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UA Women Inspiring Change in Health and Fitness

As the final students exit Lauren Phillip’s fitness class she reminds them, “If you don’t change, you won’t change.”  

Phillips is a senior at UA and majoring in nutritional sciences. She has been a fitness instructor at various gyms since she was fifteen, and an instructor at the UA recreational center for two years.

                                                                                                                                          Photo credit: Lauren Phillips

“You have to change up your fitness regimes and start something new if you want to change your fitness and health,” Phillips stated.

Intimidation is a hurdle many women face when they go to the gym for the first time and Phillips believes that group classes are one solution for this issue. 

                                                                                                                                   Photo credit: Lauren Phillips

“Group classes are what inspired me to start working out more. It is less intimidating because you are with other people. Plus, you have another individual there who can correct your form, motivate you, and show you what to do. You have a sense of direction,” Phillips said. 

Not knowing how to work out or use gym equipment is a challenge for many women. Another major challenge is comparing yourself to others. 

“Lots of females compare themselves to other girls, and that can be a problem,” Phillips said. 

Phillips uses the following tactic when she feels intimidated by someone in her class or the gym. 

“Go talk to that person. When you talk to someone, it makes them a lot less intimidating because you realize they are friendly and they worked hard to achieve the body that they have. Instead of being intimidated by them use them as a source of motivation and advice more than anything,” Phillips said. 

Phillips plans on continuing being a fitness instructor and believes her role is an important one, especially in the health crisis facing the U.S.  

“I see what I do as a way to contribute in the fight against obesity,” Phillips said. 

Phillips emphasizes that working out should be about being fit and functional and not being stressed about molding yourself into a perfect body type. 

“I know plenty of girls who spend hours at the gym just to achieve that tiny body weight, and they are miserable. Healthy is always better.”

 “I post content on Instagram with different workout ideas, body positivity, and nutrition. It’s all free content because the more people that can see this the better,” Abbey Roberts said. 

Roberts, a sophomore majoring in nutritional sciences, has been a fitness instructor at UA for two years. 

“I wanted to spread my knowledge and help other people who are also struggling with exercise and nutrition. So, I thought a really good place to start would be personal training,” Roberts said.

                                                                                                                                   Photo credit: Abbey Roberts

Roberts values fitness because it has given her an outlet from the stress of school and work. She also noticed that the confidence of being fit spread to other parts of her life. 

“It has taught me patience and determination because fitness isn’t exactly something that happens overnight it is something you have to continually work towards,” Roberts said. 

Roberts advises those women who want results fast to be patient. On a day-to-day basis, people cannot see the changes happening in their bodies, and that can be hard. She believes that taking progress pictures and measurements helps to combat that frustration and are great for motivation.

Here at UA, weights and resistance training are areas in fitness that many women do not feel comfortable with.

Annie McCabe is a senior who studies nutritional science. She is a fitness class instructor and personal trainer at the UA gym. 

                                                                                                                                    Photo credit: Annie McCabe

“I do believe that many women have a hard time getting to the gym and definitely the weight room is kind of what stems that intimidation,” McCabe said. “But I think that it is about being a little selfish in a way and not thinking about anyone else but yourself and getting in the mindset that you are here to de-stress and work towards those goals.”

McCabe recommends going to the gym with a friend or going to a group fitness class because the group setting helps to take the pressure off of deciding what to workout. 

“I would encourage women who are having a hard time getting to the gym to take baby steps and to remember that there are always alternative ways to get a good workout and to relax and de-stress,” McCabe said. 

Jenna Kaufman, a physiology major and a fitness instructor at UA, believes that the benefits of living a fit life go beyond just having a healthy body. 

                                                                                                                             Photo credit: Jenna Kaufman

“Confidence is a really big thing. You feel good about your body and how you look than that feeds into your everyday life, and that has an overall positive impact,” Kaufman said. 

A lot of the fear of going to the gym for the first time is fear of the unknown and not wanting to look silly because you aren’t sure where to start.

“Start by taking fitness classes because they are a good starting point to give you ideas on what to do on your own,” Kaufman recommends.

Kaufman plans on teaching fitness classes into the future because she enjoys helping others achieve their goals. 

Jen Patterson, a fitness instructor for almost 20 years, believes that there is a pervasive stereotype of women not belonging in the gym. She thinks this misconception must be corrected for women to feel at home in a gym environment. 

“I think that if we had some sort of introduction to what it is to be in the gym. It would help if they had orientation classes as a group so that it is not just one person who is singled out,” Patterson said. 

Patterson also commented that it is essential for fitness instructors to be careful of how they label their classes if they want to attract an even mix of genders. She believes that the names of classes could potentially deter clients that feel intimidated or like they would not belong in the class. 

“One place I teach at I had someone who wanted for me to call I class I was teaching “Butts and Guts.” As a guy would you go to a class to that? And that really limits what we can do,” Patterson said. 

Many of the areas that women might want to improve in, such as weights and muscle-building resistance machines, are taught in classes that use male gender descriptor words that can make it more intimidating for women to get involved. Or they are not taught at all. 

“It is so important for instructors and gym staff to make the gym environment welcoming and non-intimidating for women,” Patterson stated.

Patterson also touched on the misconception that lifting weights will automatically make you huge and bulky. 

“So many women want to get toned and lean, but they don’t realize that lifting weights will actually help them reach that goal and not make them bulky,” said Patterson. 

Many factors go into creating a lot of bulky muscle mass, and genetics and hormones play a huge role in that. Especially in women, the way their bodies and hormones work it is unlikely they will become large and bulky only from lifting weights. 

Patterson understands that it can be an overwhelming experience for a new gym goer.

“For those who go in and try something, and they had a bad experience maybe try going back and trying something a little different. Don’t be afraid to try something new because you will never know what will happen if you don’t try,” Patterson said. 

Anna Bilha is a senior editor for Her Campus at Babson College, Anna Bilha, is also an avid gym-goer and she was often approached by friends because they did not know where to begin in the gym and often felt intimidated. She started an Instagram page to inform and help women get fit.

Follow Anna Bilha on Instagram: @duazfit for workouts and tips.

Follow Abby Roberts on Instagram: @strong_abbz for nutrition and fitness knowledge.


Hosanna Keeley is a New Yorker who is soaking up the sun in Tucson where she is a junior at the University of Arizona. She thoroughly enjoys not having to shovel snow, but the lack of Dinosaur BBQ gets her bummed out sometimes. She is majoring in Journalism and during her down time you can catch her binge-watching Rick and Morty or running local 5ks. She drives for Lyft and Uber and is in the Army Reserves.
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