Firstly, I would just like to say that this post is not a reflection of the gym I attend, I love my gym and the trainers and enjoy my workouts there, this is something that my gym does not tolerate and will not stand for, which I am glad of. My gym is friendly and welcoming to all people young and old and I love that about it. Judging by comments I’ve received many other women have experienced this and this is in no way isolated to one place. The behaviour and etiquette in gyms is what’s being discussed here nothing to do with the premises. Also this was a select few men not them all.
I am lucky enough to get to workout in the mornings because of the hours I work and thankfully the gym is usually fairly empty when I go, allowing me to do my own thing, workout at my leisure and feel completely at ease and comfortable while there. The other people who frequent the gym at the same time as me (men and women) are always friendly and will even approach you to have a genuine conversation about working out or whatever. I’ve never been to my gym in the evening time, however yesterday due to mid-term I couldn’t get there in the morning and not wanting to miss my workout I headed to the gym at about 5pm. I knew it would be busy but didn’t want to skip it so off I went.
Now I am lucky in that before I joined my current gym, and at the beginning of my weight-loss journey I joined Fitclub, which was a class based gym which was very communal, in that everyone knew each other, had the chats (sometimes to the detriment of our training) and supported and motivated each other. This was really the only gym setting I ever knew and so when that closed down and I moved to my current gym I was delighted to find the same kind of environment in the classes there, however my goals changed and so my time by myself in the main part of the gym, doing my own workouts commenced. Now as I mentioned before I love my new gym however my experience last night has not only opened my eyes to the reasons why women can feel so intimidated and uncomfortable in the gym sometimes, but also has disgusted me in the way that men can try pull rank, or assert dominance over women.
So you’re probably wondering what happened, Well last night I went to the gym at 5pm and upon entering I could see it was very busy, with mostly men using the main gym part (most of the women there were doing the classes), However there was one other woman and myself who were using the barbells, dumbbells, benches and other weightlifting machines. I continued as I usually would, starting with squats, I racked up my 60kg and began my 5×5 workout, now I realise that when there is only 2 squat racks and the gym is busy that someone would be waiting to use the barbell after me, however what I wasn’t expecting was for a middle aged man to walk up behind me and stare at me while I used it, and only when I turn around and stare right back at him did he walk away only for him to return again and stare – now my gym has walls of mirrors, if your looking at me from behind I can see you, you know I can see you and yet you still do it why?
Now this guy was a bit of a creeper and I did feel intimidated to hurry up my workout but then I thought “fuck that” and continued to do my workout as planned at my own pace. So that little experience threw me a little, It was the first time I’d experienced something like that but it was nothing compared to what was about to happen. So I eventually finished up with the barbell and headed on over to the benches to do some dumbbell presses and shrugs. Now there are 3 benches in my gym at the dumbbell station, and there was a guy, myself and the other woman who’d been lifting beside me at the rack, at each of the 3 benches. So all of the benches were taken and we were all doing our workout when this young, muscular lad arrives over, obviously wanting to use the dumbbells and the benches he began to stand over myself and the woman beside me, in what I can only assume was his way of telling us it was his turn to use the bench – while we were mid press or mid curl.
I actually felt so intimidated at him being in my space and again the wall of mirrors had me staring straight back at him, while not moving from the bench. He actually stood so close over the woman beside me that I actually thought they knew each other and were sharing the bench. He eventually took what dumbbells he wanted and went to the bench press rack behind us and started using that, but on his rests he would stand up come over stare at us, get too close to and I for one really felt intimidated by him. At one point I even stood up to do bicep curls, I was on my second set and I looked in the mirror and there he was again staring straight at me, I stared back and this time instead of turning around he dropped his eyes to my arse and kept on staring, so I turned around and sat back down at the bench. I actually felt so disgusted I wanted to throw the dumbbell at him, but I refrained and finished up my workout and headed over to do some core work at a different station.
While there I felt so angry about what happened, I still at this point thought he knew the woman who’d been working out beside me and I was so annoyed I’d bottled saying something to him. When I saw the woman move onto a different machine I had to go and ask her if she did know him, When I asked her she replied “No, I don’t know him at all, to be honest he did the same thing to me yesterday, I think it’s his way of trying to say he wants the bench from you” so I replied “And the staring?” and she goes “Yeah… he does a lot of that”. I was gobsmacked that they actually didn’t know one another and he thought it appropriate to invade our space and stand over us or just stand right beside us and stare as we worked out to try and hurry us up or bully us into moving on and also the fact that this was a regular occurrence for this woman!
Women find it so hard and intimidating going into a gym and to come across assholes like this boils my blood, firstly I was so angry that my usually calming and stress relieving workout had been tainted by this guys obvious feeling like he was better than me, like I didn’t deserve to use the rack or the bench and that I was merely there for him to creep on and for him to assert his dominance or “swing his dick around”, but I also felt absolutely devastated for the women who are trying to start out in a gym, who can only go at a time when the gym is busy and have to deal with this on a daily basis. No wonder so many women go to the classes, If i was a beginner and this was happening to me I wouldn’t want to go to the gym anymore, because feeling intimidated and objectified is never acceptable and is upsetting and demoralising to those who are really trying to take back their health and get on with their workouts.
Just because you’re a man does NOT mean you are better than me.
Just because you’re a man does NOT mean you can invade me space.
Just because you’re a man does NOT mean I am there just for you to stare at.
Just because you’re a man does NOT mean that you should make me feel intimidated.
Just because you’re a man does NOT make me any lesser than you.
So to the men who are reading this please be aware that in a male dominated environment in can be rough for some women who aren’t equipped to deal with this kind of behaviour because frankly, they shouldn’t have to. Take a look at your gym etiquette, don’t stare at people, don’t be pushy or a bully, we all have a right to be there and just because you have a dick doesn’t make you more important than me so be respectful, just like you are to the other men in the gym.
To the women who are feeling intimidated and are starting out on their journeys. Don’t be afraid to say something, I know I didn’t and I’m kicking myself for it now. If it ever happens to me again I will definitely be asking what they are staring at or stating that if they want the bench they can wait and to get out of my space. Be strong and make sure it doesn’t compromise your workouts, keep taking your time, resting and stay true to what you went in to do. At the end of the day, giving in to these bullies is detrimental to your health because you’re at the gym to improve YOUR life, so don’t let them take it away from you.
Now this only happened to me once as I usually workout in the mornings but for the women who encounter this on the daily, don’t be afraid to speak out and if you don’t want to confront the man, chat to one of the trainers, let them have a word on your behalf. Intimidation and objectification is never okay. If you feel these things don’t let it swallow you up and make sure you speak to someone about it.
I’m really sad that I even had to write this but I felt so angered by it all that I just needed to share so hopefully the men who do these things will change and maybe realise how this affects women but also for the women who feel and go through this daily to realise that it’s not right and that something can be done about it.