Women only gyms: here’s why women are shunning mainstream spaces

Amid a new 'gym-timidation' report

Women only gym

by Marianna Manson |

Picture the scene: you’re at the gym, headphones in, sweat dripping, and about to hit a personal best on the treadmill, when you spot some bloke leering at you from the weights section. Suddenly you’ve left the zone and that PB slips through your fingers.

Or even worse: you’re at the squat rack, resting between sets, when a man helps himself to a 5kg plate, or asks if you need a hand.

Or a trainer takes a fancy to you and makes it his mission to make conversation every time you enter the gym or offers to sign you up to a free PT session.

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These are just a few scenes that will be familiar to women and female identifying people who work out in mainstream spaces. Leisure centres and private gyms which are meant to be a space for everyone to move their bodies and feel good, often end up just being another space for men to hound women.

A new ‘gymtimidation’ report conducted by nationwide gym chain Origym found that more than six out of ten women have been harassed by men in the gym with, “men making a pass at them, following them around the gym, and sexual remarks as some of the most common gym harassment.”

Other instances of harassment reported by women include laughing and jeering, making patronising comments and not taking ‘no’ for an answer when they were refused the offer of help.

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30) Hannah Cockroft, 29

Hannah Cockroft, 29, clocked up two gold medals during her wheelchair races at the Tokyo Paralympics, making her a seven-time Paralympic champion. Er, wow! Off the track, she's all about championing disabled representation.On disabled people being labelled as "superhuman", Hannah says, "We're not. We're just people trying to make our own way in life and do what we can do. A superhero doesn't have to put in any work in, but I work my ass off and train hard every single day and put my whole life into it. We should all be confident and none of us can change what we are born as."

So the study’s findings that one in three women – 31% of those asked – would want women’s only gyms is unsurprising and that searches for “women’s only gyms” has shot up by 69% in the last year reflects this.

The same report also found that two in five women avoided working out in gyms at all, while 28% of the gym-going women polled avoided using the resistance area because men made them feel uncomfortable. The swimming pool and the free-weights section were also likely to be avoided by women.

While it’s easy to say that women should claim their own space in the gym and stand up to harassment, it’s not easy for everyone (particularly where there is a threat of violence or being followed home) and women’s only spaces would alleviate the gym-timidation experienced by so many in mixed work out areas.

Women's only gyms near me

Thankfully the industry is adapting quickly and women’s only gyms are increasing in popularity, with London, Brighton and Manchester leading the charge. A quick Google search of women’s only gyms in your area will point you in the right direction for dedicated gyms with no boys allowed. If it’s a particular sport you're after, like kickboxing or weightlifting, there’s options for those, too.

Even huge chains are cottoning on, with Fitness 4 Less, Pure Gym and Total Fitness, as well as national leisure centre chains like Better and Everyone Active, offering women’s only spaces.

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