Are Gyms Stigmatizing Women’s Fitness?

A couple of months ago, I shared that I had signed up for a new gym in town. I had to wait awhile for construction to finish and the facility to open but this week, I was finally able to head over and take my first spin class. I loved it and can’t wait to head back and have my butt kicked again.

I remember talking to the facilitator when I signed up for my membership about what would be included in this women’s only club. Looking at the drawings and knowing that it was going in a spot where there used to be a Blockbuster, I knew the building would be small. She said there would be an aerobic floor, spin studio, hot yoga room and a cardio weight area in the middle of it all. When I got there on Tuesday, I was surprised to see that the weight area consisted of a few machines and NO free weights or benches or squat rack or anything.


I’ll admit, my heart sank a bit. Then I went back to that first conversation when I signed up when I asked about the purpose of the club knowing that they used to have larger women’s only clubs alongside co-ed clubs. I was told that they were changing the focus to what most women really wanted which was cardio and classes rather than huge weight sections. At the time, I didn’t think much of it because I was told there would be a weight area and just assumed that this mean benches and bars. Not at all her fault that I made assumptions based on what I look for in a gym.

This got me thinking about some conversations I’ve had many times over with people regarding the stigma of women lifting. You know the erroneous notion that if we lift, we’ll get bulky muscles, lose our necks and look like dudes. All of which is completely untrue btw.

So this begs the question: are gyms catering to this school of thought by not offering a good weight training area or am I simply in a minority when it comes to my goals at the gym?

Overall, I’m still happy with the gym so far. It just means that I’ll have to go to the co-ed locations and lift with the big boys when I’m ready to hit that phase in my training.

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Stephanie is a Canadian Mom of 3, Runner, Certified Functional Strength Coach (CFSC), Christ-follower and all around reeker of awesomeness. When she's not chasing after her kids, you can find her dreaming big dreams and bringing them to life.

13 Responses to Are Gyms Stigmatizing Women’s Fitness?

    • I think in the case of my gym, they did. Or at least those of us who like to lift and train in different ways. We have machines but no free weights. Thankfully, I can go to a co-ed location for that if I need to.

  1. Great question! Although you are right that everyone (including women) need strength training, research shows that the majority of non-exercisers (the bulk of the population-and a health club is looking for the largest-possible clientele) are still very intimidated by the thought of a gym. The first time I saw a Curves I laughed it off as a joke. But, look a what they did. My wife is much more comfortable at a place like that rather than what would actually benefit her most.
    So, I don’t think they’re stigmatizing women, just wisely creating a product for the largest portion of the market. It’s just good business. Not what I’d want, but then again, we’re fitness people. We’re actually in the minority.

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