By Abraham Tejeda
The gym has always been my sanctuary. It’s the place where I could lose myself and all the pressures of daily life, where I could play my music loud, sweat, burn off some stress, and feel accomplished.
On one particular day, I couldn’t help but notice a shapely young lady performing lunges a few feet away from me. She wore a sports bra and tight workout shorts that left little to the imagination. She was a beautiful woman, and whereas she did catch my attention, I wouldn’t stare and make her uncomfortable, and I certainly wouldn’t approach her. I’ve always treated gym time religiously—I adhere to a strict rule where I refuse to interrupt someone’s workout, and I’ll be damned if someone interrupts mine.
One guy clearly had no such rule, and he did approach her. I could make out the look of disinterest on the woman’s face. It shortly evolved to disgust, and she headed out of the weight room to the cardio section, leaving the “bro” with a sheepish look on his face.
Now I had seen things like this before, and more often than not, the ladies were there just to work out and did not welcome the flirtation. But, for some reason, this incident got me thinking about what it must be like for women in the gym setting. Most gyms are male-dominated, and sometimes the air is palpably thick with testosterone. I imagine that, for some women, it might be intimidating to visit a gym.
Nicole Ruiz, a professional fighter who has trained in different martial arts since youth, told me about her experiences training in gyms.
“When I first started training, people didn’t know anything about me. And I guess there’s a stereotype that women are going to go for cardio-kickboxing or something. The first time my trainer asked me to spar with a larger male, I remember the look of disbelief on the other fighter’s face, almost like I didn’t belong there with him. I was able to give him a lot of trouble, though, and I hit him to the body a lot. The look on his face was priceless when he saw me leave the gym with a pink sundress on!” she laughed.
Ruiz explained that skepticism from her male counterparts drives her to be better.
“As a woman, you have to prove yourself a lot more than a man initially. You’re in an environment that is male-dominated, and you’re not as physically strong as a man. You come in, and they are like, ‘Well she’s a girl.’ So you have to work to earn respect. You don’t want people to downplay your capabilities or limit you because you’re female.”
Since martial arts are a niche within the fitness world, I also spoke with bodybuilder Eleni Misetzis, who founded her own meal supply company, Prep & Rep Kitchen. Misetzis has spent lots of time in gyms, either training herself or training others through her business which caters to professional bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts alike.