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'Swedes say train or die – it's gone too far'

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'Swedes say train or die – it's gone too far'
Swedes love to keep fit. But has it gone too far? Photo: Sara Ingman/Image Bank Sweden
06:45 CEST+02:00
Sweden has turned exercise into an obsession rather than a fun way to keep fit, argues Olga Rönnberg, a Russian-born fitness instructor based in Stockholm.
There has been a big weight debate going on in Sweden for the past couple of weeks. The press has been talking about people who don't keep track of their diet or exercise. 
 
But it seems that the media has been allowed to take over the role of explaining what is healthy and what is not. And journalists usually have no idea what they are writing about.
 
I know when I have been interviewed by media professionals over the past few years, there have been a number of times when I have wondered what they are doing. But above all, I should ask, what am I doing by going along with it?
 
I will still be misquoted. But I have learnt to always double check what they are writing and if it is exactly what I said and not become twisted in any direction.
 
 
There are plenty of magazines out there whose sole job is to write about the latest superfood or weightloss method.
 
But hey, who cares? Who buys those papers? The people who are already familar with superfoods, green drinks and the latest kind of quark (a thick yoghurt called 'kvarg' in Swedish) - they are already saved. So who exactly are the media trying to save?
 
The phrase 'train hard or die weak and fat' is being used a lot in different forms in Sweden right now.
 
There are pictures depicting sweaty fitness models with little visible fat wearing mini shorts showing their labia. The muscular adult has become the norm.
 
But is it inspiring? Is it healthy? Does it feel good? How? These images are more frightening than inviting for those who have not already been 'saved'.
 

Swedes exercising in a park. Photo: Sara Ingman/Image Bank Sweden
 
I challenge the media: stop posting these images and slogans. They're beige. They are three years old.
 
They do nothing except provoke more anxiety that you're a loser unless you leave a pool of sweat behind you at the gym.
 
Today I spend more time trying to help calm people down than actually getting them started with exercise. Seriously.
 
Where does this need to kill yourself at the gym five or six days a week come from?
 
You're not a better human being if you work out six days a week rather than three or four. Unfortunately many believe that the former statement is not true.
 
This is the case in Sweden as in many other countries. But I think Swedes are very trend-sensitive, and people here have taken fitness to extremes.
 

Fitness instructor Olga Rönneberg. Photo: Mamma Fitness
 
Step back everyone! That's what I suggest. Go back to basics - without the fuss about the gym or over food.
 
And don't buy the shit that the media serves up. Don't get worked up by the screaming headlines. There is nothing new there, you already know what needs to be done.
 
Unfollow people who only give you anxiety. Choose for yourself what you want to see from people's feeds on Facebook and Instagram.
 
Can you remate to a 23-year-old cross-fit-mad woman? No? What are you doing looking at her then?
 
And if you have overweight friends, don't drag them everywhere with you. They don't need to be notified of your every race, workout or kettle bell session.
 
This is not where you should start when it comes to exercise. These activities are for those who are advanced. Posting about this stuff scares people more than encouraging them.
 
If you have overweight friends, take them for a walk. That is more than enough. Discuss anything other than food and exercise for once.
 
Focus more on thinking about who you really are. Try thinking about something else other than exercise for a while. Shift your focus. Become stronger within.
 
Lifting weights, yes it boosts us and provides us with confidence.
 
But focus more on what you can lift instead of what others will say about you.
 
Olga Rönnberg is a Russian-born fitness instructor based in Stockholm. This is an adapted version of an article originally published in Swedish by SVT
 
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