Weighing in on Women-Only Weights

Walking into a room full of beefed-up men, talking guy talk, performing bicep curls and bench presses, lifting weight you didn't was humanly possible can be intimidating for many women. Luckily for me, the Athletic Centre offers "women-only" times in the Strength and Conditioning Centre (SCC). During these hours women can do their weight routine in private for one hour, each day of the week. Because I know weight training is an essential part of improving overall fitness, I decided to take advantage of the Monday 12-1pm women-only session. There were about 15 women exercising. Although the gym is not nearly as full during women-only hours as it is during co-ed hours, based on the data I was able to access from a helpful SCC supervisor, there are 2-3 times more women in the SCC during women-only hours than during co-ed periods. During my workout, I used dumbbells to do squats and chest-press, used the Bosu ball to do push-ups, and a medicine ball to do a few ab exercises. I also used the squat rack and bench press, equipment that I don’t often use during co-ed sessions because they are usually crowded by men or very athletic women. The women in the gym during women-only hours were all exercising alone, keeping to themselves, listening to their music, using dumbbells much more than weight machines.  This is quite a different atmosphere from co-ed sessions, where men seem to work-out in groups and help each other out with heavy free weights. Most women seemed to have a routine set for themselves, but the knowledgeable and friendly SCC staff were happy to help with any questions we had. The SCC also offers free orientation sessions to let newbies know how use the equipment in the weight room. This is a great option if you are a beginner or want to learn a new exercise. As soon as the women-only time ended, about 20 anxious and buff-looking men flooded into the gym. Only a few women, including me, continued their workouts. During women-only hours, I felt very relaxed, and could occupy whatever space and use whatever equipment I wanted. Once the guys entered the room, I felt restricted from using certain equipment, like the bench press and the squat racks, that I had felt free to use during women-only hours. I definitely preferred working out in a women-only setting where I felt confident to try out whatever exercises I wanted to. So naturally, I support the women-only SCC hours and intend to make use of them but, I can understand some men's frustrations with the restricted use of the SCC.  After my session, I chatted with some who said that it’s unfair that women can work out at any time of the day, while men are excluded during some peak hours when it would be more convenient for them to exercise. It's tough to please everyone I guess and this debate isn't one I can get too far into in a short blog post. But perhaps you, readers, can let me know what you think about women-only hours? Regardless of the space I exercise in, I am trying hard motivate myself to get back into a weight routine to build up my strength. Having the option of working out during women-only hours makes me less afraid of stepping foot in the weight room, and will make developing a weight routine a little easier. Tae Kwon Do Update: Last week, I accidentally kicked the instructor where he would least want to be kicked. It was pretty embarrassing, but I guess, part of the experience of being a beginner! -Shannon

5 comments on “Weighing in on Women-Only Weights

  1. This is a great article! I’m new to U of T, but not new to exercise, so I was pretty excited at the start of the year to get into my regular routine. My first experience in the SCC was during co-ed hours, and I felt the exact same way, restricted and uncomfortable. During women’s only hours, it is a much warmer environment and I can happily go through my program. I can understand the men’s issues, but women deserve a chance to access all of the equipment and feel comfortable working out. I don’t think an hour a day is too much to ask, and besides there are machines in the Field House as well if they’re desparate..

  2. Megan,

    Thanks for bringing up the point that men can exercise in the Field House. There are also spaces where they can work out at Hart House, so they are not completely restricted from doing weights on campus during women-only hours!

    Good luck keeping up your exercise routine as the school work piles up!

  3. As a woman, I feel perfectly free to use whatever equipment I need during co-ed hours, and I’ve never been made to feel uncomfortable by any of the men who exercise there. I can sympathize with the guys who think that women’s hour sucks, because the gym is closed to the majority of its users at really inconvenient times — 5 to 6pm Tuesday and Thursday, and 9 to 10am on weekends.

  4. Hi Clare. It’s great that you’ve shown that some women are not bothered by working out during co-ed hours. In fact, I’ve met several women, especially athletes who are training for sports, who actually prefer to work-out with men around because it pushes them to work-out at higher intensities. But for me, it’s important to have women-only hours so that all women have the option to use weight equipment.

    You are right, it must be frustrating for men who regularly use the SCC to be prevented from using it during peak hours, but they could use the Field House or Hart House if they want to lift weights during those times.

    Good luck getting back into a routine after the holidays!

  5. One of the main problems I would have would be if I just started circuit training alternating curls, triceps extensions, and upright rows and then was told that I had to leave before I could complete the circuit. Another problem would be when I was ready to bounce. Lift a heavier weight than normal for the first set and the switch to your normal weight to confuse the muscles.

    Another problem I would have is politeness. Several women stay for the co-ed times. They essentially got to reserve equipment. It wasn’t first come first served like at other times. Maybe it balances out because some women will voluntarily avoid some equipment when the guys are there, but it still seems ill mannered.

    Lastly, it feels unfair. I understand that there is a benefit to encouraging women to work out, but that needs to be balanced against the harm done discouraging the guys from healthful activities. The gym also sounds underutilized during this time. Maybe they should make the smallest gym women only during these times and the others men only during the same times so at jeast men aren’t competing with women for equipment at the other locations.

    I took Tae kwon do also. I was picked to spar a girl in her first match. Her first three kicks were front snap kicks and guess where they went. Thankfully, the senior belt who was refing saw that I pretty much lost my temper and stopped the match. Moral of the story is when fighting girl wear cup.
    P.S. Arlene Limas the best female tae kwon do practitioner I’ve seen and met came from my home town of Chicago.

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