I know I’m very much in the minority, but winter is my favourite season. Christmas is without a doubt the best time of the year and it wouldn’t be the same without icy temperatures, long dark nights and big cosy jumpers to snuggle up into. However, now it’s somehow nearly March, spring’s creeping in and I’ve realised my actual body also resembles a squishy jumper. I love exercising and I’ve really tried to go to the gym at least three times a week over the winter, however a few workouts here and there have been insignificant in comparison to the amount of delicious and naughty food I guzzled down.
Like many other ‘resolutioners’ I vowed to up my exercise regime after new year in a bid to get a bit fitter. Usually, I’m a fitness class kinda girl because, quite honestly, I like having someone else tell me what to do. Plus, I tend to work harder and for longer in a class because no one wants to be the first one to drop out of the plank (FYI it’s still usually me). Since Christmas though, my favourite spin class instructor has moved away from my sports centre *sobs* so I’ve been braving the normal gym.
Now at uni, the gym I went to was massive. So big in fact, that you could be there at the same time as multiple people you knew and not even realise. It was fabulous if you wanted to avoid an awkward encounter! Although it was mixed gender, there were loads of pieces of equipment and mats with free weights, kettle bells and medicine balls dotted around, so there was always a quiet corner you could settle in.
That is definitely no longer the case. The gym I now attend at home is well equipped, clean, cool and tidy but very small. This means that there are no hidy holes to sneak away into, you’re very much out there out in the open for everyone to see. Also, the chances are, you will know at least 75% of the people in there at any given time, so if you’re not comfortable squatting in front of a familiar audience, you’re out of luck.
I didn’t think it would bother me at first, but the gymtimidation is real. I think most gyms are male dominated, especially in the weights section, and there will always be a group of show ponies prancing about. They are easy to spot in their natural habitat; lurking around the squat rack and can generally be found showing off their big bulging muscles and a sunbed tan, clad only in shorts and a teeny tiny vest that shows a lot of nipple. Vom.
Moving swiftly on, usually their presence is insignificant, but in such a small environment, there only need be a couple of lads and the environment becomes really intimidating. The thing is, it’s not their fault. The chances are that if you did put on some big girl pants, head down to the weights section and just get on it, you’d be left to your own devices without even a head turn, mainly because they’re too busy posing for sneaky mirror selfies of leg day pump.
I think the main worry for a lot of people, me included, is doing something wrong and looking like an idiot. We’ve all seen videos on Facebook of people doing idiotic things with gym equipment and they’re bloody hilarious to watch, but no one wants to become the butt of the joke. When your only option is to exercise beside someone who, quite obviously, spends a lot of time in the gym lifting weights and knows what they’re doing, it’s easy to lose confidence in your own knowledge and ability.
Now I know what I’m doing; I’ve got a little routine that works for me and I know I’m doing it right. On an increasingly regular basis though, I find myself leaving the gym after only doing cardio because I’m too scared to do a few lunges, sit ups and kettle bell swings in front of a few boys, which I know is ridiculous, but I also know I’m not alone. I’ve spoken to so many girls who feel the same way and get really embarrassed to try something new, even if they’re really motivated to get Khloe Kardashian fit.
The problem is, I don’t even know what the solution is. To say out loud that you’re embarrassed to do exercise in front of men is so stupid, but for many girls trying to keep fit, that’s how it is. I think that’s why the majority of fitness classes are female dominated, because we would rather exercise away from everyone else, with like-minded women at a similar fitness ability, in a fun and safe environment.
When you think about it though, this is something that’s beginning in schools up and down the country. From the age of nine onwards, I only exercised with other girls and had female PE teachers. While the boys did football with a male member of staff, the girls were playing netball with a female, the boys would go off to play rugby with a man and the girls would play hockey with a woman and so on. Even sports like athletics and basketball that both genders do, are generally played apart from one another. I’ve never really done any exercise with anyone else apart from other girls, so there’s no wonder that me, and so many others, find it intimidating.
I’d like to say girls come on, get a grip and just get on with it, but it’s not as easy as that and if you’ve been in the same position then you’ll understand how intimidating it can be. Gyms with designated female only sections have addressed the problem in a way, but that’s just accepting defeat.
I know I’m not alone in feeling intimidated, embarrassed and scared to venture down to the weights section, but I have no idea how to tackle the problem. If anyone has any suggestions they are more than welcome, but for now ladies, just know that you’re not alone!