There’s a room upstairs at my local gym. Its size is similar to that of a classroom; the right-hand wall lined with squat racks and boxes, the left-hand side empty bar a sled and some weights. Large black mats cover the floor, while a wall of framed windows casts a steady stream of light over the space. Music permeates through the speakers in the corner, a steady beat by which to pace your workout. This room is known as the ‘zone’.
I first joined Snap Fitness more than four years ago, as a means of both killing time over the summer break and improving my overall fitness. Since then, my love for the gym has grown tenfold. Likened in my mind to that of a happy place, the gym has served as an escape from the stresses (though mere) of everyday life. University deadlines and missteps at work fail to infiltrate my thoughts while I’m there, my mind instead focusing on the next rep or set.
Be that as it may, it is not without trepidation that I enter the ‘zone’. For in a room often populated by a steady stream of young men (some of whom I attended primary school with), my five-foot-two self can’t help but feel timid. I know that I have every right to be there. I know that I am entitled to be there. I know that I should feel no fear in being there. Yet I oftentimes do, and I think I know why.
A study commissioned by Sure Women found that one in four women are too intimidated by their male counterparts to consider joining a gym, while almost four in five women fear being harassed while at the gym. These figures, though alarming, are not all surprising, for our society has long perpetuated the narrative that men are superior (both in a physical sense and otherwise). This same narrative infiltrates a myriad of life circumstances, from unequal pay in the workplace to an ever-increasing rise in domestic violence. Though we have no doubt progressed significantly over the course of the past few decades, this narrative still forms the basis of many of the societal issues that affect women in 2023.
This afternoon, I set foot in the gym with the intention of completing a weights-focussed workout. I arrived at 3pm, a time I considered conducive to my using of the zone, for the aforementioned young men often arrive from four o’clock onwards. After venturing upstairs, I opened the door to find a group of three older men and two young guys in the midst of their own workouts. I retraced my steps, standing by the water fountain outside as I deliberated my next move. I took a few breaths and re-entered the room, determined to prove to myself that I, though a little uncomfortable, could face a commonly held fear. I hesitantly did just that, and in doing so felt incredibly liberated in the process.
I’m not ignorant of the fact that my actions don’t equate to much. That my stepping into a room at the local gym is not newsworthy, nor will it strike the narrative of male superiority and dominance. I am, however, hopeful for change. Naïve as that may be, I am hopeful for a time in which women feel on par with men. A time in which the weights section is used in equal measure by all. A time in which women feel at ease. For life is too short to waste time by the water foundation (though I for one am thirsty for change).
Meg Baresic is a fourth year Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Communications (Journalism) student at QUT. While the ideas about what she wants to do with her life and career are always changing, her love for writing has been a steady constant. She writes because it helps her make sense of the world in a way that little else can. She loves writing about anything and everything, from random thoughts about love and life, to political and social issues. She is obsessed with peanut butter (smooth, of course), books + podcasts and all things nature-related. She is also, unashamedly, a dedicated Home and Away fan.