Be warned: this might turn into a rant.
Today was my last day working out in London while I was home to visit family. While the gym I was temporarily using does offer a women’s only area, I didn’t think twice about it before heading out to the gym floor. The main gym is hardly co-ed as it was filled with guys working out in small groups and walking around like they expected girls to ask for their autographs. If you aren’t looking at them then they will stare you down in the mirrors until you do. These guys just reinforce why women deserve a private area to wear their stretchy pants.
At my gym in Toronto, there is no option for a women’s only area. The ladies who don’t feel comfortable in front of the men are relegated to stick to the cardio machines, or let their attendance slowly drop off. Women brave enough to trek into the free weights risk the careful watch of creeping men or the ignorant looks from those who consider them flawless at their “gym ratting” ways. I do see the benefit of offering a separated option in a gym, but if it is done right.
The New Years resolution crowds must have got a head start on January because all of the benches were full, all of the cables were taken, and training partners were eager to step in. So I did a lap and ended up in the women’s area.
I have previously expressed my frustration at women working out differently than men (waving 2.5lb dumbbells at their reflection in the mirror) but as I entered the women’s section I realized that we are set up for it. This area was primarily cardio machines and I had to dig through a pile of mats to find the single Olympic barbell in the place (no joke). Even if you can scout out the barbell, there is no squat rack, and there were only 5 or 6 renegade plates from the co-ed section. The machines looked like they were plastic and I expected to see “Playskool” covered up somewhere. This room begs you to ride an elliptical from any of the endless aisles of cardio that dominate the space, and overlook the mess in the corner (attempted “free weight” section).
Let’s give women some cables and some benches, and some direction as to what would be most valuable to women in the gym. As much as I appreciated being alone with the free weights, it was ridiculous how many women were just doing steady state cardio. Hey, who knows, maybe they are training to become long distance elliptical riders in which case I support their training. In all fairness, maybe they are just doing a cardio day. I know from working in a gym that too many women neglect resistance training, and I am just trying to make a point here. Check out what I wrote earlier (not in a rant): Annie Get Your Guns.
Women are absolutely different than men and this does require some minor changes in training, however, this does not mean in any way that a woman is restricted from going heavier than 5lb dumbbells. Next time you see someone who has a body similar to your “goal self”, ask them how they got there. I would be shocked if anyone said “mindless hours of cardio!” I am not biased at all…. however I have science on my team.
The best advice I can give someone (over blog): get a trainer for a short period of time and learn all you can. Ask lots of questions and pay attention. Show up early, warm up on your own, and cool down on your own. Then follow their advice!!