I am a personal trainer and I have been in many weight rooms and trained many men, but I still feel uneasy and at times even insecure when the weight room is packed with men. Last week I had a fourty-five minute break between clients so I decided to do a quick biceps/triceps workout at the gym. I knew exactly what I was going to be doing, right down to the number of exercises and the reps/sets, I was quick and focused but I still got walked all over in the weight room by two men. I will spare you the details, as they are boring, but they were extremely significant to me and I hope no other woman, who asserst herself enough to step-up and workout shoulder to shoulder with the large, sweaty men pushing gigantic weights, has to feel the way I felt last week. So I decided to write this blog post to give you tips on how to assert yourself and conduct yourself in a weight room.
- Learn how to use the equipment (yes all of it!) – Not sure what most of the machines do or how to use them? Ask someone who works at the gym, it is their job to make sure you feel safe and comfortable. Don’t keep your distance from the fancy machines that you pay good money to have access too just because they look intimidating. First learn how to use them and then decide if you want to incorporate them or not, when it comes to fitness knowledge really is power.
- Learn Proper Weight Room Etiquette – Not sure what that means? I will tell you right now. If you are using a machine that only requires the changing of a pin, you must allow people to alternate sets with you. Don’t monopolize a machine and sit on it during your extra long rests. If you are doing an exercise like a chest press or a squat that requires weights be added on to a machine or bar, you are not obligated to let people alternate sets with you, as changing the weights would take too much time. In this case people need to wait their turn, and do not let the angry guy staring at you from across the gym, make you feel anxious, yes even he can wait his turn. Wipe down your machine after using it. Don’t leave your towel/water bottle/keys in the way. Put them in a corner and grab them when you need them, don’t place them on a bench as if you are placing your flag and claiming your position. This also means you are entitled to move any belongings you see off the benches or machines. They do not belong there, no saving seats, but be as polite as possible when doing so. Lifting heavy? Feel free to ask someone for a spot, or offer to give one to someone who looks like they might be struggling, we are all friends in spite of our horribly large egos. Be conscious of personal space.
- Have a Plan: Sometimes clients tell me how lost they feel when they go to the gym on their own, and I understand why. There are almost too many options at most gyms, this is why you need to have your own fitness plan and know your focus before you walk through the door. Don’t stray from this plan unless you must. Stay focused on your own workout and it will help you ignore the meatheads surrounding you.
- Wear Headphones: This is the best way to avoid talking to men in the gym. Even if you hear them talking to you while you are in the middle of your workout (RUDE!) you can pretend your can’t hear them.
- Assert yourself: Just because they are bigger than you does not mean they know more about lifting than you, and just because they grunt louder doesn’t mean they are working harder. Do not let yourself be pushed around in the gym. If you are getting ready to use a machine and someone snatches it from you, tell them they can wait their turn. If someone cramps your space and makes you feel uneasy, let them know.
I hope these few tips give you some sense of empowerment the next time you walk into a weight-room overrun with men. After all, why are you paying for a full gym membership if you aren’t utilizing half of the equipment in there. Get out of the cardio room and do some strength training already! You might feel awkward and out of place at first but if you stay focused on your workout you will start to feel invincible.