So I was very kindly offered passes to the Australian Fitness & Health Expo this year and was super excited to go. THEN, I did my usual thing and realised that I had massively over-committed myself and couldn’t really make it.
Luckily for me – and you! – I have a super amazing best friend who a) lives in Sydney b) has a pretty impressive and wide ranging fitness background herself and c) can write me under the table any day. And she was keen to pop along and report back for us. It will be almost like we were there!
So here we go! Review and report from the Fabulous Bex.
Thanks to the generous Sailor Vee, I had the opportunity to visit the Australian Fitness & Health Expo in Sydney this weekend. Wanting to pay it forward (and wanting company at the Expo because I knew I had a snowball’s chance with hell of getting my husband to come with me) I gave half of my double pass to my friend whom I shall call “the Raw Foodie”.
A quick disclaimer about our backgrounds before I launch into my discussion of the expo: the Raw Foodie works in a whole/raw food store, is passionate about clean eating and living, leans towards vegetarianism and prefers exercise from incidental movement (walking, cycling, hard labour) to slaving away in the gym for hours. I, on the other hand, have been involved in sports since I was a kid and am currently into CrossFit, and my passion is the paleo* approach to food.
So the Raw Foodie and the Caveman walk into the Fitness Expo, and get blown away by the immensity: the place was PACKED. Packed full of stalls, packed full of people. And this was the last day of the expo! The types of people at the expo ranged from the professionals in health and fitness fields to the professional athletes, to the amateur athletes or the serious fitness freaks all the way down to the families who looked like they were just there for something to do on a Sunday afternoon. The organisers did a good job trying to pack as much into the space as they could and provide as much for everyone as they could– there were designated zones with specific themes and stalls of a feather were set up together – but it still got very congested (especially when the protein stands started to give away their showbags).
So let’s start with the not-so good aspects of the Expo. Firstly, for an expo that from its name is said to be about “Fitness & Health”, the “health” side of things was poorly represented, mostly focusing on vitamins and supplements pills and drinks with very little emphasis on food and eating. There were a few exceptions (Janella Purcell’s talk on getting macro and micro nutrients from plants, Teresa Cutter’s quick food demonstration, and to some extent the MuscleMeal’s stand and the Vitamix guy) but for the most part the focus was on boxes and bottles and quick fixes rather than diet and foods.
The fitness side of things wasn’t much better: Raw Foodie was appalled by the emphasis on protein shakes, protein bars, protein powders and protein drinks (for the men) and diet foods, shakes, bars (for the women), rather than building protein and muscle mass through food.
I agreed, but secretly thought some of them actually tasted pretty good**
So, I hear you asking, did you enjoy ANYTHING about the expo?
There were some great products on display: Raw Foodie was introduced to a TENS machine via a hand-held version.
There was “fitness furniture” that was not only very effective but looked beautiful***
There were clothing stalls and equipment stalls, an entire zone filled with machines, more shaker stalls than you could every possibly need (although they are very fancy now, with internal compartments for your powder and pills, ooh la la), stalls for getting your PT credentials, stalls for getting vending machines into your gyms…..you name it, if you could somehow relate it to getting fit and healthy, you could probably get it here.
But the best thing about the day had to be the demonstrations and competitions.
Around the perimeter of the expo were different stages, with demonstrations, group activities or competitions. The Healthy Living Stage had the cooking demonstrations, but also hosted some fitness discussions.
The one talk that I made it to at the Healthy Living Stage was a presentation by Ulrick Larsen about the common injuries and movement sins in CrossFit from a physiotherapy perspective. The talk was supposed to go through 7 of them injuries, but we barely got through one before time was up. For me, the talk was very interesting because I am very aware of the limitations of my body (dodgy knees, dodgy wrists, questionable shoulder) and am keen that CrossFit will increase my health and wellbeing, not decrease it by causing pain and injury. Had we had time, I would have hunted Ulrick down and picked his brain further. Raw Foodie also got something out of that talk (joint pain is directly correlated with muscle tension: or; she needs to stretch her quadriceps to ease her knee pain).
Oh, and I got to be the demonstration model for this talk too. Thankfully there is no photographic evidence.
There was also a MMA zone, with boxing, grappling, MMA and other fighting-based competitions.
A stage for Zumba and other fitness activities that the crowd could join in on (this guy here was touting the ViPR)
And Raw Foodie and my favourite two stages: the Strength and Conditioning Stage and the “Arena”
The Strength and Conditioning Stage played host to the Mr. NSW Body Building and Fitness Model heats and finals. Raw Foodie was both disgusted and intrigued by the male body builders (disgusted by the overly muscled physiques and the fake tan, intrigued by what would make someone spend that much time working out and posing) While I have lots of thoughts about male body building (I don’t find THAT much muscle attractive, most of them are probably DMO****, and I think someone needs to take some of those boys in hand and teach them how to use fake tanner properly (such as: the product you use on your body shouldn’t really be the same product you use on your face)), I am secretly fascinated and impressed by the level of musculature that they can achieve. Some of their rear shoulder poses – I didn’t even know we HAD that many muscles in our shoulders!
The women’s fitness model competition earned a similar level of disgust and intrigue from Raw Foodie (more about the outfits and the tan and the posing than anything, but but a little about the physicality of the girls as well). I found the models quite refreshing. The outfits and tanning and posing is nothing new^ but what was new was how these girls looked on stage: they were all shapes and sizes (some skinny, some you could say were of more pheasant stock), but all had nice long lean muscles on their bodies, nary a protruding bone to be seen and just looked healthy and happy with their bodies and themselves. Much more inspirational than the fashion models and actresses that little girls usually aspire to become.
Finally, my favourite place: The Arena. Tucked away in the corner was the strong man cage, but what drew the crowds (and my attention) was the CrossFit competition: men and women doing insane exercise and lifting insane weights for the privilege of being the strongest on the day and inspiring all who watched them as they did it. (including Raw Foodie).
In one of the heats of the women’s competition, the women do rope climbs and single leg squats, in another, they had to do handstand pushups and squats holding a 70kg bar^^.
And while Raw Food thought these girls looked mean as snakes ^^^ there is a real community is CrossFit, so once one girl had completed her reps and moved on, she would start moving around and encouraging the other competitors too.
The final round of the men’s competition was relatively simple in comparison: carry a (100g) pallet bucket-style 5 meters down the arena, then run to the start and do squat thrusts (with two 25kg kettle bells). Rinse and repeat until the pallet is at the start line. This human machine is Ben: he was eventually crowned the winner of the Men’s competition.
At the end of they day we escaped from the crowds relatively empty handed compared with crowd around us, our feet sore from walking around the expo for hours but our eyes opened to new experiences (Raw Foodie) and our bodies raring to hit the gym and pump some iron (me).
So thanks to Sailor Vee for letting me and the Raw Foodie experience the Fitness & Health expo, and hopefully you’ll be able to make it next year!
Notes and Annotations:
*Paleo = eating foods that our bodies have evolved to require, and not eating anything that either doesn’t benefit the body or is actively detrimental to the body. This means lots of free range protein, vegetables, saturated fats, fruit, nuts and seeds, limiting (or excluding) dairy, grains, legumes and starches and avoiding processed food.
** Raw Foodie and I had different approaches when it came to samples. While I try to eat Paleo, I’m not fanatical about it, and when faced with the prospect of free food (even if the free food has more chemicals in it than I can pronounce and would never usually give the time of day to) I have a hard time saying ‘no’. Raw Foodie, on the other hand, will not eat anything that isn’t natural. So as we approached stand after stand, and were asked “Would you like a free sample?”, the typical response was for me to say “Sure!” and throw whatever it was they were offering down my throat, while Raw Food reached for the packet, scrutinised the ingredients list and interrogated the booth babes about any chemical additives or ingredients she didn’t recognise. Which meant that by the time we got half way around the expo I was full from protein shakes and protein snacks and chocolate bars and fruit nibbles, and Raw Foodie was holding her coconut juice protectively in front of her chest, as though the carton would protect her from all the whey being thrown around.
*** The resistance in this upper-body spin machine comes from the water-wheel at the base: the faster you turn the handles, the more resistance you get from the wheel moving through the water. Looks harmless, but my arms definitely felt it.
**** “Display Model Only”. Coined by an ACT functional fitness trainer “Diamond” Dave Nixon, this refers to a person with impressive musculature who cannot perform everyday functional movements (i.e. they can bench press an elephant, but ask them to push something and they’ll barely move it an inch).
^ My background involves dancing, gymnastics and cheerleading, so I’m no stranger to elaborate outfits, levels of tan and posing in public with a big fake smile on your face.
^^ The smaller competitor in the yellow tank on the far right had the crowd on her side: she’s small and incredibly fast, but not as strong. The rule in this round was that if you dropped your weight, you had to clean it up (pick it back up), and Yellow Tank dropped her bar twice before the round was over. Each time, the crowd went nuts watching this little thing clean a bar that weight easily one and a half times her own weight.
^^^ She’s never seen Roller Derby girls