Tommy Rundgren: Physical exercise just for looks

Beauty ideals have changed many times through the ages, and today many young people seem to dream about the looks of fitness stars in the media. It wasn’t long ago when fashion houses had super skinny models wearing their latest creations, and young girls were going after those beauty ideals. Today’s ideals are significantly more athletic, which is surely a much healthier trend. But has exercising become all about the look?

There were no computers or game consoles when I was a child, and there really wasn’t much to watch on TV either. My free-time was spent mostly outdoors with friends, playing sports and being physically active. Many in my circle of friends also joined athletic clubs to train, but we also played all kinds of games together. I bet that no expert back in the day had to talk about recommended hours and levels of physical activity for children because we were in constant motion.

One trend I’ve noticed these days is that people are going to the gym with their camera phones and taking selfies in the mirrors, and then actively sharing the pictures over social media. In a way, I understand it for those who earn a living from their sport: social media images are part of self-marketing. But has this gone too far now? Has the fundamental idea – the joy of physical activity – been forgotten. How many can honestly say they workout because it makes them feel good – and not just because of the pressures of looking good.

Every exercise enthusiast is surely a narcissist in their own way, but where is the line for healthy narcissism? Today I'm in the fortunate position of competitive swimming in the masters, i.e. the senior class. The swimmers competing come in all shapes and sizes, big and small, younger and older, muscular and skinny. However, we all have one common denominator: a passion to compete in the sport we love and the joy we get from it. After all, that’s what this should be about.

Tommy Rundgren, master swimmer