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Joanne Klimovich Harrop
Taylor Crede, of Penn Township, Butler County, works out on a weight machine under the watchful eyes of trainer Stephanie Verdecchia at her gym Studio Fit in Penn, Butler County.

Snug clothing can be a positive thing.

“Women are buying clothes that show off their muscles,” says Kelsey Keller, who, with Jenly Deiter, owns Fullbody Fitness Club in Brentwood. “More and more women are fit and working to become even more fit.”

In other words, strong is the new skinny. More women have given up an unhealthy obsession with a boney-thin body for muscular definition.

“I love to do strength training and high-intensity workouts that will build muscle faster and burn more calories in the long run,” says Darieth Chisolm of Jefferson Hills, former owner of Fullbody Fitness. “It is what athletes use to build strength and develop lean muscle. … And muscles are so much more attractive than someone being really thin.”

Women aren’t intimidated by doing a variety of high-intensity workouts, says Jen Ator, fitness director for Women’s Health magazine.

“It helps keep a woman motivated and keep her more mentally engaged, and it’s also important so that not just one muscle group is getting overworked for the long term,” says Ator, who recently completed an Ironman competition.

“There has been a shift in women being encouraged to lift and do more strength-training exercises and more athletic-type activities,” she says. “They see other women doing these workouts who are athletic and fit and strong, and they want to look that way, too. Strong is definitely the new sexy. And women are embracing it.”

According to a survey of fitness professionals by the American College of Sports Medicine, high-intensity interval training — workouts that involve short bursts of intense exercise, was the top fitness trend of 2014.

For previous generations, it was about doing lots of cardiovascular exercises to get skinny, says Dr. Tanya Hagen, assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

“It is important to be happy with a figure that is more fit,” says Hagen, the sports medicine fellowship director at UPMC Center for Sports Medicine. “In the general population, we are still seeing a shift to strong versus skinny thanks to athletes who are strong and fit on the covers of magazines.”

Those images include athletes like soccer players Alex Morgan and Hope Solo, tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams and swimmers Dara Torres and Missy Franklin.

But Hagan admits there are still those women for whom thin is in.

“There are some women who still struggle with body type related to self-esteem and self-confidence,” she says. “There is still a major subset of athletes who … are dealing with eating disorders and other unhealthy practices.”

Being realistic is what Stephanie Verdecchia is all about. As owner of Studio Fit in Penn, Butler County, she doesn’t sugarcoat with her clients, she says, “because you don’t get results that way… There are women who come to me for a workout and who want to be skinny, but I talk to them about being healthy and strong.”

One of her clients is Taylor Crede. “My goal is to look like I am flexing without flexing,” says Crede of Penn. “Being strong is important, too. I see girls who are thin and who don’t look healthy. I try to eat well and exercise and do it the right way. I love cross-training because it is fun doing different workouts, and you see results.”

There is a right way and a wrong way to do things, Verdecchia says. “I so believe in quality over quantity,” she says.

So does another client, Joan Steighner of Butler.

“I was afraid of the gym at first, but not anymore,” Steighner says. “I want to be strong. It’s not about diet and skinny for me. It’s about wanting to feel good about myself. I feel energized when I leave Studio Fit. Stephanie is tough, but I keep coming back because it’s addicting — in a good way.”

Knowing what she wanted in a workout was impressive to Miyoshi Anderson’s trainer Clay Moorefield. Anderson, a model and executive director of Pittsburgh Fashion Week, came to him over a year ago wanting to build muscle and strength. Anderson has witnessed the obsession to be super skinny for the runway, but says that is changing somewhat. She personally prefers being fit, strong and healthy.

“It’s about setting goals,” says Moorefield of West Mifflin. His GOALS Oriented Training program stands for Getting on a Lifetime System. Recently, he worked with Anderson at One on One Fitness in the Strip District. “It is important to put your trust in your trainer and to be dedicated to a fitness program,” he says. “And if you stick to it, you will see visible results.”

With so many new workouts available today, women can find creativity and not just run on a treadmill, Keller says. “You can choose from workouts such as aerial, which is fun and an exercise where you don’t necessarily feel like you are working out. While you are doing it, you are getting stronger and gaining flexibility.”

There is no ideal weight or number that women need to be at, says Lisa Stugart, owner of Vygor Fitness + Nutrition in Glenshaw. If you are eating healthy and working out regularly, then you can focus on your strengths rather than where you think you should be.

“My goal for my clients is to focus on the words ‘strong’ and ‘fit’ rather than ‘skinny,’ ” Stugart says.

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at [email protected] or 412-320-7889.

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