Thousands of fitness enthusiasts gathered at Fort Lauderdale Convention Center over the weekend to share their passion for working out.
“People are shocked there’s a gay vendor here,” said Roger Roa, Development Director at the Pride Center.
Roa stood behind a table inside the convention center offering condoms and lube to passers-by. The Pride Center was one of 141 exhibitors at TheFitExpo. Claritza Valle, a marketing coordinator from Miami, was glad to see the Pride Center in attendance.
“It’s very nice to see representation of the LGBT community at TheFitExpo,” said Valle, who identifies as a lesbian. “I feel supported and am excited to see them at more events.”
Valle worked for Betancourt Nutrition at the TheFitExpo. She offered amino acid samples to attendees and posed for pictures with fans. Valle has almost 14,000 followers on Instagram.
“She’s great,” said Roa, who has just over 16,000 followers on Instagram.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” Roa said of his social media following. “You have to post every day.”
Between Roa and Valle on the expo’s exhibitor floor plan was Flex Comics. Owner Jeremy Flex, visiting from Phoenix, declared his presence as “the bridge between geekdom and fitness.”
“A lot of us geeks like to lift,” Flex said.
At the Flex Comics table, cleverly designed tank tops were available for purchase. Flex described his comic’s main character as an anti-hero along the lines of Wolverine and Deadpool.
“He’s kind of like me, I’ll do the nice things but I’ll gripe about it the whole time,” Flex said.
Meanwhile, strength competitions were held across the convention center. The U.S. Air Force sponsored a powerlifting demonstration and had staff on hand to recruit for special operations.
Recruits, tour manager Shannon Ross said, must “have what it takes to pull someone out of a bad situation.” Ross said new recruits would learn how to safely execute a HALO (high altitude low opening) jump.
Standing next to Ross under an Air Force tent was Taylor Thomas, a slim young man who made the trip from Central Florida to attend the TheFitExpo as a “brand ambassador.”
“It’s lively,” Thomas said when asked about the expo. “It’s exciting to see all these people getting amped up on chemicals and having a really good time.”
Thomas said he does yoga and enjoys calisthenics. Along with powerlifting and calisthenics sections, the expo contained space for kids, group training, model searches, celebrity meet and greets and health screenings.
Cigna, a health services organization, offered expo attendees free screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and body mass index. A representative for Cigna declined to be quoted by the press but said Cigna had a goal of saving 100,000 lives by getting 100,000 people tested through annual biometric screening.
The TheFitExpo travels to Los Angeles for its next convening, Jan. 6-7, 2018. The expo’s schedule next year also includes stops in Philadelphia, Chicago, San Jose, Anaheim and San Diego. For more information, visit www.thefitexpo.com.