From a young age, many women are taught they should confirm to society’s expectations of a slender build – similar to the Barbie dolls many girls carried around everywhere they went. This standardization of the female body also tends to follow women to the gym.
There is a myth that women should be “fit” and “toned” but not necessarily strong. At the gym, the area with cardio machines and assisted weight machines are typically where women dominate. Often, it is sometimes considered surprising or out of the norm when women venture over to the bench press area, surrounded by men and their protein shakes.
Granted, people are often surprised when men take their turn on the elliptical, due to an additional misconception that all men should strictly lift in order to be “big.” The slogan “strong is the new skinny” is a very popular phrase as a way to encourage women to celebrate their bodies, instead of comparing themselves to others in terms of their weight. However, in order for women to embrace their strength, they should feel comfortable not only with themselves, but in the gym – especially in the weight training areas.
There are a few ways to fix this problem, many of which have already been pushed into action. Currently, more gyms and exercise programs have offered weight-training classes open to both men and women, which emphasize building strength instead of burning calories.
Exercise programs such as P90X make an effort to show both men and women performing the exercises with equal expertise. If women at the gym see more female trainers, they may be convinced that being strong is not something to be afraid of, and that the weight training area is not reserved strictly for males.
Often the weight training area is intimidating for women due to misperceptions created by our society. It is about teaching ourselves and others to think differently, and acting on those changed opinions.