I went to the LA Fit Expo at the LA Convention Center a couple of weeks ago. Everything I love about fitness was there. Everything that sucks about fitness was there. Humans have an uncanny knack for seizing upon something wholesome and beautiful, and then exploding it into a puff of obscenity.
The LA Fit Expo was amazing, motivating. Frightening, disgusting. Under one huge roof there was inspiration, motivation, and health soaking in a soup of vanity, sweat, fake tans, fake parts, and very authentic narcissism.
There is a fine line separating “preserving” yourself and “worshipping” yourself, and good luck finding it at a fitness expo.
I have wanted visit the Fit Expo for a few years, ever since a coworker told me about all the crazy people watching, impressive demonstrations, and free gear. This year I signed up for a team Crossfit competition, which was held in the middle of the Expo. Most of my day was spent focusing on the competition, but I had my fill of the convention in less than an hour.
If you’re thinking about going next year, here’s what you can expect:
If lines stress you out, take a pass on the LA Fit Expo. It’s in downtown LA, and you can count on hitting lines while you’re driving, lines to park, and one unearthly Kracken of a snake line to get into the convention itself. I parked a block away, and as a competitor I got to skip the line to get in. That thing was monstrous. Once the doors opened, I heard it moved fairly quickly. But just looking at it made me want to start an argument with someone.
The exhibit hall was a mass of people that meandered through the booths like a human lazy river. There were lines waiting to get free gear from some of the vendors, but it was so crowded it was difficult to see where these lines began and ended. People were sweating. One guy smooshed past me without his shirt. He wasn’t competing.
This was unimpressive. Almost every booth had some sort of free sample you could try right then and there, and several had small samples you could take with you. There’s only so many sips of preworkout and protein shake you can handle though. Nothing super useful.
A few booths had lines snaking 20-30 yards back, all to snag a free t-shirt or protein shaker cup. The freebies were fun, but definitely not worth standing in line.
The highlight was a beef jerky stand where you could don a meat suit and crank out some pullups. Every 5 pullups got you a sample pack of jerky. For the record, I nailed 20 pullups on the way out.
Lots of fit people. Lots of freaky fit people. Tans. Skin. Artificial enhancements. Intense makeup. And veins. It was a vascular crowd.
These were the best. Athletes of all ages and builds were there showing off the results of discipline and hard work. Experts in martial arts ran free classes. Small kids put on an incredible display with a jump rope. Strong men put up huge weights. Street gymnasts defied gravity on a monkey bar-looking apparatus. Teams of two guys and two girls pushed their strength and endurance to the limits in the Crossfit competition.
The human body is an incredible creation, and the performances were a testament to what one can accomplish with discipline and dedication.
The best part of the day (and the reason I was there) was the team competition. Everyone was encouraging, and the highlight was our team member from Jake’s gym, who at 40 plus years of age is just getting serious about fitness. When she heard about the comp, she asked if she could join our team. Jake coached her on the movements, and after several months of intense training, she met her goal of competing in a Crossfit competition.
She pushed through each of the workouts, nailed a few pullups, and even strung together several double unders! These were major question marks leading up to the competition, and in spite of these unfamiliar movements she forged ahead and conquered her fear!
The highlight came during an individual clean and jerk event. I hit 265 for a personal record, which was 20 pounds more than I was able to do two months ago. When she stepped up, she met her goal weight, and then went for a 5 pound personal record. She missed it once, missed it again, and then, with an inspiring effort, she nailed her third attempt!
I think she jumped 3 feet in the air, and her little guy was there to see it. It was a truly inspiring moment, and I was proud of our scrappy little team.
There were other moments like this scattered throughout the 2014 LA FitExp, but they were lonely lighthouses awash in a sea of narcissism.
The beef jerky meat suit was pretty awesome, but I’ll do without the crowds, the freaky makeup jobs, and the veiny vanity.