Friday, July 23, 2010

"Man in the building. Sorry for the inconvenience."

My W3 fitness pass.
I'm obsessed with Women's Workout World aka as "W" to the third power.  The best part about this gym is that it's women only.  No men allowed, except for when workout equipment needs to be fixed and then a sign is taped to the door that reads something like "Man in the building.  Sorry for the inconvenience."   Awesome.

When I was 16 and still in high school, I asked for a gym membership for my Birthday.  I'm not really sure why I wanted a gym membership then, but my Mom allowed it.   She suggested W3 (probably because she was once a member there and also probably because she knew there would be no men there, kinda like how she suggested I live in an all-girls dorm my freshman year of college, which I also did) and with my her consent and signature, I was allowed to join.

Ever since, I've been an on again off again member during summer breaks from college and law school, and now at 26, I'm a full-time member and I still frickin' love this place. I love taking fitness classes like belly dancing and turbo kick. I love seeing cute workout gear.  I love sharing tips on diet/weight loss.  And I love seeing women in their late '70s tearing it up on the treadmill.   And most of all, I love that I get to work out with women with similar fitness, similar weight loss frustrations and similar problem areas.

When I explain the concept of an all-women gym to men, they just don't get it.  Why do women need an exclusive gym?   I'll tell you why...

In the past I've worked out at my fair share of co-ed gyms and let me tell you that I barely feel comfortable straying from the cardio equipment.   Why?  Because at co-ed gyms men rule the weight lifting sections.  As a woman, I felt like I had to avoid eye contact when I strayed to that area of the gym, which was rare.  Using cardio machines at co-ed gyms is legit.  Anyone with functional legs can do it.  But using weight machines is a whole diff. story.  There may as well be a sign posted that says "This section is for MEN only" because let's face it, women are not welcome there.  Even the few super-human, super-lean fit/buff women who waltzed through that section got stares.

Back when I started law school and I noticed that I was gaining weight that first semester, I thought getting a personal trainer would be a good idea.  My campus' gym had super cheap student personal training packages so I hired a personal trainer, Becky, who was also an undergraduate student majoring in exercise science and nutrition.

The best part of my personal training package, besides losing inches off my waist, arms and legs, was that I learned how to use weight lifting equipment, equipment that I had avoided since high school.  At our 5:30 a.m. sessions on campus Becky taught me proper form for every weight machine in the building.  And we were almost always the only women in that section.  I felt über uncomfortable in the seemingly "mens only" section and we surely were stared down as I struggled to lift 20 pounds on my bicep curls.  Not only did I feel uncomfortable, but the men seemed annoyed.  Annoyed that they had to wait for me to finish my reps.  Annoyed that I was there period.   I was equally annoyed.  And scared.
Thanksgiving break 1L year.  Me (on the right)
keeping up on my fitness with my younger sister.  

As my 1L semester progressed, my strength improved.   My muscles got stronger.  My body was starting to look toned.  I was less scared to use the weight machines.  One evening I was working out solo and I snuck over to the "men's only section" to do some weight lifting.  I was using proper form to work on my triceps, as Becky had shown me.  I felt so kickin' until a guy sat on the bench nearest me and stared at me for a few seconds before asking, "Hon, what are you trying to do?".  Couldn't he tell from my swole physique that I meant business?  Apparently not.  He pushed me out of the way and decided to demonstrate the proper form, made me watch his perfect reps and then had me show him what I learned from the mini lesson.  I did ten reps until he was satisfied.   Then as he left the area he told me to "keep working on it".

I was humiliated.  And bolted out of that section never to return again...or at least for 6 months.

Zuzana from
At W3, no one has ever approached me like that.  You know why?  Because it just does not happen in all women zones. Even when there's swole women who come know, those Zuzana type-chicks who look super sculpted and strong and you just stare wondering how they can maintain 5% body fat yet still have boobs...they never correct me.  They just do their thing, maybe say "hi" (because after all, I am super cool) and go about their bidness.

If anything, I love the concept of all women gyms because everything caters to women.  The promotions/contests, the locker rooms, the magazines, the fitness classes, the free samples of new beauty products and Jamba Juice $1 off coupons.  Plus, something about doing aerobics next to a 75-year old woman dressed in a Jane Fonda-style leotard, tights and a sweatband makes me step it up.  Surely, I can't let grandma outdo me on the aerobic dance floor.

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