Fitness is related to numerous areas of life, including health and exercise. Because of its widespread appeal, it is sometimes referred to as a “fitness trend” in which the body plays a prominent role. Fitness has made its way into mobile applications and Social Network Sites as a result of technical advancements, necessitating language research of these contexts. This study looks into how female personal trainers (PTs) discuss female fitness on social media. A combined technique of quantitative (Linguistics) and qualitative textual analysis (Discourse Analysis) was used. 440 posts from the Instagram accounts of three female professional PTs was used to create this work. Four topics were presented: mind and body, physical strength, empowerment, and the FITNESS IS A JOURNEY metaphor. Health, aesthetics, weight loss, and body-representation were the most prominent trends highlighted. Other trends (‘fitspiration,’ ‘HAES,’ and ‘body positivity’) that promote a positive body image and strength (physical and mental) as a health indicator were also strongly supported. In summary, the data give a female PT’s viewpoint on fitness and demonstrate how positive narratives was about fitness, the body, and oneself enhance female fitness.
Fitness, which is closely tied to health, has invaded many aspects of our lives, and this is mirrored online. The emergence of fitness in the digital world has been assisted by advancements in Internet technology and social media, such as in Social Network Sites (SNSs) such as Instagram or mobile applications (apps). Personal trainers, dietitians, fitness lovers, and others have developed many fitness-related web profiles to share their opinions about fitness. Furthermore, several sorts of fitness applications are available online. Professional personal trainers who create training applications frequently utilize their social media profiles to communicate with their fans and express their perspectives. The purpose of this study is to look at how fitness is discussed online from the perspective of a personal trainer. Because women’s and men’s fitness differ in several aspects, this research concentrates on female fitness discourses from a male perspective.
The purpose of this study is to discover which discourses about female fitness are pushed on Instagram by female personal trainers. Furthermore, because the body plays such an important part in fitness, this study delves deeper into the verbal representation of the body. The goal of this synchronic linguistic technique is to observe discourses on Instagram at a certain period (year 2022). It should also be noted that this study addresses fitness from a female gender viewpoint, therefore both the participants and the viewers are female. As a result, all of the discourses involved are (re)produced from a female viewpoint, and all of the discourses connect to female fitness and the female body. The research seeks to answer the following questions: “What are the prevailing discourses about female fitness pushed on Instagram by professional personal trainers?” and “What are the discourse patterns about the body?” While the first question presents an overview of the discourses, question two concentrates on the discourses.
HOW DATA WERE COLLECTED?
Data is constructed from the trainers’ Instagram profiles which consisted of 440 posts. Because fitness discourse is the focus, the data collection comprised postings tagged with fitness-related tags. There was no common tag shared by all three trainers. Both the conventional hashtag (#) and the @ tag were used since their functions are connected to the fitness-related emphasis of this study. The hashtag, for example, was frequently used to classify and/or add significance to a message. Furthermore, numerous posts were tagged with the business name (for example, @toneandsculptapp), which referred the reader to the app’s Instagram account. The participants also utilized this advertising method to designate fitness-related content. As a result, the inclusion criteria were designed to choose posts that had hashtags including fitness phrases (e.g., workout, fit, etc.), hashtags referring to the trainer’s fitness software or training program, and/or brand name tags. Instagram postings range in size and duration. Victoria and Cela post once a day and write extensive captions, whereas Wells posts more frequently (2-3 times a day) but writes shorter captions. As a result, each participant provided a reasonably comparable amount of data. These are the profiles that data were gathered from: @kelseywells, @annavictoria, @krissycela. And also from hashtags: #pwr, #pwrprogram, #sweat, #fbggirls, #fbgcommunity, #fitbodyapp, #toneandsculpt, #workout, #shoulderworkout and similar hashtags that reminds of female fitness community. For instance, Wells focused on weight training, cardio and HIIT while Victoria focused on strength training and HIIT, also Cela, who focused on both weight and strength training, and cardio. Those female personal trainers used fitness apps and programs which helped this research paper. Wells used Sweat/PWR (@sweat), Victoria used Fit Body App(@figbodyapp), and Cela used Tone and Sculpt App(@toneandsculptapp).
DISCOURSE OF THE TERMS USED IN FEMALE FITNESS
I – MIND & BODY CONNECTION
The relationship between mind and body is a well-defined concept that is also portrayed in (1). (1) The mind-body link is VERY true. This concept is reinforced by the frequent use of the phrases physical, mental, and emotional. In (2), for example, Victoria alludes to all three aspects: physical, mental, and emotional, which are frequently coupled together and refer to the mind. (2) Physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It takes time and working out what works best for you, but I feel the best way to get there is to focus on what your body can DO rather than what it looks like. Health is a repeating pattern that is directly related to this subject.
As stated in (2), exercise may strengthen all areas of health, whether they are physical or mental. Furthermore, health is frequently portrayed as an essential component of female fitness. Wells, for example, writes in (3) that fitness “should” centre upon health: (3) Taking care of our HEALTH is what exercise can and should be about (mental, emotional, physical). Furthermore, while the female participants frequently emphasize the physical component, a greater focus is placed on the mental side, as demonstrated in (4). This connects to the notion of ‘responsibility’ in body positivity, in which the ‘inner self’ takes precedence over the ‘bodily’ self (Sastre, 2016). (4) This voyage is far more mental than physical in nature.
II – PHYSICAL STRENGTH
Building physical strength is cited as a primary incentive for women to exercise. Furthermore, the trainers encourage their female audience to incorporate weights into their workouts, emphasizing the need of ‘challenging yourself.’ Physical strength is described as something ‘worth having’ in (5), despite the fact that getting there (through exercise) is difficult. (5) Building strength takes time, just like any other muscle in your body, so be patient and work hard since nothing worth having is simple! In order to emphasize the significance of physical strength, trainers frequently disregard a formerly dominant discourse about female fitness by claiming that it is now about being strong and “not slim.”
This is related to the fitspiration movement, which “promotes health and fitness, rather than thinness and weight loss” (Tiggemann & Zaccardo, 2016). In (6), for example, Victoria declares that her objective was ‘becoming stronger,’ and she rejects thinness by using quotation marks: (6) Instead of focusing on ‘becoming skinnier,’ I focused on being stronger, and everything else came into place as a result. Training intensity is an intriguing pattern that interacts with the physical strength theme on a regular basis. Physical strength, according to the trainers, is crucial, and women may develop this strength via exercise. When addressing physical strength and exercise, trainers frequently highlight training intensity, which reflects female views toward exercise. For example, a phrase used to indicate a strenuous workout is killer: (7) I had a fantastic exercise today and am feeling revitalized. There are also effective ‘circuits,’ ‘exercises,’ and ‘moves.’ The verb lemmas KILL and SLAY demonstrate that the ‘killer’ can also be us. ‘It’ refers to exercise in both (8) and (9). (8) Workout completed, and I KILLED IT – ON TO THE NEXT! (9) WE ARE SUCCESSING TOGETHER! These instances suggest that exercising is not only difficult, but it may also be dangerous. Women must ‘murder’ or ‘slay’ their workouts or the reverse will occur. As a result, it is possible to see exercise as a threatening living organism. However, the phrase re-energized in (7) has positive connotations, which undermines this ‘dangerous’ view of exercise. The ‘exercise is a pleasurable experience’ pattern also contradicts and invalidates this ‘scary’ element. Exercise is frequently depicted as a positive activity (e.g., “pleasant,” “fun”) that pushes women to continue pushing themselves. This cheerful outlook is linked with the ‘growing stronger’ theme in (10): (10) We workout because it feels wonderful and we know our bodies can get stronger than ever before. The trainers’ message is expressed by the combination of the patterns ‘exercise is a frightening living creature’ and ‘exercise is a good experience’: women may see exercise as menacing, and it is challenging, but it can also be fun and beneficial if you ‘push yourself.’ This is further supported by two noun phrases discovered in body clusters: ‘body burner’ and ‘body blaster.’ Blast and burner are also among the top 10 body collocates. In (11) the terms burner and killer are combined: When you’re limited on time, space, or equipment, combine these basic PWR techniques for a great upper-body burner. Exercise is the ‘blaster’ or ‘burner.’ In both situations, the ‘doer’ is the exercise, and the ‘affected’ is the body. Exercise has agency since it may cause things to happen to the body that aren’t always detrimental (as implied by the verb lemmas KILL and SLAY earlier). A blaster is defined as “one who blows or releases blasts,” whereas a burner “prepares/produces via burning.” It may thus be argued that exercise is beneficial because it helps women ‘produce’ a stronger physique in the same way that a glass blower forms glassware or a potter crafts a ceramic vase with fire.
To summarise, the discourse framework surrounding physical strength and exercise tries to promote female fitness by persuading women to recognize the value of physical strength and regard exercise as a positive activity. Fitness and exercise, according to the trainers, are difficult and daunting, but they are beneficial since they lead to physical power.
III – EMPOWERMENT
Inner strength is a notion that frequently interacts with physical strength. Wells says in (12) that exercise also ‘uncovers’ inner strength: (12) My PWR Programs are designed to help you not only acquire physical strength, but also UNCOVER inner strength. A detailed examination of phrases associated with ‘inner strength’ (such as empowerment, powerful, the verb lemma EMPOWER, and so on) demonstrates that empowerment is a significant subject throughout the FITNESS corpus. “Empowerment” refers to “gaining greater influence over one’s life or circumstances through enhanced civil rights, independence, self-esteem, and so on.” The trainers frequently emphasize their female audience of the themes of self-esteem and mental power, as shown in (13): (13) You are stunning. Loved. Self-assured. Strong and deserving. And much, much more. Your body, and what society expects of it, do not define you. YOU do.
Furthermore, unlike physical strength, which is related to the body, empowerment is more cerebral and may be built by exercise, as plainly mentioned in (14) and (15):
(14) Exercise can and SHOULD be utilized to cultivate self-love and self-empowerment.
(15) Many of the ladies I’ve taught are typically astounded by how much MENTAL clarity and emotional serenity they experience when they include consistent exercise into their life.
It is important to note that mental/emotional health and empowerment are inextricably linked. For women, mental/emotional wellness begins with adopting a “toxic mentality” towards exercise, as seen in (16). When women begin to re-evaluate their relationship to exercise and oppose previously dominant discourses (e.g., the necessity of weight loss), their mental health improves.
Empowerment, as defined in the FITNESS corpus, is the process of pushing mental improvement a step farther by nurturing inner strength, fostering self-love, and ‘shifting’ to a new attitude. (16) I understand how difficult it is to live with a poisonous attitude, as I did. […] It takes time and Job to shift to a self-appreciating mindset, but no labour is more vital than the work of loving oneself. Other trends in the FITNESS corpus that support the empowerment concept include frequent instances of words like ‘take care of yourself.’
Fitness, according to the trainers, finally leads to empowerment, to a better connection with oneself, where women regard themselves as something essential, precious, and worth caring for. This is intimately related to body positivity and the notion of ‘responsibility,’ where self-focus and investing in personal betterment are essential principles.
IV – FITNESS JOURNEY
The FITNESS IS A JOURNEY metaphor is one of the trainers’ most powerful concepts. The phrase “journey” appears frequently. This metaphor is mentioned in 104 of the 107 concordance hits. Female fitness is frequently characterized as a continuous process or trip: (17) It is a personal journey that each of us is on. There are routes and a destination, as in any journey. Female fitness is all about health, as stated in section Mind and Body Connection Section, and exercise is “the greatest way to get there.” The endpoint is then health, and the aims are its many components (physical, mental, and emotional). Physical objectives include physical attractiveness, whereas mental and emotional goals include empowerment, a good outlook, self-acceptance, self-love, appreciation, and so on. In terms of physical goals, beauty is treated somewhat negatively as a goal and is frequently viewed as insignificant or ignored in favour of health. For example, in instances (18) and (19), the female audience is frequently reminded that fitness is about health, not appearance, and that mental strength trumps physical transformation.
(18) Fitness is about caring for your mental, emotional, and physical HEALTH, not about appearances. (19) Physical transformation is wonderful, but nothing surpasses mental fortitude and ability. This also applies to the HAES method, as health is not necessarily characterized by appearance. Although the trainers do not use the word HAES overtly, they frequently highlight three HAES values: health looks different for everyone, and women should prioritize health before beauty. Wells explicitly supports these principles in (20): (20) Every BODY is gorgeous, and HEALTHY appears differently on each body. Despite the negative connotations associated with beauty as a physical objective, trainers recognize that women do begin their fitness journey with physical goals in mind: (21) There is nothing wrong with having physical goals, and the fact is that the vast majority of individuals begin their fitness journey primarily for physical reasons. Nonetheless, the trainers advise women to look beyond their physical ambitions. On one instance, Victoria explicitly admits, “There IS something wrong with *only* having physical aspirations.” Even ‘bad’ aims might lead to the correct path. These objectives shift throughout time, and women “end up” discovering a new meaning to their “journey.” As mentioned in the title, mental and emotional goals, such as self-love, eventually take precedence over physical ones (22). This relates back to the body positivity notion and its primary elements of “responsibility,” “self-love,” and “empowerment.” (22) BUT…they discover that [the fitness quest] is about SO MUCH MORE than the physical. It’s also about your mental and emotional health, as well as the confidence and empowerment that comes with developing your strength and endurance and realizing just how awesome and powerful you are!! Another mental/emotional aim that is introduced along the process is to cultivate appreciation and a happy outlook. Figure 8 depicts the thankfulness concordance lines. Additional words and phrases are highlighted in blue to reinforce this trend. The ‘every trip has its setbacks’ pattern is an implication of this metaphor. It is frequently stated that this trip will be challenging and that obstacles or “setbacks” are to be expected. For example, example (23) implies that this fitness path is neither simple or easy for women: (23) Just keep in mind that this is not a linear trip. Your objectives will evolve, your priorities will shift, and there will be ups and downs […]. This pattern does have some positive meanings, since setbacks may be used to learn and progress. This is comparable to Sastre’s interpretation of the journey’s challenges as a “catharsis” that leads to a healthier connection with the body (2016). Cela says in (24), that anything must be difficult in order to lead to mental and physical progress: (24) It’s not meant to be simple! If something does not transform you or make you better psychologically or physically, it is too simple. To really DO IT, you must strive for it and have complete faith in yourself. Finally, the target is ultimately reached in a typical voyage. The female fitness quest, on the other hand, has become an endless one. It becomes a way of life, a continuous process in which self-love and progress take precedence above just meeting a physical objective. Female fitness, according to the experts, ultimately focuses on life or “a continuous journey of living” and “growing IN to your deeper self.”
V – THE “REAL” SELF
As previously said, the body and mind are frequently intertwined. The transitivity analysis of body, on the other hand, provides a new dimension to this relationship. The roles of senser, actor, and behaver assign some agency to the participant body in mental, material, and behavioural processes. It is no longer something that is acted upon, but rather something that has volition, feels, or acts in a specific manner.
The female body may then adore, scream, train, and so forth. It moves instead than being moved. In brief, it does the action rather than merely being assigned properties. Even in other participant roles or settings, the body is given agency. For example, in (38) the body may converse and respond, or even carry us (39). (38) and I told my body. gently. ‘I want to be your buddy,’ it said, taking a deep breath. ‘I have been waiting my entire life for this.’ (39) Celebrate and express thanks for all that your body has gone through to get you this far and to provide yourself the greatest future imaginable.
In other words, the female body might become ‘conscious’ that it is about to be taught. Furthermore, we may teach, train, and care for it in the same way that we would a kid or a pet. Once again, the body is something with free will that can learn and comprehend. It is possible, then, that the ‘body’ is portrayed as something distinct from ourselves. The BODY IS A MACHINE metaphor emphasizes this notion by portraying the ‘body’ as something that we can operate. To summarize, the body is related to yet different from the mind. In other words, the trainers show the female body as living yet distinct from our actual selves. Women own their bodies and should be grateful for them, but their actual selves reside in their minds. This understanding of the body-mind divide explains the emphasis on emotional and mental health. If our ‘true’ self resides in our minds, it seems to reason that we would take better care of it by focusing more on mental/emotional objectives.
This study looked at the female fitness discourse via the eyes of a male personal trainer. Question one of the study explored numerous discourses replicated by the three personal trainers. The findings were organized around four primary themes: mind-body connection, physical strength, empowerment, and the metaphor FITNESS IS A JOURNEY. Several patterns were examined, the most significant of which were health (physical, mental, and emotional), exercise, and beauty. There was a general emphasis on the mental component, as well as significant evidence of body positivity and fitspiration trends, as well as the HAES method. Question two of the study examined the patterns surrounding the female body in greater detail, connecting the findings to fitspiration and HAES. The analysis of appearance revealed the two sides of physical goals for women: weight loss and strength growth. The trainers aggressively advocate for mental and physical strength, but not for weight loss. Moreover, numerous other trends demonstrated disparities in how the trainers discuss the female body. Given that physical strength is one of the major discourses around female fitness, with significant fitspiration traces, it would be fascinating to investigate whether there is an over-representation of muscular bodies in personal trainers’ Instagram profiles.
Sastre, A. (2016). Towards a Radical Body Positive: Reading the Online Body Positive Movement. Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations.
Tiggemann, M., & Zaccardo, M. (2018). ‘Strong is the new skinny’: A Content Analysis of #fitspiration images on Instagram. Journal of Health Psychology, 23(8).
Karageorgou, I. (n.d.). Fitness Discourse on Instagram: A Corpus Linguistic Analysis. MALMÖ UNVERSITY. Retrieved from https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1481578/FULLTEXT01.pdf