We hear a lot about the struggles of being a young woman on the internet, I’ve covered it on here myself, and among friends and over social media we discuss this struggle across other arenas as well. “Manspreaders” on the Tube, “mansplainers” in the office, and men at the gym. I want to prefix this by saying that it’s not only men that are guilty of some of these things, we all see people who catch our eye and watch for a little too long for example, but it’s mainly men who are the culprits when it comes to the examples below.
Since sharing what happened to me tonight, that inspired this post, someone has said that this kind of behaviour is the sole reason they wouldn’t go to a gym. It’s sad that gyms are not an environment where people feel comfortable.
First and foremost I should explain the incident that provided the inspiration for the post. I workout at a lovely, well equipped gym with a huge variety of free weights and machines which is ideal for me because I love to lift weights. I’m there at least twice a week, usually more, and I know what I’m doing. On a Monday and Thursday my friend Megan comes with me and she spots me during heavier lifts in case I get into difficulty. Tonight we were enjoying a particularly brutal arm session. Having just completed a triceps super set we moved over to the bench and in order to continue using triceps we opted for a close grip on the bar. This is harder than a normal bench and a lift I’m not 100% comfortable with yet so I went light, lifting the 20kg bar without additional weights. It wasn’t a doddle but I was ok, Megan had checked in seconds earlier when a man came rushing across the gym, snatched the bar out of my hands and racked it. As if that wasn’t enough he then lectured Megan on where she needed to stand to spot me and demonstrated by straddling me. As we needed a lighter bar for one of the exercises we chose to just leave that area at that point but it really got me thinking.
It’s fair to say that the vast majority of men at my gym are stronger than me and it’s also fair to say that had I been in real difficulty it’s reassuring that people are paying attention and would help you out but the problem is when people who are stronger think that they automatically know best or that their workout is more important than yours. This is definitely not exclusively men but when was the last time you saw a woman hog the leg press machine at the gym for an hour – also to all the people who do that, what are you doing on there for all that time? Please explain.
The other biggest annoyance for me is unsolicited advice. I can concede that sometimes it can turn out to be helpful but sometimes people just don’t know when to stop. Suddenly because a guy has a few muscles he thinks he’s a personal trainer, physiotherapist and nutritionist. I know my body better than you thanks very much. Sometimes it’s nice to share ideas with people in the gym, shout out to the woman who gave me a safe alternative to leg curls, but knowing when to back off is key.
Have you had any bad experiences with people at the gym? Let me know in the comments.