Gym, Women

Why Women Avoid The Gym (and what we can do about it)

WHY WOMEN AVOID THE GYM  (and what we can do)

We all know many women avoid going to the gym.

Feelings associated with the gym can range from intimidation, insecurity, to fear of not knowing what to do. And often, these feeling are not isolated, but are linked to the fact that the weights room is pretty much a male-dominated environment. 

But this means that women lose out on the health benefits that come from weight training (which often take place in the gym).

Hopefully if you are a woman reading this, you gain some useful insights, and take that step closer towards weight training,

Here are some reasons why women avoid the gym:

  1. The Male Gaze

The Male Gaze refers to a way of portraying and looking at women which empowers men, and simultaneously diminishes and sexualises women. Men here is The Watcher (actor and in control), while women are being watched (passive and acted upon).

Naturally, this influences the self-esteem of many women, creating anxiety, low body-esteem and even depression.  The Male Gaze can magnify any insecurities that the woman is already feeling about her body and her capabilities.

No wonder women to shun the gym.

The diabolical twist about The Male Gaze is, not only does it affect how women view ourselves, it also affects how women view other women. It affects how women think about other women – their place in society, and their capabilities.

What can you do?

There is obviously no immediate solution to this, especially if it involves factors outside our control.

One tip is to join a women-only gym. You might have to pay a premium for it, but it eliminates the testosterone issue. You are free to explore without being made to feel like meat.

Another tip is wear something you are comfortable in. Forget about what Sexy Sally Insta Influencer is wearing, with those camel-toe or butt-enhancing tights.

If you feel more comfortable in loose and roomy tees, go for it. For added coverage, go for long tees that cover the more exposed bits your gym tights or short.

And of course, the last and my favourite is to NGAF (Not-Give-A-Fook). Yes! Don’t give a Fook. You need resistant training to improve your bones and muscle. And no dude, no bloke, no as$h—le is gonna stop you. 

This doesn’t come easy, I know. But it is the most effective because it addresses our own thought pattern, and sets women up for taking back power and control over our own bodies.

  1. Feeling Judged by THE LOOK

I had to separate The Look from the concept of The Male Gaze because because some looks are just….well, looks!

Picture this. You are at the gym. You just finished a set. You look up. You see someone looking at you. 

You immediately feel like a fawn caught in the headlights.

“Oh no, my form must have been wrong.”

“I must have looked hideous when I did that last rep”

“Maybe that wasn’t very feminine…”

Here’s a tip and a thought:

Actually, most people in the gym are just minding their own business and trying to get their own workouts in.

In reality, resistant training make the the mind and brain really tired because glycogen is slowly being depleted. In between sets, most people are just spacing out and letting their eyes fall on nothing in particular. 

Most guys are probably thinking, Wow that was a tough set. ..What am I going to eat later? 😉

Certainly in a gym room full of people, chances are an unfocused gaze will likely fall on you at some point. But they are not actually looking at you.

3. Being Made to Feel That You Occupy Space (Literal and Symbolic)

In other words, being made to feel that you don’t belong.

Thoughts like, This is a male-zone. Or maybe, This is only for those really fit people out there, not me.

Granted, I have seen blokes that enjoy making women feel like they shouldn’t be there, that women are territory that doesn’t befit their place in society. This is often done using body language that communicates “get out”,  you are taking up space.

Again, addressing our own thoughts is the most empowering. It is controlling what we can control. The reality is, you absolutely belong there. The gym space is as much yours to occupy, as it is theirs. There is no need to be apologetic about it. 

I know it’s easier said than done. But it is a step toward self-esteem and self-love. And if you keep showing up, it is sending a message that you will not be intimidated.

4. Not Knowing How to Use the Equipment

I left this till the end because it is to some extent, the easiest to solve.

One tip is to go for the machines. 

Machines, unlike dumbbells, are fairly user-friendly with instructions are usually found on the machine itself. 

Machines are also more supportive, in that they offer more control over  how your arms or legs should move. E.g, a  leg press machine is designed for you to push forward with your legs while you stay seated.

Of course the best tip is to invest in a personal trainer. Having someone there to teach you the ropes can make the gym a less intimidating place. Part of our job as trainers is to help to create and prepare the space for you, and of course, to fend off any ornery bullies. 🙂

Hope this has helped bring you one step, even if mentally, closer to the gym.