It’s a regular Wednesday morning and you walk into the Lowry Center. It may be early but the gym is packed with testosterone-dense buff bodies chugging protein powder in tank tops, body-odor, and weights slamming on the floor followed by manly grunts. As you walk past the sweaty men to your corner to start stretching, you wonder why it is that men are so obnoxiously loud when picking up weights while you make the conscious effort not to draw any attention to yourself. What is it about this space that intimidates you so much so that you constantly think about the space you take up?
By now, most of us are probably all too familiar with the stresses Kenyon College can pile on. Having resources to navigate you through these tough times is essential, and keeping in mind that physical and mental health go hand in hand can broaden resources for seeking help. I, for one, take my anger out to the Lowry Center where I leg-day, back-day, push, and pull my stress away. I hope that after reading through some of my tips for how to confront intimidation and toxic masculinity in the gym, more women will feel comfortable so they can use it as a space to blow off steam or find a new hobby.
Nobody is paying as much attention to you as you think.
When I first started lifting, I hated going to the gym even though working out was one of my favorite things to do. I always felt like it was too obvious that I just started working out because I had no idea what to do in there, and that everyone would judge me for it. But it didn’t take me long to realize that everyone went to the gym to work on themselves, not to judge others. Even if you tried, I doubt you could remember what the person next to you was doing during your last workout. What muscle groups were they working on? While you were doing your exercises, what were they doing? I can almost guarantee that you won’t know the answer to those questions which only proves how little you care about what the person next to you is doing and how little they, in turn, care about what you’re doing. People in the gym are self-centered, but they’re encouraged and allowed to be. Your gym time is a solid hour and a half to dedicate to you and only you. Considering everyone else there is a waste of the time you carved out to focus on you. You deserve this time to focus only on bettering yourself, as do they.
Just keep going and make it part of your routine.
Once going to the gym becomes part of your routine, the less out-of-place you will feel once you are there. You may not yet know what to do or how to act in the gym, but the more you go the faster you will figure out what works for you. In order to create this routine, it is helpful to turn off your brain and just start walking over to ensure you don’t have time to convince yourself out of going. The more lenient you are about skipping days, especially in the beginning, the easier it becomes to skip days and the harder it becomes to actually create the routine.
Plan your workouts ahead of time.
The reason the administration tries to keep first year students so busy during orientation is the same reason your friends will try to keep you busy after a breakup: being busy keeps your mind off certain things, whether that be a place or person you miss. This can be applied to the gym. The more structured your gym time is, the less time you will have to wonder what the fuck you are doing there at 8 AM with the entire football team. It also helps to designate a specific place to walk to as soon as you enter the gym. Maybe this is where you warm up or drop off your gym bag. Walking around with a purpose creates the illusion of confidence, which, with a little self-convincing, even you will believe soon enough.
Though these tips won’t solve every single issue, it is a start. Hopefully one day women will feel a sense of ownership of the gym just as much as their male counterparts do.