In April, Nike launched its new "Better For It" campaign, including a video spot that outlines women's inner thoughts, and insecurities, as they attend a yoga class or run a half-marathon.
Read MoreLululemon and Ugg—Booming men's brands?
This month, Dick's Sporting Goods is rolling out its first advertising campaign targeted directly toward women, featuring a group of females juggling exercise with their busy schedules, including picking up their kids from school.
And at Carbon38, an upscale, online activewear store, a simple change in the website's imagery—showcasing athletes instead of traditional models—increased customers' connection with the brand.
"I think that for the longest time females were kind of relegated to the same strategies that were served to motivate men," said Carla Serrano, chief strategy officer for Publicis Worldwide North America. "Why not kind of redefine it and re-express it in the same way that it's actually happening in the real world?"
It's no surprise that athleticwear firms are catering their advertising to women. As females trade in their jeans for yoga pants and increasingly wear the stretchy gear outside of the gym, women now account for at least half of the shoppers in the sporting goods category, said Lauren Hobart, chief marketing officer at Dick's Sporting Goods. What's more, women's activewear sales rose 8 percent last year on a dollar basis, according to data from The NPD Group market research firm.
Read MoreNike's latest win in slugfest against Under Armour
As their share of the pie grows, so do the types of women wearing the trend. That means firms are no longer speaking only to gym rats who exercise five days a week; instead, they're also reaching out to the mother wearing yoga pants as she pushes her kids in a stroller.
Dick's Hobart said it's been interesting to see how different women connect with various aspects of the spot.
"For us, we are always trying to be at our core about authenticity and being real, and showcasing the real lives of everyday people," she said.
For Serrano, it's a welcome change in brand communications—one, she said, that is resonating. It's also indicative of a broader trend across the industry, which has recently shied away from the once-prevalent body shaming tactic. Recent examples include the latest line from shapewear firm Spanx, which focuses less on creating the perfect body, and a campaign from plus-size retailer Lane Bryant, which encourages women to embrace their curves.
But it's not all about the ads. In addition to its "What Will You Be?" campaign, Hobart said Dick's has expanded the space and assortment dedicated to women at the majority of its stores, including the exclusive line it launched with Carrie Underwood in March.