Screw Fitness Models: Real Women, Real Workout Clothes

"blisstree fitness models" in their regular workout clothes

Last month, we ran a piece about fitness clothing that generated quite a few good comments. Writer Emilie Littlehales pondered why posh activewear companies like Skirt Sports and Lululemon never feature models outside a small size range. And it’s not just their sizes that are uniform—fitness models all tend to be toned in the exact same ways also (flat tummies, strong arms, thigh gap), as if there’s only one way to have a fit or athletic body type.

“Do super tiny/built fitness models motivate you? Or would you like to see more “real women” modeling workout clothes?” we asked on Facebook, which generated some good discussion.

The prevailing attitude seems to be one of realism—very fit models selling workout wear obviously makes a certain sort of sense—with a tinge of eye-roll.

“I would love to see a little soft size 6 wearing some running shorts,” wrote one commenter, Rebecca. “Not all fit people have flat or toned bellies. The more we see diverse bodies, the less we idolize and strive for bodies we can never have.”

“I agree that it would be nice to see some poochy tummied girls modeling these things, because sometimes, no matter how much you exercise, that is not going away,” wrote Shereen.

“I would like to see some fitness models with a little muscle!” said another, Hayley.

Personally? I just don’t believe the majority of fit women are working out exclusively in the kinds of fancy fitness clothing that gets pushed on us. I understand quality matters for things like yoga pants, sports bras and running tanks, and I don’t begrudge anyone being dressed in head-to-toe Athleta if that suits you. But I know I can’t or don’t want to spend that kind of money on exercise clothing, and I was curious  how many women around my age actually do.

So with all this mind, I asked some friends, roommates and the Blisstree crew to send me pictures of themselves in what they work out in. And voila. This is just the kickoff; throughout April—the body positive month—Blisstree will be running photos of real women in their real*, regular workout wear. [The term "real" gets a lot of grief around here, but in this case we just mean "real" as in regular, ordinary, everyday, non-professional-models. I think this is quite qualitatively different than the "real women have curves" or "real women" look any one particular way nonsense which gets deservedly torn apart around here from time to time.]

So spread the word! The more photos we get, the better this project becomes. Want to be a Blisstree fitness model? Send us your photo at editor @ along with your first name, age and where your clothing comes from (even if that’s only “the high-school t-shirt pile at the back of my boyfriend’s closet”).

Carrie Murphy

Blisstree writer, D.C.
Age: 27
Working out in: Old Navy pants, a shirt given out free on the campus of New Mexico State University in 2011

Elizabeth Nolan Brown

Blisstree editor, NYC
Age: 30
Working out in: The tank top is Old Navy, the sports bra came from my mom (so probably Kohl's); the shoes are Toms and the leggings came from this everything store by my house (Ex$tra?) where I kept buying new pairs of $3.99 leggings instead of doing laundry all winter.


Working out in: It's all Dior...Baha jk. The grey top is fromTarget with Walmart leggings. Nike kicks.


Project manager in NYC
Age: 29
Working out in: The pants and the sports bra are Lululemon. The tank top has been laying around my parent's house for years and maybe belonged to my sister.


Nanny in Chicago
Age: 30
Workout out in: I'm wearing a Champion top, purchased at Target, and Old Navy pants, and I'm sure both were under 20 bucks.


Working out in: I wear basically the same thing for all my workouts: Leggings and a tank with a built in sports bra. Pants are from the Marika Balance Collection ($20 at Marshall's), the bra top is from Green Apple Active ($18, also from Marshall's), my socks are from a Foot Locker 6 pack. I invest good shoe—the shoes on my feet are the Brooks Ghost ($100; Road Runner Sports) and the shoes at my feet (for the gym) are New Balance Minimus I also wear an Intelliskin for posture correction.


Working out in: 2 sports bras from Target; T-shirt--always some sort of logo tshirt, usually relating to sports; yoga capris--sale rack at Gap Body; Brooks tennis shoes.


Performance artist & writer, NYC
Age: 24
Working out in: Clothes
Share This Post:
    • PiperPixieDesigns

      Yes! Love, love, love this post! I workout in some ratty stuff, yo. I don’t come anywhere close to lookin like a fitness model, but when I workout I kill it!

    • Diversity Fail

      Real (White) women. SMH.

    • Plus Size Yoga Pants

      I usually force myself to go to the gym or just work out at home. Knowing I have a suitable or new outfit for workouts is one of my motivation.