What it’s like to work out as a fitness model

Model Julie “Jaws” Nelson for Athleta. Photo: athlete

The impact the fitness industry has had on fashion over the past few seasons is undeniable. With a growing number of designers taking an interest in the sportswear market, the “sporty chic” trend taking over the catwalks during fashion month, the growing popularity of high-end “athleisure” brands and boutiques. , it has become commonplace even for the most stylish women to choose by default workout clothes and sneakers and days of service.

The modeling industry, which has a reputation for glorifying a waif type body type, is starting to move with the trend. Take a look at the new version Self magazine, which has placed super-fit haute couture models like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Candice Swanepoel, Hilary Rhoda and Joan Smalls on recent covers. Or Victoria’s Secret, which encourages its Angels and Catalog Girls to share photos from their frequent workouts using the hashtag #TrainLikeAnAngel. Much like in luxury fashion, these women represent an ambitious lifestyle – although they might rather encourage consumers to join a gym than invest in the latest “It” bag – and While many fashion brands (and big name models) have been on the fitness train lately, there has long been a sector of the modeling world. which focuses solely on selling an active and healthy lifestyle.

Sportswear brands typically turn to fitness models for their e-commerce sessions and advertising campaigns, and while the job description may be similar to that of a model, the physical requirements are quite different. Charlee Atkins, who has posed for clients like Nike, Target, and Sports Authority, and is a full-time senior instructor at SoulCycle, initially thought she wasn’t tall enough to be a model, but was approached by a magazine editor in one of her classes who wanted to book her for a shoot. “Fitness models may be a bit shorter – in the 5’5″ to 5’7 “range – but last year there was a push to find taller models,” she says. “We usually don’t have such big breasts [as commercial models] and have a rather square shape, but it depends on your fitness specialty, like dancing, boxing or yoga. “

Much like models, fitness models spend a lot of their time going to clients, but since photoshoots are extremely physical, they are asked to do more than just show off their walks or try on clothes. “Every cast is different, but they all want to see you in sports gear and see how your muscles are working – we hardly wear any clothes,” says Atkins. “Most clients want to see a squat, lunge, push-ups or burpees. The reason fitness modeling came up is because they needed women who could hold poses longer.”

Charlee Atkins.  Photo: target

Charlee Atkins. Photo: target

Julie “Jaws” Nelson, a professional dancer and SoulCycle instructor whose clients include Reebok, Athleta and Under Armor, agrees that this stamina is a key difference between her job and that of a model. “They might ask you to hold a board for 40 shots while your hair is on your face – after a shoot, it hurts really bad,” Nelson says. “You have to be able to keep up and do the training. Some models may not have the strength to do what photographers and brands need to take the picture. It’s all about endurance.” Wilhelmina’s model Jess Cadden Osbourne, a City Rockette radio and instructor at Flex Studios in New York City, tells us she had to do yoga for eight straight hours at work – holding each pose for up to three minutes – and once she ran on a track from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for a The world of runners editorial.

Many fitness models are employed as coaches, dancers or teachers in a studio; in fact, according to Topher DesPres, director of the fitness division at Wilhelmina, more than 60 percent of the men and women on the board also work as instructors. However, they are also encouraged to explore new types of exercises and receive free passes to classes through their agencies. It’s often in these studios that they’re spotted, especially now that so many publications and brands are interested in the fitness phenomenon and the buzz is spreading to good ears when it comes to the best instructors. Atkins notes that while each model has their own area of ​​expertise, practicing yoga or Pilates is essential to prepare for physically intense filming sessions. “Photographers love angled shots, so models should do regular exercises that lengthen the body and open the hips so you can hold these poses,” she says.

There are other differences between a fitness session and a high fashion photoshoot. The fitness industry is particularly low-key when it comes to time spent on hair styling, makeup and, of course, wardrobe. The clothes on the set are usually limited to sportswear and spandex sneakers, and the beauty look only takes a few minutes to create. Since models train for the entirety of most sessions, hair is usually tied back in a braid or ponytail, and makeup is extremely minimal – just a splash of mascara and light foundation. . To keep their bodies shiny for the duration of the shoot, the models are also sprayed with olive oil or coconut butter oil. Due to the simple beauty and revealing wardrobe, models show it all, and unlike most fashion shoots, they don’t rely on retouching to correct images after the fact. “There’s not a lot of post-production – clients hire you because of your looks and performance and they don’t want to change that,” says Atkins.

While every model we’ve spoken with (as well as DesPres) says they’ve seen a slight increase in opportunities for fitness models over the past few seasons, they’re now seeing more types of models in the same castings – especially when a brand is still deciding whether it wants to go in a more editorial or athletic direction with the shoot. Despite the “trending” in their field right now, they all agree that fitness modeling is much more about committing to a healthy lifestyle than reserving jobs – something that doesn’t. cannot be rigged during a visit. This passion for wellness is what sets them apart, as is being multidimensional in their skills and being able to perform in front of the camera.

“I think it’s important to note that the term ‘fitness model‘ is a misnomer,” DesPres says. “Our role models are sought after for campaigns and editorials beyond the typical ‘gym’ story. They all come from an extremely diverse playing field; it could be a gym, a sports team, they can have a nutrition degree or be a kinesiologist. New faces can come from many places, it’s up to us as agents to identify their strengths and bring them to market. “

Building a follow-up and demonstration technique by leading daily fitness classes has also been found to be crucial for their success. This is the aspect that seems most similar to the current state of modeling, where women like Gigi Hadid, Karlie Kloss and Kendall Jenner have ushered in a new era of modeling with their use of social media. Unlike fitness in fashion, this is probably not a passing trend. “If you search for the hashtag ‘fitness model‘ on Instagram, there are hundreds of photos, so if you want to stand out there has to be a personality behind the body,” says Atkins.

Front page photo: Athlete

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