Empowerment: Women and Weights Interview

In line with the release of the Empowerment edition of the Yorker’s Magazine, Jane interviews Dan, a personal trainer at the York Sport Village, and asks him about his views on women and weights.

Why do you think women are afraid to use the weights section of the gym?

Whenever you see anything on the TV, it’s always men grunting, sweating, vest & skin on show; it becomes an intimidating area of gym to go in. I think it’s a very old fashioned view of it. There also seems to be a fear amongst women that they don’t know what they’re doing. It’s much easier to go for a run, it comes naturally to us. But lifting weights doesn’t.

That’s my problem, especially with the machines. I don’t really feel like what I’m doing so I feel it’s better to leave it. And then I think a lot of people are scared to ask for help.

When we’re doing inductions, we always stress to everyone that we’re here to help, so do please come to us for advice. Otherwise we’re bored doing nothing, so I’d rather people come and ask me as many questions as they’ve got, and I can go through some exercises with them. Also I think a lot of people think if they come to speak to you, they’ve got to pay. But getting that kind of advice is free, just come over and have a chat.

Why should women use the weights section of the gym? What benefits does it have over say, cardio exercise?

Nowadays, everyone works on metabolism, weight loss, and  fat loss. Running on a treadmill burns calories when you’re doing it, but weight lifting burns calories whilst you’re doing it, and up to 48 hours afterwards as well, as it has a good affect on your metabolism. And obviously the more lean muscles that you’re carrying, then the more efficient at fat burning your body becomes as well. So you can be sitting at home doing nothing but still be burning calories from the previous work out, which is what we all want. For women specifically, lifting prevents osteoporosis in later life, and helps strengthen your bones.

Are some women scared to use weights because they think they’re going to come out looking like ‘buff’ men

Definitely. But 95% of women wouldn’t get that anyway, because you need testosterone to build muscle. It is a fear though, and they all say it. The main one is ‘I don’t want to look like Madonna’. But it’s not going to happen, and it’s definitely not going to happen overnight. Even if you started a weight training problem and say a few months down the road you start to notice something you don’t particularly like, you can just come and have a chat with your trainer, and ask what you can do to change it. Everyone responds differently to training, but the main think is that it shapes, tones and creates a stronger body.

Do you recommend any first steps for conquering the fear of the weights section? 

First thing they should do is to go a see a trainer. If they want a programme, fair enough, but even if it’s just for some advice. Don’t copy people in there, because from what I see in the gym 90% don’t know what they’re doing. Unless they’ve been trained by someone. You see a lot of bad technique and we as trainers can correct that, but there’s only so much we can help people. So if you want to do it correctly, come and see a trainer.

And don’t be scared of free weights. Free weights are functional. Stay away from machines. Talk to your trainer, get onto free weights, and go in there knowing that you should be in there. When I did the ‘women and weights’ sessions, a lot of women said to me that they feel like they don’t belong here, and they felt like the men were just looking at them. But they don’t. The gym has changed so much in the last 5 years. Most women that go into the weights area have a lot more flexibility, so their exercises are a lot better than the majority of the men. So confidence is key, as you do have the ability to do it.

But for petite women like me, the area intimidates us because of the massive weights, and all the guys seem huge. So I feel like – what the hell am I doing there?

You’ve got to think that everyone has different training goals, and the guys that are training for strength are potentially smaller than the guys that are training for hypertrophy and size. And the guys that are training for size are potentially lifting less weight than the guys that are training for strength, even though their smaller. So no-ones going to look at you and think, she’s small, she shouldn’t be here. Everyone should be in that area, and anyone who knows about fitness now, knows that you should be in that area, and expect you to be in that area. I know it’s intimidating the first time you go in it, and you’ll go in it and be intimidated. But then you’ll have been in it, and the next time it’ll be like second nature. That’s part of your training, you do what you need to do and do what you want to do, and that’s your session. All the men are really friendly anyway (well… I say all…the majority of men are really friendly) so they’d probably go home and say to their partners, this girls in that area so you should go in! You should lead by example.

Make sure you grab yourself a copy of the Yorker’s Empowerment Magazine, and have a read of Jane’s article – ‘Battling Weight-phobia – female empowerment at the gym’

The Yorker Magazine - Empowerment Edition
The Yorker Magazine – Empowerment Edition

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Jane Fieldsend

Third Year History Student, and Marketer Extrodinaire (under the official title of Marketing Director). Offers up the occasional musing in Arts & Culture or Lifestyle.