Deadlifts, Squats, Chin Ups, Log Press, usually exercises associated with men. Men stood in the mirrored section of the gym, grunting, shouting and admiring their biceps while not really doing much, other than intimidating others around them. Sound like a familiar stereotype?
It is exactly the thoughts I had about training in a mixed gym, and I know I am not the only one to have these pre-conceptions!As women, it is often assumed that we are the more self conscious sex. I certainly thought this, when on my first few visits to the gym, the men were pouting in the mirror, clearly wanting the attention it generated, and the ladies walked and chatted on the treadmills with their perfect hair, full faces of make up and the only moisture to be seen came from the water fountain – because, it was obviously far too unattractive to be seen sweating in public, and the thought of anything more strenuous would be considered too masculine. I didn’t get it. Although, I cant say much, when I first joined the gym, I wanted to hide behind my trainer the whole time!
Throughout the years I have been training, I have been exposed to a variety of training scenarios as it were; on my own and not really knowing what to do, being trained one on one by a PT, Group Training in a women only class and Group Training in a mixed class. I have to say, one of my favourite sessions in the week is the Mixed Group Training Session.
For me, it completely changed my opinion on working out around men. Luckily, the facility in which I train has no mirrored walls or treadmills in sight, just plenty of barbells, free weights, dumbbells and other fun equipment to play with.
Admittedly, I did only have one on one sessions for quite a while before I decided to participate in Group Training, but through doing this, I proved what little old me was capable of; what weights I could lift, the fact I was able to do a couple of chin ups. The response from my male counterparts wasn’t what I expected – and I am sure all the other ladies that I train with have found the same; there were no snide comments about ‘girls in the weights area’ or sniggers if you dare to make a noise, let alone let out a little scream when you lift something that is bloody heavy! In fact, it was the complete opposite – admiration, respect and encouragement – this was more like it!
I no longer found myself worrying about what guys might think of me and I enjoy the mix of ability and banter in the sessions!
This led me to start thinking about the flip side – What do Men Think? Do they get self conscious training in front of women? How do they feel about training with, or being trained by, women?
I asked three guys I regularly train with or around for their opinions on this matter, and found the results quite interesting. Below are some of the comments from them….
I used to feel quite self-conscious training around women when I first started training, but then I used to feel self-conscious training around anyone! Now I’ve been training properly for a few years I’m not self-conscious about anyone, I’ve stopped caring about other people’s opinions and feel confident enough in what I’m doing to not be concerned by others anymore.
I don’t know what it is about women that makes guys self-conscious maybe it’s the ego factor, either way I’m now comfortable training around them and now also personally training them.
If I could make one generalisation from what I have noticed when coaching boot camps and personally training women, is that they require much more support and encouragement than men do; for example the guys can see the progress they’re making as well as the girls but the girls need the re-assuring pat on the back much more than the guys do.
One thing that’s definitely true for the current climate is Fit is the new Sexy for 2013, women don’t seem to want to be skinny anymore they’d prefer to be healthy and in good physical condition.
I’ve trained in a fair few gyms own the years and I’ve experienced many different types of views, opinions and atmospheres. Some negative, but mostly positive.
The way I look at the situation is simple, in every day walk of life people will have different personalities, opinions, agendas and motives… However the one common ground that all gym users in my opinion should share, is the desire to better yourself. That’s why we’re all there isn’t it? To reach our goals whatever they may be.
Anyone who sets foot in a gym, no matter what sex, what religion, race or even body fat levels, should get some respect, because we’re all the same. We all want to make an improvement, and that is a hugely positive thing that not enough people embrace.
I can understand why some women may feel apprehensive about training around men, and I know of men who feel the same about training around women… For me personally, I want to train in an environment full of positive people who are working hard, because it creates an energy which you can feed off. The old saying of surround yourself with positive people really does make a difference.
I think it would do most men a world of good to train with women, because men suddenly get a reality check and realise that they train like losers and aren’t as strong as they think they are.
I think that as many men are as body conscious as women but maybe show it in a different way, and I guess all of us that go to the gym are body conscious otherwise we wouldn’t be there. In my opinion though, females tend to have a more negatively irrational view of their shape / body composition /certain areas of their body. I obviously notice this more having a girlfriend that is not totally happy with her body, and where I think that she looks great, she’ll look in the mirror and see something completely different to what I see. Annoying!! I’m sure though that there are areas of my body which I’m not happy with (my nipples to be precise)and I look at myself in the mirror sometimes, actually a lot of the time (!) and they’re all I can see. Nobody goes to the gym solely because they enjoy it, they do it to keep in shape and keep an active body and mind.
I for one am not bothered (for want of a better term) about training with women, in fact I probably feel less comfortable relatively training with a male that is acting in a manner which many women would argue is the reason they don’t go to mixed gyms. I am conscious that I change my behaviour around women in the gym, such things as trying to improve my form, and not shouting over zealously when lifting, or when a training partner is lifting. The only thing that does bother me about training with women is when they don’t always apply themselves properly, doing exercises half heartedly on a Friday evening so that they can say they’ve been to the gym and justify a night out / Chinese and a movie.
If I was in a training session, bootcamp or otherwise, and saw a woman that was sweating buckets and trying her hardest, I wouldn’t think “eurgh look at her she’s sweating, how unattractive,” I’d just have more respect for her from seeing that. I believe though, that a lot of women wouldn’t exert themselves fully for this reason exactly, for the fear that they would appear unattractive or worry about body odour.
With regards to being trained by a woman, I wouldn’t mind that at all and I would judge someone on their knowledge and how they applied themselves. Take Katie of EBW as an example, I’ve got a lot of respect for her because her dedication to training is second to none, and she has done very, very well in her chosen sport. I think that I push myself harder when training with men, especially those that can lift around the same or more than me, as I’m extremely competitive and will push myself through boundaries that I wouldn’t if I was lifting by myself.
I’d like to say a massive thank you to the three above for their input to this, very kind of you all!
I think the comments from the guys are great – women aren’t the only ones to have reservations about training, who think about what others see, and above all, these comments show that these men have that level of respect for their female counterparts in the gym that we would all like.
Some may say this is too general, I have just used people I know etc – so once (if!) my blog gets any bigger, I’d happily take the opinions of guys I don’t know and compare their views to those above 🙂
The point of this piece was to hopefully start to dispel that the gym is a testosterone only filled place and that females are just as welcome – this coming from many views I have heard over the years referring to not wanting to train because of the male presence and dominance in a mainstream gym.
To end, here is a brief description of my last experience in such a gym…
My colleague and good friend Zuz and I were away on business and decided to make use of the hotels partner gym one evening. Upon arriving, it looked like a boudoir, red and black velvet drapes, soft lighting and chandeliers?! Anyway, we made our way to the weights section to find it full of guys, obviously. After a short stint in the ‘female weight area’, which was no bigger than my bathroom and with dumbbells not exceeding 10kg, we decided to venture further….
Into male territory we went! Just the sea of turning heads as we walked through was funny enough. Once we reached the assisted chin machine, we set out trying to remove the assisted platform so we could do full reps. We quickly had a knight in shining armour tell us what we were doing was wrong and that the machine was to ‘work your lower back’ – um, OK then! In quick succession, Zuz and I got up and did a few reps, unassisted, much to his horror. We left him to it. Onto the free weight section where the only squat racks were assisted…we waited our turn and again were stared at for loading up more weight onto the bar and quickly squatting for more reps than the previous guy.
This is not me showing off! This is me simply stating the obvious – just because we are female, it does not mean we don’t know what we are doing and how to do it properly!
Sorry it’s been such a long one!!