Once a year at an exotic location a mere walking distance from Birmingham International, men and women of all shapes, sizes and shades of tan from ‘Topman loafer’ to ‘cocktail sausage’ descend on an event that celebrates health and fitness – Bodypower Expo.
Now, I’ve been to a lot of conventions and expos in my time – here we would have a 30 Rock style flashback to me at the MCM Comic Convention or “Destination: Star Trek” – but I have never been to one where I felt like I was indeed on my own Starfleet away mission and a bit of an outsider.
I have knowledge of the health and fitness industry, and I understand what works for me but I just couldn’t help but exclaim when I walked in: “WOW, EVERYONE IS STUNNING”.
The women were toned, svelte and had bigger arms than me where as the men were all Adoniseseses. The expo itself sits in the NEC Exhibition Centre over three days and was vast. There were rows upon rows of big branded supplement stalls, fitness/gym clothing stands and some smaller independent companies promoting their new product. There was a generous helping of big well known companies such as USN, Maxi Nutrition among some smaller independent companies, promoting natural supplements.
I retreated to a corner of the hall to study the map of this muscle maze but that was when I looked around and realised that there were people attending of all shapes and sizes. Yes, there were muscular guys and girls parading around but there were also some people that a BMI would be class as overweight and underweight – looking on at some of these models, draped in their sponsored brands, in awe. It was a very inspiring place to be and people were there happily to either gain more advice or information about their current fitness regimes or to be inspired into starting a new one all together.
Personally, my goals are to gain bigger muscles and I saw the physiques present at Bodypower that I’d only ever seen present in a WWE ring, a superhero film or a porn video. At one point, after seeing straight men eyeing each other up, I did think I was at a WE Party. It was amazing to witness. There is definitely something about the late teens and early twenty somethings now, the YouTube generation, who are so comfortable with themselves that they are much more casual about showing their appreciation to a member of the same sex’s appearance.
Bodypower Expo is described as “the most celebrated and comprehensive fitness event in the UK, attracting, inspiring and motivating 90,000 plus health and fitness enthusiasts over three days”. I can’t disagree with that apart from I felt it celebrated the aesthetic more than health and fitness, overall. For example I witnessed first hand a hugely well known supplement brand basically act like the Abercrombie & Fitch of the event and looked like they were only interested in good looking people. It brought back a memory of my first ever-personal trainer asking me “Look, I can give you pecs and biceps, or a I can give you healthy lungs and a healthy heart. What would you rather?”
There will always be a debate about how some of these brands market themselves, and I sometimes think there will be no right or wrong answer.
On the flip side, there were pockets with Bodypower were fitness Insta-celebs were discussing a healthy lifestyle to the point of offering advice on how to get a good night sleep.
Sometimes you need to scratch the surface in order to get what you want. I met some really nice and friendly people, who didn’t want to preach to you, but seemed genuinely happy that they had someone to talk to with a similar interest, like a Comic Book Convention – Bodypower had something for everyone!
This article was originally printed in Gay Times magazine.