I'm not usually one to read and comment on fluffy "demographic/marketing trends" stories, but this one seemed on-topic for bearing blog. Via Kara, blogger and author of Hot Sweaty Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom, we have a profile in the Wall Street Journal of a marketing niche: "Don't Hate Her Because She Finds Time for Being Fit: More Moms Squeeze in Workouts as 'Me Time.'"
Drea McLarty, a 35-year-old mother of two, awoke before dawn to run nine miles on a recent Monday, then made breakfast for the family, did some errands and headed to the park for an hour of Pilates. Later that afternoon, she had a personal training session with a client.
"I really just love to be active," says Ms. McLarty, of Santa Barbara, Calif. "It's very addicting."
Ms. McLarty is one of the growing number of mothers who carve out time to maintain a high level of fitness. They are a far cry from the stereotype of the full-time homemaker as stressed out and starved for time to herself, seeking respite in a hot bath, the television or chocolate. They are also emerging as a tantalizing target for consumer-product marketers.
The term "fit mom" as used in the article is apparently a marketing term for the type of person the athleticwear companies are targeting, rather than a term for athletically inclined mothers in general. At least I hope so:
Fit moms spend nearly every free minute working out, cross-training for triathlons and scheduling regular boot camps and yoga....Most fit moms have enough money so they don't have to work at full-time jobs, but not so much that they have full-time child care.
This, plus being data-thin, makes the article kind of annoying. Not to mention this breathless style:
[Ms. McLarty] spends a lot of time in her minivan, where the back seat folds down to make room for her supplies—wet wipes, a change of clothes, snacks and a yoga mat.
(This is why the author of the article thinks a mom needs to fold down the back seat of her minivan? Maybe she found a really good deal on wet wipes at Sam's Club.)
But the elite mother-athletes are only the hook for this article. Whenever the marketers identify a certain type of person as the target, you can be sure that they also want to sell their stuff to us lesser beings who merely aspire to be the sort of person who might spend nearly every free minute working out... or who just want to look like one.
I realize that the point of the article is to highlight rising sales of certain kinds of athletic apparel. Although my hat's off to people who manage to sustain a serious training regimen while leading a busy life, I would hate to think that anyone might read this and think that you can't be a "fit mom" without spending every free minute at the gym. I'm not at an elite level of fitness -- I run 9-and-a-half-minute miles, not seven-and-a-quarter, and believe me that's a big difference -- but I am at a level that is satisfactory to me, while still challenging enough to be interesting, at a time commitment that isn't hard for me to keep up as long as I make it a high priority.
On one hand, it can be inspiring to read about mothers who manage to make it work -- fitness at a high, time-consuming level.
On the other hand, an intense lifestyle like this can seem impossible, while a more moderate level of fitness (like what I enjoy) is within the reach of so many more individuals and still SO worth it. One of my pet peeves is this idea that exercise should be bimodal: either you should be satisfied with "walking, the best form of exercise," or you should be some kind of an exercise addict who works out like a professional athlete. Not to diss walking or professional athletes, but it seems like for the great majority of healthy adults, shooting for something in the middle -- light, but deliberate, daily exercise or (my pattern) vigorous exercise two to four times a week -- would hit the sweet spot of beneficial and realistic. But we just don't hear much about that.
Even though women like me -- who are reasonably fit and kinda sorta hope that someday we might find the time to increase our treadmill time -- might be the real driver of sales of Luna bars and maternity sports bras. (Speaking of which: I'll believe that clothing manufacturers are actually courting fit mothers when it's easy to find a supportive athletic nursing bra that really works. I only know of two decent sports bras that have straps that open in front, and they are not marketed as nursing bras. While we're at it, how about a real maternity lapsuit?)
As an aside, the article ends with a list of tips for fitting a workout into a busy day of child care. I was rather surprised not to see a tip along the lines of "Join a gym that has child care," even in an article that focuses on people who have discretionary income to spend on such a thing. Maybe that's too obvious to count as a tip!