It’s late in the afternoon and I step into the gym. The sound of weights clang and cardio-machines hum in the background. I’ve only been here a month but already I am familiar with much of the exercise equipment present. This is unusual for me. Usually I’ll only stick to the three I know: leg-press, tricep extension and leg extension.
You’ll find all sorts of characters here at my gym: fitness-buffs who spend hours doing bicep curls in front of mirrors, friends who spend more time talking than working-out, the pros who’ve brought their own weightlifting gloves...they’re all present but there’s something different from the usual scene. My gym is only for women.
That’s right. They’ve taken the Y (chromosome) out of Gym, the men out of movement, and the the deeply seeded self-consciousness out of doing a wide stance barbell squat in the middle of the weight-lifting area.
Let me preface this with the fact that I am not a pretty exerciser. There is sweating, swearing, grunting and a whole-tonne of red-faced effort as I try doing more than one push-up. So for me, a women’s only gym is a great place to try free-weights for the first time without feeling like I was being judged for my form. Or my ass. I can’t say for sure that men were staring at my butt at the co-ed gyms that I’ve been to, but there’s a certain level of vulnerability that a gal exposes herself to while bending over in yoga pants. And there’s not always a lot of variety when it comes to different body types. You just don’t see a lot of diversity in the ages and ethnicities of women at co-ed gyms. There’s something unique to a woman’s only gym watching a 50-year old woman in hijab complete 12 reps of a horizontal chest press with 40kg of weights.
Sure there’s not enough stairmasters or ellipticals for everyone, some women will spend 90 minutes hogging treadmills stuck on 3.5 km/hour, and don’t even get me started on the turf wars for locker space in the bathrooms. But it’s a price I am willing to pay to feel comfortable in my own workout space.
Jordan Mullins, alumna UCM