The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Friendly weight room takeover for Women's History Month

By Jamie Macpherson

Women may have a right to bear arms, but many feel self conscious about showing their “guns” in public. The weight training that goes into sculpting arms is a pastime stereotypically reserved for men. But last Monday a group of about twenty women, both students and staff, met in the Deno Fitness Center to stage a weight room takeover as part of Women’s History Month (WHM). Co-organizer Callie Thuma ’10 said the WHM decision to host the event came from the negative sentiments many women on campus share about the weight room.

“As members of the Women’s History Month Planning Committee, we came up with the idea to confront our discomfort, confusion, and hesitancy about using the weights by staging a female-friendly ‘takeover’ of the weight room,” she said.

Thuma emphasized the desire for the event to be a “friendly takeover,” a chance for women to learn about working out alongside the men that typically frequent the weight room. “Our hope is that all women who are interested can feel confident and comfortable about their right and ability to use the weight room,” she said.

The WHM committee teamed up with fitness director Stephen Murray and invited him to give a demonstration on the proper use of the workout machines.

“I saw this as another opportunity to welcome people into the fitness center and hopefully provide them with an experience that makes them want to come back and use the fitness center,” Murray said. “I feel it is my job to get the community into the fitness center and make the facility open and welcoming to everyone.”

Murray focused his demonstration primarily on tailoring individual workout routines. He showed the women how to adjust the machines, and how to tell when they’re trying to lift too much weight.

“If it you have to arch your back,” he said, “then you probably need to go lighter.”

Murray also emphasized the need for good posture, so as not to cause unnecessary stress on the body while it’s working. He said he hoped this would encourage women to “feel more confident in the weight room.”

“I do think that there are a lot of women who are not comfortable in a weight room,” he said. “I think a lot of it has to do with past experience or lack of experience.”

The WHM planners felt similarly.

“Quite honestly, the weight room feels like a very ‘male’ space,” Thuma said. “Even though I am a varsity athlete with a weekly weight routine, as a woman, I often feel like I need to prove my right to be using the weights next to guys.”

Both Thuma and Murray viewed Monday’s event as a step in the right direction. Murray said he was pleased by the questions that were asked, as well as the overall positive energy that was brought to the fitness center. Thuma was pleased with the number of people that turned out for the event.

“I felt so empowered being in the weight room,” Emily Schorr Lesnick ’11 said of her experience. Lesnick said she found the event extremely informational, and is now excited to return to the weight room after the support she felt. “Wouldn’t it be awesome if there were 15 women supporting you every time you worked out?” she said.

An additional motivating factor to work out for Lesnick was when Murray told her about the benefits of lifting for later in life.

“If you do not [build muscle], you can lose around one pound a year of lean muscle starting at age 30,” she said. “That kind of scared me.”

Next year, Lesnick hopes to have more time on the machines during the event, so that she can get more specialized weight lifting tips.

For his part, Murray said he hopes that the number of women who participate in the event increases next year. He believes events like this one, which teach how to use the equipment, are the best way to help women claim their own space in the weight room.

“I have seen a big change in that over the last few years,” he said. “As more high schools emphasize the importance of lifting with their female athletes and offer weight training classes, the number of women using strength training in college and beyond will keep growing.

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