'Nobody takes photos of themselves sitting at home eating a spice bag': The fit couples of Instagram are getting us down
Sick of nauseatingly fit and affectionate couples Snapchatting their way through bench presses in the gym? You're not alone
There are many obstacles to achieving your goals in the gym - time, diet, genetics, chafing - but few are as off-putting as the rotating cast of stereotypes you encounter there.
There is the Silas Marner, who hoards pieces of equipment, surrounding themselves with free weights and precious bars like a steroid-addled Gollum. There is the talker, a social animal who sits on the machines chatting to all and sundry, and their slightly more ripped cousin, the 'helpful advice guy', who sees himself as some sort of freelance trainer, chiming in to tell you how you are doing everything completely wrong, bro.
Then there is the grunter, who may or may not be giving birth on the leg press, and his distant cousin Thor, who slams the weights to the floor with a thundering roar so that everyone knows he lacks the strength to properly control the weights all the way to the floor.
Perhaps most annoying of all, mainly due to the fact there are two of them, is the gym couple, and their most modern and most irritating incarnation, The Instagram Fitness Couple. Self-styled influencers, or #gymfluencers, if you will, they do all the annoying things your average jacked Narcissus does, but with as many public displays of affection as humanly possible.
They take over the lat pulldown, taking turns to huff and puff while the other half whispers sweet motivational nothings like 'do it babe' and 'yesssssssss'. During this sacred, intimate ritual held in front of an entire gym, they snap happily away, creating content as they consume the creatine-riddled contents of their barrel-sized water bottles.
You, on the other hand, stand there staring at them, sighing and looking at your watch as your muscles and will to live atrophy at an equal rate. However, it transpires that they may be on to something, as being a fitness couple is now a goal in itself. Just look at Austin Raye and his girlfriend Julian Daigre from New Orleans - their workouts have been viewed millions of times on social media. Their workouts typically involve Austin chucking Julian into the air or dangling her off things, and the results speak for themselves, as their bodies and bank balances have become finely honed specimens of perfection - they have scored themselves contracts with big name brands like Reebok and a dream wedding with a personal lifestyle brand.
But while couples like Austin and Julian are going from zero to fitness hero, there are plenty of other couples chasing a similar dream - Chloe Madeley (of Richard and Judy coat-tails fame) and her boyfriend James Haskell (of England rugby/man mountain fame) regularly post #fitspirational posts about their workout routines, with more white meat on show than a butcher's window. And age is no barrier Gordon Ramsay and his lifestyle-branded wife Tana both use Instagram to show the world they don't just work up a sweat in the kitchen, they do it in the gym too.
The trickle-down from all of this means that you are now spending more time than you should in the gym, your feeble muscles slowly cooling down as your blood boils, waiting for a couple in matching lycra to finish taking photos of each other in various uncomfortable poses in between reps. What makes it more annoying is that this isn't Gold's Gym and they aren't celebrities, he's the guy who fixed your radiator and she was rude to you in the phone shop, so you can't help but feel that their #pivot from mere humans to social media superheroes should really happen in private, like Clark Kent's phonebox, or Brundlefly's dirty lab.
'It takes more muscles to frown than to smile', you think to yourself, as you wonder how many calories you are burning with your bitter grimace as they snuggle and snap, bounce and curl, tilt and shift. You think about your brief foray into Instagram, your heavily filtered images of Big Mac meals for one, wondering how your 75 followers feel about engaging with your brand, if they really want you to throw in some motivational quotes about how 'anyone can do anything', words that seem more like an invitation to serious injury than a shining beacon of positivity.
Where does it end for the fit couples of Insta - more to the point, where do they end, and Self V 2.0 begin? If they lived alone on a desert island, would they be doing press-ups off branches and bench pressing their monkey butlers, painting filtered cave drawings of themselves posing in front of a sunset? It seems unlikely, and that is part of what makes it so irritating to endure - it is performance.
It has its audience - there are millions out there who follow fitness personalities, and realistically they could be doing much worse with their time online. However, it is the projection of a perfect life that grates - but we are all guilty of that.
Nobody takes photos of themselves sitting at home alone on the couch eating a spice bag with their trousers undone, surrounded by cats.
Good health is important, but sometimes the best goal is the most achievable one - the ability to say 'I am not waiting for these goons to stop frenching on the weight bench, I am going home to put on a Snuggie and eat cake'.
Perfection is a state of mind, even if your jeans disagree.