Starting at the gym can be intimidating, but a few women at Western Washington University are creating a community that is open to anyone who wants to begin.
Originally, physical fitness and lifting were heavily marketed towards men, creating a dissociation with women and strength-related exercises, despite the health benefits they offer. Western has various clubs and classes like Girl Gains and Women's Weights that put a focus on community and ensuring female-identifying people are comfortable in the gym.
According to a study, female-identifying people often have a hard time in the gym because it's simply a heavily male-dominated space. The research states that at any given time, there may be a 90/10% or 80/20% gender split in the weight room.
Giulia Terrana is the instructor of the Wade King Student Recreation Center’s Women's Weights class and says that she sees more women in the weight room now than she had ever during my time here at Western.
"I've been involved with Campus Rec since I was a freshman,” Terrana said. “There were several times where I was the only female in the weight room, which was something I knew I wanted to change."
Women's Weights class focuses on getting women comfortable in their form and abilities to be able to feel comfortable forming and performing a workout.
Ron Arnold, who is the fitness coordinator at the rec center and was involved in designing the classes curriculum.
"Each step toward goals that you can master makes the next steps more doable, and this builds a strong person that can go out into this world and hopefully be a leader,” Arnold said. “That affects positive change."
As a first-year, Hanna Kelly struggled to find a club or group that she felt fit her.
Then she came across an Instagram post by the original Girl Gains wanting to grow chapters in different schools.
Started by students in San Diego State University, the organization aims to promote womens weight lifting and empower women through university clubs.
Kelly said she didn't ever see women at the gym and wanted to meet other people who also enjoyed working out and fitness.
Kelly posted to Instagram in search of other people who would be interested in starting a chapter at Western, which is how Elise Bang got involved.
Bang has been lifting weights for six years and said she wants to inspire other female-identifying people to develop a healthy and positive relationship with the gym.
"Most people think that the gym is to lose weight or look good, but I come in here because I want to be strong and feel good about myself,” Bang said. “I feel better in general when I work out.”
The club now meets four times a month and usually holds events to help get women who are into fitness connected.
Their meetings center around giving female-identifying people the knowledge to be comfortable in the gym, from toxic weight-loss culture to lifting form and gym courtesy.
They will even pair club members together by taking surveys and trying to match people's schedules and fitness goals so everyone has a potential gym buddy they can contact.
As women struggle with the stigma of being in the weight room, Western has many resources to help girls get comfortable in the gym.
To get involved with Girl Gains, visit their Instagram bio and fill out the membership form.
To get into Women's Weights, visit the rec center website for more information on X-Pass.