Fitness Freaks in Popular Culture


What is a fitness freak?

“Fitness freak” is a very trendy, slang term for someone who is exceedingly dedicated to diet, exercise, and leading a healthy lifestyle. Typically, these types of people are very happy, active, alert, and always wanting to share their passion with others. Fitness freaks have somewhat of a double-sided reputation. Some may picture a fitness freak as a cute, healthy girl who runs errands in spandex and drinks a smoothie for lunch before hitting the gym. Some people picture fitness freaks as the steroid-raged, protein chugging, bro who roars after every single rep he finishes at the gym. Fitness freak is a hard term to define as I have found that it takes on many different meanings depending on people’s perspective and experience with people who are into this lifestyle of healthy living. In popular culture, fitness freaks are vastly viewed as inspirational figures of normal people pushing their bodies extraordinarily, but they can also be seen in a comedic or negative light.


Parks and Recreation

Chris Traeger, the “fitness freak” in this show is actually rather unstable. All of the characters in this show are unstable in their own way. The overall theme of the show is that government workers are all very strange in that particular city and that government work is terrible. All of the characters deal with those facts in different ways. Chris Traeger himself is perhaps the most extreme and annoying of all of the characters. He lives in a world of absolute positivity because he was born with a blood disorder when he was younger. He dedicates his whole life to fitness in order to enrich his life and live as long as possible. He runs 10 miles a day and in scenes that show his office, his entire desk is covered with supplement pill bottles. The character is played by Rob Lowe and he does a fantastic job of making such an unbelievable character seem so real. In many ways he tries to make others around him healthier and happier. He invites co-workers on runs, offers healthy snacks, and showers every one he meets with positive affirmations and words of encouragement. The general reaction is that he makes people happy with the words he says, but his positivity and obsession with health makes others barely tolerate him.


Do you have a co-worker or friend like this? It is pretty funny to me to watch Parks and Recreation and see someone who is like myself portrayed in such an extreme light. I too take a huge multi-vitamin pill every morning, hit the gym every night and try to stay as active and positive as possible. My question while doing research was why do we all find him so funny? One of the reasons this could be is that many people romanticize over being in shape and being the “fitness freak” or just having the body they have always dreamed of. I have had countless people tell me they just “wish they could be this healthy” but feel too overwhelmed to try.


Instagram fitness models


I found a website with an article titled “25 Inspiring Fitness Girls to Follow on Instagram”. This article lists exactly what it says, 25 fitness girls to follow on Instagram. The article features a slideshow of fitness girls who have Instagram accounts dedicated to sharing their own personal progress as well as workouts and tips. These women are not
professional athletes, but rather just people who are dedicated to fitness. The top of this article says: “All the motivation you need to get in shape – and stay there” That is exactly what the online fitness community is all about.

This helps to give a visual aid to what being a “fitness freak” looks like when you are not a professional athlete. It is like having a second job, it is a lifestyle and a commitment. Absolutely anyone can jump into this crazy community and the people in it are almost always happy, outgoing, optimistic, encouraging, and inspirational. They look amazing, they tell you that you can do all these things too, but it can still feel extremely difficult.




Nike has become more than a household name over the last twenty years. Nike is considered one of the most respected, top-quality sports brands out there. Not only are their products amazing, but they are known for another thing, their advertisements. The advertisement I chose to research is titled Unlimited Pursuit. It showcases female Olympians in their natural habitats, perfectly executing their skills. The song in the background of this commercial is a cover of Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness” covered by Lissie. Why this song? All of the women in this advertisement are happy, they have chased their dreams and accomplished the impossible.

Happiness is a key theme here. In this Nike ad, the lyrics that say “I’m on the pursuit of happiness and I know everything that shines ain’t always gonna be gold, hey. I’ll be fine once I get it, I’ll be good”. In this context it is correlating fitness to happiness. On Instagram, you never see these models sulking or living average lives, they are happy! They are always smiling, always incredibly positive, and always pushing their followers to find their own happiness. Chris Traeger is always extremely positive to the point where he goes out of his way to compliment and encourage every single person around him. Why is there such a strong correlation between fitness and happiness?


The science behind it


 In an article titled “Heart and Head” by Paul Erickson, I found out how exercising not only builds muscle strength, increases stamina, and makes us fit, but also how exercise effects the brain. Erickson discusses how by exercising, the brain receives more blood and oxygen and it can re-build cells faster. This makes things like mood, memory, and mental agility even better. This article goes deep into the science behind the correlation between exercise and better mental health, and even better grades and focus for students. This source gives some science behind the concept I am highlighting that “fitness freaks” (or rather people who exercise a lot and eat extremely healthy) are naturally optimistic and happy.


Although, it is possible that you can have too much of a good thing. This fascinating article I discovered really gets into the difference between someone who enjoys exercising every day and someone who is obsessed to the point of hurting themselves. “Can You Exercise Too Much” by Massage Magazine goes into how fitness can become an addiction and then things like eating disorders and injuries come into play. It speaks of people who are perfectionists fall into risk of developing an eating disorder or becoming addicted to exercise because they feel an obsessive need to be perfect. This article contrasts the idea of “fitness freaks” being naturally optimistic. There is always a dark side to everything and sometimes wonderful activities can be turned into dark obsessions. Anorexia and exercising to the point of breaking a part of your body are not good things and unfortunately, in this fitness community we see it all the time. From the body builder using steroids to the girl who only ate an apple all day. When fitness becomes a dark obsession, there is usually a deeper underlying problem.




Fitness freaks are viewed in a few different ways in popular culture. There are the extremely positive, happy, inspirational ones; as well as the over-doing it, unhealthy, obsessive ones. Overall, being a fitness freak is supposed to be a good thing. This community of people who host their platform largely online are trying to get everyone to try something fitness related. Whether it is meal planning to eat healthier, going on walks every day, or going all out and getting a gym membership. The greatest thing about fitness is that it means something different to everyone. To the woman who worships crossfit to the man who goes on one weekly run, they are both into fitness.


Learning moments


Over the course of this class I had many learning moments. I took this course because I wanted to learn more about how to evaluate the world around me. One of my favorite prompts was in week 6 when we discussed the news and how we interpret it. I gained so much knowledge from this course on more than just what I used to consider pop culture. I thought this course was going to be about television and actors but it gets so deep into everything from the psychology of advertisements to how to analyze the information we take in. This course proved to be extremely valuable in changing the way I consume information and how I look at the world.


Another fascinating learning moment was in week 5 when we analyzed our favorite movies to see if there were any characters that reflected our own personalities. I had never thought about this before and I was fascinated how many of my favorite movies showcased people who had similar qualities as I did, or qualities I desire to have. Overall, this course had been fantastic. The sense of community is awesome, the course itself is eye-opening, and if you really dig into the prompts and readings it will definitely change the way you think.






Works Cited

“Can you Exercise Too Much?.” Massage Magazine no. 135 (August 2007): 108-109. SPORTDiscus, EBSCOhost (accessed February 9, 2017)

“25 Inspiring Fitness Girls to Follow on Instagram” Fisher, Lauren Alexis. Harper’s Bazarr (December 13, 2016). (accessed February 18, 2017)

“Heart and Head.” Erickson, Paul. American School & University 88, no. 10 (June 2016): 30. SPORTDiscus, EBSCOhost (accessed February 9, 2017)

Parks and Recreation, Greg Daniels, Michael Schur, CBS, 2009-2015

Nike: Unlimited Pursuit, August 22, 2016,

All images were found on Google images.


One thought on “Fitness Freaks in Popular Culture

  1. Hi misharianna,

    Your post caught my attention as soon as I read the title “Fitness Freaks in Pop Culture”. Fitness has been something I’ve always been on and off with growing up. I remember when I first got an Instagram and I would literally only follow all these other fitness Instagram accounts to stay motivated. I feel like they do share a lot of body positivity and support when wanting to get fit, I mean many end up making a living out of it. I really like how you included that although many of these Instagram fitness accounts spread positivity and happiness that there are some who take it way too far, whether its with steroids or not eating. I think that this is something many people often struggle with when wanting that perfect body, so like the science behind it shows it can bring happiness and positivity but if gone to far it can affect one in a negative way. Great final essay!

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