though, you can have your beer gut and still not be a "chubby" if you go to their gym and work out. The "chubbies" are always other people. So please don't be offended by their "No Chubbies" T-shirts.

Like the Equinox Ads, women seem to be pieces of meat, and like the Champion Ads, their fitness seems to be judged by odd standards. At least if you go by the pictures, which are basically porn with clothes on. Women are featured licking lollipops, clinging (in pairs) to men, and getting ready to make out with each other. Oh wait, they can also be cage dancers! And do martial arts--or something. (In one odd photo, a robotic looking woman seems to be trying to fend off a quasi-sexual attack by a man wielding a cupcake. )

WTF? Could someone explain this to me? If this is a macho gym aimed at guys who like porn, then what's with the "vanity lifestyle boutique" language? What actual macho guy would want to go to a vanity boutique? This is not to say there's anything wrong with a gym being sexy, or edgy, or "adult." But why is sexy always defined through 13-year old male eyes?

However, one persons "ick" can be another persons "wow, that's creative!" so I'm curious if others find these ads to be annoying too or if it's just me. And has anyone noticed any other health or fitness ads that grate?


  1. "Why in the world does anyone aspire to be furniture?" - Crabby, the Bag Lady is surprised at you! You own a cat, don't you? To cats, that is all humans are - warm furniture! (okay, just a wee tangent there)
    Great post. Most advertisements for fitness products make the Bag Lady feel inadequate. The elitist ads are just the next step up. The answer to this? Boycott, boycott, boycott.

  2. Most offensive. Incidentally, women-as-furniture is very Soylent Green.

    The skinny armed babes are horrible. They look ill, not healthy, rather like anorexia as a life goal.
    For the record, Crabby, pretty much all health and fitness ads grate on me.
    Our world is a sick, sick place.

  3. I couldn't agree with you more. Those ads make me ask - what were they thinking? The skinny armed women look disgusting.

  4. Man, as if we don't already have a hard enough time being taken seriously in the fitness industry, this just perpetuates the problem! You don't know how many women I've talked to who are really concerned about getting muscles that are too big (they're very slender, most of them who worry about this). And I'm not talking seriously ripped here, I'm talking a little bigger with slight definition. Our society really does encourage women to be sticks. Maybe that's why they don't want to come to my kwando spar class, because they're wary of punching someone...

    The Equinox ad is very interesting. Horrific, but interesting. I actually auditioned to teach there. I don't think it was the best audition I ever had, and they didn't hire me. But I also got the impression (from other people I've talked to also) that you have to be a certain level of pretty and thin to be an instructor there.

  5. I'm feeling a strong urge to find my running shoes (jogging shoes?) and remove any labels from them...

  6. I have heard of the anti-gym guy before, and his "reasoning" just makes my head hurt. Do you think he will wake up one day and realize just what an a** he is? Probably not...
    Those stick arms are scary! I too have heard of women who are scared of "bulking up". Um, no not gonna happen. Also, working out helps your bone density - unfortunately alot of those stick women will have to deal with broken bones later on in life. Not worth it!

  7. I think a lot of these ads are targeted at the types of women who read theskinnywebsite.com Have you ever been over there? It will make you sicks, what people say about the tiny little "imperfections" of others. Strong healthy women need to take the world back!

  8. Rednecksisters left a comment on my "endangering running" post that I thought was great.
    "I completely agree with everyone who believes this add is inappropriate. With the ever increasing number of obese and, yes, morbidly obese people walking (as best they can) on the face of this earth, any "exercise"-based product should recognize their responsibility (which would ultimitely work into a financial benefit for them) to encourage and support use of their product by people of all abilities...
    Am I embarassed? After dragging my sorry butt out of my Lazy Boy to slog away in the wet, cold, hot, dry, whatever weather the world throws at me, just so I can: eat what I want to eat; wind down from a mentally exhausting work-day; use some alone time to rid myself of any negative thoughts (okay bitchiness) and just plain feel good about myself - Not likely!"
    Although I brushed off the ad to begin with, her comment really got me thinking.

  9. Yeah, someone needs to find a new advertising agency. I was so livid when I first read Katie's post, I couldn't leave a decent comment (I know how Katie feels about cussing!) With those standards, I seriously doubt Pearl Izumi could find a "real" runner anywhere.

  10. So I'm a size 18/20 right now (3 months postpartum). I'd like to start walking/jogging/running again. But lo and behold, I can't find any workout pants or running shorts in my size.

    For some reason that, these ads, and many other issues (the gov't continuing to subsidizing corn, for instance) make me feel like there's a conspiracy to keep fat people fat...

  11. lisa - it's a myth that one needs "workout gear" to work out! Get yourself a sturdy pair of shoes and start walking, wearing whatever you are comfortable in. That's all you need. All this crap they push on us about needing special running shoes and running clothes and expensive work-out machines is just wrong. Don't fall into the trap. If you are serious about losing that weight, the only work-out gear you need is the desire to do it!
    (Sorry, Crabby, but it had to be said...) *climbing sheepishly off soap-box*

  12. URGH!!! I had seen the Anti-Gym ads a few days ago (and an interview on Fox News with that a**, believe it or not!), but the others I just saw today.
    OK, Equinox: "Natural Beauty?" I think not! I have a friend who teaches there, and she says most of her students sit and chat, and don't even bother doing the workout!
    Skinny-armed chicks: not exactly MY fitness role models.
    And the shoes? GET THE HELL OVER YOURSELVES, PEOPLE! Who are you to decide who can participate in a 10K? If I want to put my kids in a double stroller and go for a run, it's none of your freakin' business!!!! I'd like to see you "runners" accomplish HALF of the things we moms do in a single day!

    As for most annoying ad campaign, it has to be Weight Watchers. I know, it's not a fitness campaign per se, but their whole "Diets don't work, WW does," is a lot of bunk. If counting points isn't a diet, I don't know what is. And I've tried WW 3 times.

    OK. I'm gonna go take some deep breaths and calm down now.

  13. Azusmom - now I feel better about not teaching at Equinox! I had the impression they weren't as good as all that, but this just really confirms it. It would drive me up the wall if there were people sitting around in talking in class! Nevermind being pointless (they're supposed to be there to work out!) it's very disrespectful to the instructor and the rest of the members in class. That, compounded with this ad campaign just makes we want to avoid them like the plague!

    Also, about jogging with kids - I think it's a great idea! It shows your kids that exercise is a valuable and integral part of daily life, and includes them in it, so hopefully they'll be more apt to exercise as they get older.

  14. And not listening to an ipod as you run? Are you kidding me? Maybe there are runners out there who can entertain themselves for however many miles it is, but I for one would need some music motivation to keep going (were I actually to take up running).

  15. Lisa - I agree with The Bag Lady about workout gear, but one thing I would invest in is a good workout bra....definitely worth the extra $$,believe me!

  16. In defense of Equinox, while I do find that ad completely bizarre, I happen to love working out there. The staff is friendly and helpful. It's the cleanest gym I've ever been inside and the equipment is pretty great. (I might be in love with the new treadmills we just got in.)

    I haven't gotten up the nerve to take any classes yet. Mostly because, every time I walk by the studio, everyone looks so intense and I worry that I won't be able to keep up.

    Different gyms for different folks, I suppose, but my experience has been really good. I actually look forward to going to the gym.

  17. The other ads made me roll my eyes or tilt my head, but the Anti-Gym made me drop a "What the eff?", minus any abbreviation. Look, I love porn and shameless sex-based advertising as much as the next 24-year-old, but what the hell does two strippers fellating a lollipop or some big tough guy pulling down a pair of panties with his teeth have to do with gettin' healthy?


    (Also: I am still alive, honest, but things have been, uh, hectic for the past month.)

  18. I think the Equinox ad (although being stupid and hard to even get) is supposed to be pointing out that the three girls on the left and right are all marked up like they have undergone surgery to be beautiful and if you notice, the girl that they guy is into has no marks...presumably because she has natural beauty because she works out to look good instead of having surgery. yikes...what a bad campaign!

  19. I feel a strong urge to make my computer throw up!
    That anti-gym moron is beyond belief! I suppose there are some people that benefit from being treated like that, but why anyone would pay to be abused while they are working out is beyond me.
    Stick thin arms and legs to advertise work out wear and elitism for your product are just bad news.

  20. I've recently seen an ad, which I plan on writing about on my blog, which starts out with a woman boxing a heavy bag. The voice over says ,"I will lose the weight this year. I will fit into those jeans, I will...you get the idea" OK, I figured it was for a local fitness center..NOT "Backyard Burgers and their low carb burger, which "of course" you can eat and reach your fitness goals. "Just like you did last year" Gag....
    Dr. J

  21. The Pearl-Izumi ad--makes me annoyed--I run on a treadmill WITH an Ipod--guess that makes me a poseur in their world. Whatevah!

    Champion ad--makes me laugh. How doofy.

    Equinox ad--makes me scratch my head--duh? Not sure what they are trying to say, but it must be asinine.

    The anti-gym ad-urgh...makes me see red. I bet that guy gets " no chubbies"--what a moron.

  22. I like my running shoes...they have squidgy gel in them and make me feel like I"m running on cushy pillows...and they're bright yellow. But, if I didn't have bad feet, I wouldn't have splurged on good running shoes. Unless you're running a lot I wouldn't say you'd need special shoes...altho a good sports bra will keep the jiggerypokery to a minimum.

  23. Hi all, and welcome to the new folks! (And welcome back, Lisa and Jim) As usual, awesome comments.

    Sorry to be AWOL today but my computer just died this morning--ARRRGGGH! Went dark all of a sudden and I can't get a rise out of it.

    I've finally managed to resurrect a 9 year old laptop I had in the basement for emergencies--problem is, there seems to be a loose wire in the power cord and the batttery won't hold a charge for more than a few minutes.

    So all this is to say, bloginess may be a bit spotty this week, but I'll try to post when I can and we've got Mary in the wings. I'll be back to visiting folks at their blogs again and chatting more in the comments as soon as I get the problem fixed. (I got so stressed about it this morning all I could think to do was go for a run, er, excuse me, jog, which helped me feel better but didn't magically revive the computer.)

    And I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds these ads offensive/bizarre!

  24. The thing that I LOVE about my gym (shameless 24 plugg), is that they use "real" looking athletic models in their ads. It motivates me to see a not super small woman with curves and muscle tone staring me down from the posters on the walls. I also appreciate the before and after shots that are surrepticiously placed around the gym, it really makes me feel like I can get there if I keep slogging away!!

    Lisa, go to Target. The Champion line they carry (I know, I know, we're hating on Champion right now, but their work out gear is affordable and fits well) hits a XXL if you need it. I'm an 18 in jeans (bottom heavy), and LOVE their pants. I also have a pair of Danskins, Adidas and Nike pants and LOVE them all. They are out there, you just gotta look and try things on. I agree about a really supportive sports bra also, NECESSITY!!

  25. OMG, not only am i apparently not a runner, i'm a big f-ing loser, too! nice!

  26. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who thinks some of these ads and gadgets are over the top.
    On Saturday I had a rant about this subject over at my blog: The 'diet fork' and the 2-must-have-pics of any 'Real' diet advertisement.

    Thanks for the post.

  27. Just found this, Crabby, and couldn't resist. It's probably old news to a pro like you, but what the hell, it's one of your "favorite" topics :-)
    Dr. J

  28. "looks kind of normal until you check out the width of the women's arms"
    The ocean in the background is a clue--those are not actually arms, they're disguised tentacles. Probably sea creatures don't need to worry about osteoporosis.

    Wishing Crabby's computer the best of health.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  29. We live in Denver, and so my boyfriend and I see the anti-gym ads on a fairly regular basis. (their radio ads are even worse and piss me off on my way to work) We went to their website after seeing one of their ads, and yes, we were disgusted by it, but three hours later, we kept talking about it. We couldn't stop thinking about it. I don't want to go there (mostly I am scared to be yelled at) but I can see if someone was really desperate, and felt that they had tried absolutely everything else, that it might seem appealing. Now I can't stop thinking about it again.
    I said this on Sister Skinny, too, but even though these advertisers are jerks, the fact that we are all talking about it makes me think that they have done their jobs. Annoying, isn't it?

  30. Amy...not me Amy...wrote a letter to Pearl Izumi about this very thing.

    It's sad where advertising takes things nowadays. There is no such thing as perfection...except for in Photoshop.

  31. The Equinox ad is *D*I*S*G*S*T*I*N*G*.
    I saw it in the Sunday paper and thought WTF??? Then realized that all the women marked up were representing liposuction, eye lifts, breast augmentation and botox injections. The only "natural" woman in the room has the man, as noted by Mabel in a previous post. I can appreciate it in a totally objective way, but I find it extremely offensive.

    Now Pearl Izumi: as a cyclist I have a lot of their products (mostly off REI's online outlet cheap); cycling sox which I love, cycling gloves and jerseys, and most recently a brilliant yellow light jacket (old school windbreaker). So it ticks me off that I have branded products and I would be one of their non elite customers. So I feel like I will stop being their customer now!

    As for shoes, I hate to promote a brand but I love my Keens and they love my poor beat up feet! I don't care if they are not a jogging shoe, I can walk or dog trot with the puppy just fine. Trick is go to REI, find a pair you like, then go home and look up the REI outlet site to see if they have last year's model at 40% off, same shoe, slightly dif colors.

    The skinny armed women are scary! I lifted weights for years, I enjoyed it, it made me stronger and I was very nicely toned. To me that is healthy and fit. Women with nary a bicep bump scare me.

  32. Hi Crabby,

    I forgot, so sorry about your computer! Here's what I do: run your hands palm down over the front and sides, feeling for that slight shift in the energy field. It's there, trust me. Tell the pc in a soft kind voice how much you appreciate all the hard work it's done, and that you're sorry if it ever thought that you might have taken it for granted.
    Then take your dominant hand, curl the fingers in toward your palm, thumb on top, and give the S.O.B. a *really* hard thump on the top front of the tower and tell it to BOOT its lazy dam ass up RIGHT NOW, or you will drop kick it out the front door and into the middle of traffic, however far that may be! Then try turning it on again. Should boot right up.
    Works for me.

  33. all I got to say is what the f has our world become.

  34. WTF?! When I clicked on the link for the 'anti-gym' I had to furiously look around to make sure no one was walking past my cubicle!

    What part of a semi-naked woman provocatively whispering into some meat head's ear screams health and fitness? Why do sit ups when you could get a lap dance instead?!


    Instead of bridging the gaps in the fitness industry, they're only making it wider. Obesity is not only NOT getting the help and attention it needs, but now people are actually advertising their distaste for the "chubbies"!

    Am I supposed to want to lose weight now because I don't fit into their club? As if.

  35. Well, I don't need to go any sexist elitist gym today because I'm getting my exercise tearing my hair out over computer issues. TK, thanks for the advice! So again, sorry to curtail blogging activities but my computer does seem to be entirely dead, and the excruciating slowness of my bugged-up 9 year old "emergency" laptop is too frustrating. But I love all the great comments!

  36. Thanks for compiling all this info. I've seen most of these ads around, and the Equinox ad and the Anti-Gym ads are the two that I have seen recently that piss me off more than anything. Using elitism and humiliation is one school of thought to motivate people to achieve their weight goals, but they are based on fear, fear of not fitting in, fear of being not good enough, fear of failure. This is no way to create truly healthy and happy people. It's a good way though to get people into therapy. Geez!

  37. Kristen, I think if you enjoy going to Equinox, then keep going! There's much to be said for a friendly, helpful staff and a clean gym. (Having gone to some not-so-clean-ones, I can understand!) Maybe, as a member, you could even have some positive impact? If you were write a complaint about the ad. (If that's something you'd want to do. No pressure,lol!)
    When we lived in L.A. I thought about joining Crunch. Until they showed me the unisex sillhouette showers!!!!!! They have regular showers, too, in the locker rooms, but the sillhouette ones are REALLY popular!
    I'm so glad we moved!

  38. Yeccch. Wouldn't it be great if they were pushing health and fitness for everyone, not just the "special" people? Why do they feel their experience is cheapened if others are allowed to have it too?

    Pearl Izumi is pushing shoes and their profit margins, not health and fitness.

  39. "Icky" is right! Those ads have gotta go...

  40. I totally do the stretching thing when I put on my jeans, too. :)

  41. Oh, sorry about that...I had another window open at the same time, and I put my jeans comment in the wrong spot. Embarrassing! :)

  42. Thanks you guys for the great comments!

    And Zandria, I totally do those jean stretches too, assuming it was Sister Skinny you were commenting on. And heck, I'll take their comments anytime!

  43. Does anyone remember seeing the 24-Hour Fitness billboard with a pic of an alien that read, "When they come, they'll eat the fat ones first"? Really motivating.


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