Fitness classes aren’t just for women. There are a few common misconceptions about men going to these classes, whether it is the social stigma of men going because it’s not “manly,” due to the majorly female attendance or the lack of heavy weights, or the thought that fitness classes aren’t a good enough workout.
Fitness classes are neither “womanly” nor “manly” so there is no need for it to be socially unacceptable for men to attend. Poundfit at McNiff Fitness Center, for example, is a leg workout, a cardio routine and some core work all mixed together into a 45 minute class. Men and women both have legs, a heart, lungs and core muscles, so both sexes should be able work them out in a class together. As a regular member of Poundfit, I can honestly say that there have been a total of maybe six men that have shown up to the class all semester. On the off chance that a man does come to class, sometimes he doesn’t even make it fully through the class, and he usually doesn’t come back again.
McNiff also offers yoga classes, but men are hardly ever in attendance. It’s confusing as, like other forms of exercise, yoga is great for increasing strength, balance and flexibility while helping a person to relax and find their happy place. Men that take yoga often do so to relieve pain from a sports injury or relax after a stressful day. Yoga can and will be difficult on the first try, especially for someone with limited flexibility or someone that’s unfamiliar with the positions. That’s no reason not to try it, everyone in the class was a beginner at one point. Nobody’s watching you anyway, they’re most likely checking themselves out in the mirror, have their eyes closed, or are focused on either the instructor or their positions.
The first fitness class is always hard no matter how much physical strength a person has. Classes aren’t about how much weight a person can lift, but about cardiovascular and muscular endurance. Doing exercises outside of a regular routine is actually better for the body than doing the same thing over and over because your muscular system will adapt and your fitness will plateau if you’re doing the same routine for as little as six weeks, according to healthline.com. The challenge that comes with a new experience, like a fitness class, is actually a better workout than the normal routine, especially if it’s more difficult than expected. I think some men go into classes feeling like it’s going to be too easy for them and end up getting a lot more than they bargained for, possibly making them feel emasculated because the women in the class are making it through with perceived ease.
The gym seems like a very segregated place. It feels as though the weights are for men only, while cardio and fitness classes are for women. I’m sometimes intimidated by the burly men lifting hundreds of pounds, and it seems like some girls tend to avoid the weight section altogether to avoid the strange looks they encounter when they pick up any actual equipment. Also, if they do use weights, women are sneered at or worse, objectified by the men surrounding the section when all they want is to do some squats in peace. Some men appear to be as intimidated by fitness classes as women do about the weight section. They might feel as though they’re going to be sneered at or objectified either by the women in the class or the other men that watch them walk into the room where the classes are taught. People in fitness classes, however, don’t generally take notice about how the other people in the class are performing and once a person is physically inside the workout room, the blinds stay closed so onlookers from the outside can’t catch a peek. The gym doesn’t need to be a segregated place, nor should it be.
There’s nothing wrong with working out in a group rather than on your own. Yes, a bunch of people are doing the same exercises as each other, but you’re still getting out of the workout what you put in. Everyone is welcome to take the classes at whatever level of intensity they want by doing variations of the movements. An instructor will demonstrate different ways to hold positions in varying degrees of difficulty so that everyone in the class can be doing something. It’s important for men and women to know that those at a higher ability level won’t be looking at anyone in the group, they’ll be too focused on what they’re trying to achieve. And those that don’t have much experience will be following the instructor and ignoring everyone else in the room. There’s nothing wrong with being in shape from doing exercises other than lifting weights.
Fitness is not all about “gains,” it’s about being a healthy person. The classes offered are designed to help a person be healthy. Everyone’s heard the story about football players being forced to do ballet to increase flexibility and perfect their footwork on the field. If football players can find benefit in “girly” fitness activities, so can everyday men that like to work out. And in case nobody’s noticed, those little nine year old ballerina girls have better six packs than about half the people at the gym.
Men shouldn’t feel hesitant or embarrassed about going to fitness classes. Anyone is allowed to attend, and everyone should attend at least twice to give it a fair try. The first class is always difficult. But the benefits of fitness classes, such as increased flexibility, strength and cardio are worth the effort. Those benefits are equally important to both men and women.
Liv Reeb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org