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"Fitness Is Not a Look," Says California Gym Owner

Michele Burmaster

Sometimes, it seems like every gym ad or workout photo has a woman in her sports bra with a perfectly flat tummy peeking over her short-shorts, showing off her endless legs. And when you're not a fitness model—which hey, most of us aren't—those same advertisements can make you feel way less than when going to the gym. Which is exactly the opposite of how you should feel: The gym is a place of empowerment, where you can spend time on yourself, for yourself, getting healthier and happier with each visit.

Thankfully, Surf City Fit Club in Huntington Beach, California. is fighting back against the slew of six-packs and zero percent body fat in photos by rolling out advertisements featuring photos of their actual members sweating it out at the gym. (Related: Blink Fitness Just Launched the Best Body-Positive Ad Ever)

Located in Orange County—yes, the Real Housewives' Orange county—where image is of paramount importance (at least according to those women in the show), gym owner Michelle Burmaster was looking to bust wellness world stereotypes with her latest project: the creation of "real" stock photos for fitness trainers, gyms and bloggers to use on their sites, in advertisements, and more. For $45 each, a relative bargain the stock photo world, you can purchase Burmaster's images of various exercisers—herself included—getting sweaty while looking incredibly, well, real. Unsurprisingly, they're sold at

"On a lot of levels, fitness is not a look," Burmaster told the Orange County Register. "It is what you can do; it's your health. [And w]hen you see a picture of a woman with a six-pack, that six-pack is largely hereditary. It has a lot to do with genetics. It's selling them on something that's not attainable and drives them to unhealthy behaviors."

What's amazing, though, is that the members of Surf City Fit Club haven't shied away from the spotlight; instead, they've embraced it, relishing in the chance to share their photos as a real-talk alternative to the mythical, smiling weight-lifting skinny minnies. They're also cognizant of how far they've all come in their individual fitness journeys, even if they still are nothing like a "traditional fitness model."

Likewise, Burmaster is hoping that her images help inspire more people to go to the gym, in Huntington Beach and across the globe. Her members are also—and hey, we are too. (Related: How Weight Lifting Changed My Body Image Forever)