Save Fitness


by Matt Meinrod

Unfortunately I didn’t come up with this title. That credit goes to IFBB Fitness pro Tanji Johnson. Tanji has been on a crusade for over a year trying to spread the word and gather fans to promote her side of our sport. For the better part of 5 years, fitness has been dying a slow death. The 2013 IFBB schedule only offers 7 pro shows during the calendar year and nothing points to this trend changing anytime soon. Do I think it can be fixed? Absolutely. But the change needs to come from the women and no one else.

Fitness is dominated by three women: Adela Garcia, Tanji Johnson, and Oksana Grishina. These three are in a class of their own. They display incredible athletic talent, with grace, passion, and imagination offering the fans a truly awe inspiring 2 minutes of entertainment. Anyone who has seen Oksana perform her routine could watch her all night. Sometimes even hiding her flawless physique in costume to only further pull off an even greater dramatic effect, she embodies what the sport is all about.

Then, after these three women exit stage left the rest of the competitors seem to have warped out of time capsule from 1992. The theater speakers immediately go into Jock Jams Volume 7 and I feel like I’m in some weird techno club meets American Gladiators meets Zack Morris from “Saved By The Bell” nightmare. Needless to say, the combination isn’t flattering and certainly dated. These women have many, if not all of the same skills that the three aforementioned attain, but lack the creativity or skill to pull it off. If you’re wondering why everyone went to the bathroom during your routine or started playing on their cell phone it’s because Salt-n-Pepa “Pump up the Jam” just came on.

The routines are the catalyst for change. Let’s be real for a minute, a fitness competitor is the one true athlete amongst us all. I don’t know about you, but I’m not trying to do any one handed push up or standing back tuck. Everyone gets excited when a pro bodybuilder like Flex Wheeler breaks it down into a split during his routine—Adela brushes her teeth in the morning doing handstand pushups. There needs to be a level of pride with being an athlete. Isn’t that what most women say these days anyway? “I want to look athletic.” Ok, well here’s a sport for you to follow that isn’t going to leave you looking like a Bulgarian dump truck, ahem, CrossFit.

Fitness’ biggest challenge aside from creative routines is the strict contest prep and high risk for injury. Again, these ladies are incredible. We all know injuries are at their highest when calories are depleted, body fat is low, and we’re stressed out. It’s the main reason we’ve seen many girls turn pro in fitness only to compete as a figure competitor. Nicole Wilkins is a prime example. So maybe you guys don’t come in at 5% body fat; you’re still smoking hot at 7%.

I’m a firm believer in fitness. It gives gymnasts and cheerleaders a place to go when their careers are over. Fitness can be saved. It’s just got to change, and change it can.