Straddled By A Stranger – A Tale Of Men At The Gym

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.

V<3

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7 thoughts on “Straddled By A Stranger – A Tale Of Men At The Gym

  1. Rebecca Claire says:

    Did you see Guerilla Feminisms insta posts about “not all men” and why we shouldn’t have to preface things with disclaimers that allow people to think “well, IM not part of the problem,” If not go check it out as she made me rethink that whole part of blog posts we all do to stop the stupid comments.
    Anyway, this sounds like the mansplaining of gym life! I wouldn’t know as I never ever hit the gym but I think it’s disgusting that this is a real concern for other women! It’s very patrionising regardless of who it comes from but as you said, it’s more common for men to do it to show women up or show off!

    Rebecca, libfemblog.com xo

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  2. hannahinternational says:

    What an ass! In what world does he live that thinking that straddling a stranger is OK, whether he’s giving advice or not? (Don’t answer that one, it’s just for effect. Hah.)
    I’ve heard of this happening a lot over here, but especially other women coming over to women here and saying that “it’s too heavy”, mainly because women over here aren’t looking to build muscle.
    Thankfully I never had any problems when I went to the gym in the UK, but I hear about things like this all too often. ㅠㅠ

    Hannah
    hannahinternational.co.uk

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  3. Steph says:

    Ugh that’s so frustrating! Thankfully I’ve not had anything like that happen to me yet, but I must admit it’s part of what put me off trying the weights for so long – I’d heard enough horror stories that I was nervous about some dude taking it upon himself to ~teach~ me cos I didn’t look too sure of myself. It’s sad that behaviours like this (and ofc fatshaming) make so many people feel uncomfortable enough to not want to go to gyms at all.

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  4. Sarah Athow-Frost says:

    Oh dear oh dear. That guy sounds like a pain. Imagine invading your personal space like that! Never, ever okay. Thankfully I’ve never had an experience like that at the gym. I have had people trying to chat to me when I’m clearly trying to run though and that’s annoying enough! I think you handled it well though!

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  5. Hannah says:

    God I’m so sorry this happened to you and have to admit I’m one of those people that wouldn’t go, in case this or something like it happened. I also prefer lifting weights to cardio and most gyms designed for this seem like macho havens on the few times I’ve braved a visit. Someone suggested an women’s gym to me but it was no where near as well equipped and actual I don’t think we should have to go elsewhere to avoid these ‘mansplainers’at the gym.

    I’m all for helpful advice, but charging into your space with no request from yourself or real need for his help is seriously unacceptable.

    I hope it hadn’t put you off your work outs in future!

    H xx

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