‘I’m going to turn some heads’: Women who lift weights talk about gym and health culture

Efforts to make the gym a safer placee for women

Amanda Roberts, a sophomore in studio art, and Charly May, a sophomore in kinesiology, said they’ve seen more women in the gym move away from cardio and start lifting free weights, but it’s is still far and little in between.

“Let’s say I walk into the PowerHouse gym at 5 p.m.,” May said. “I’m the only girl in there and I can literally feel everyone looking at me.”

After study after study, it’s no secret that social media tends to heighten beauty standards and contribute to our sense of self-consciousness. But with the rise of fitness influencers and online content, some believe the nature of that influence is changing, and not necessarily for the better.

“I’ve been in the lifting community for a long time and I feel like the content that (influencers) post isn’t really something that benefits people,” May said. “It’s kind of just them glorifying it and only showing the good parts of it.”

Last year, members of the Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, drafted a bill to fund an all-female, non-binary gym space on campus.

At the time, education junior Ella Woehlke (then a sophomore) said that while women’s health was so important, she still felt uncomfortable in a “male-dominated” space like the sports Hall. His ideal view of the gymnasium included fewer mirrors on the walls and, instead, more encouraging quotes.

The bill has been tabled.

Freshman political science and prelaw student Alex Seidleck said at the time that she had several uncomfortable encounters that put her off working out at a gym. If she had a safer space, she would train more often, she said. Promoting accessibility to physical health is the goal of gyms, but they are not enough when women want to grow strong safely.

“I have no problem going in there and acknowledging that I’m the only girl and I’m going to turn heads,” May said. “But…as a newbie, I think that can be extremely intimidating for a lot of women.”

May said a more informative and beginner-friendly environment could excite more women and make them feel more comfortable. So many people, she says, walk into the gym and don’t know where to start.

Instead of feeling supported to begin their journey, they give up before they can even begin.

“Do not understand too big.”

May is determined to one day enter a bodybuilding competition.

She lifts weights five days a week and regularly tracks her macronutrients. Above all, the lifestyle associated with weightlifting is something that makes her feel better, both mentally and physically.

The beauty standard, she said, is moving away from the stereotypical quest to be as thin as possible.

But as weightlifting becomes more of a trend, May said, what women actually want to look like becomes a gray area. Just because beauty standards are changing doesn’t mean things are perfect — not by a long shot.

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May describes herself as having “bulkier” musculature, which she struggles with.

“A lot of girls have approached me in the past and said… ‘I don’t really want to be like you,'” May said. “I’ve heard that probably 50 times in my life. There is a huge stigma behind the fact that lifting will make you bulky.

Roberts said more content online these days, especially on TikTok, promotes muscle building. However, there is still a long way to go to achieve fair representation of women who lift weights.

“I feel like for women, there aren’t a lot of big, super-muscled influencers out there to show that it’s okay…to have nice big muscles,” Roberts said. “It’s mainly about being slim and small and not taking up a lot of space.”

Although online fitness content is intended to be considered “motivational”, studies show that young people who regularly view health or fitness content online are more likely to have a disorder. feed.

A study compels readers to consider Instagram’s format – an image-dominated platform where users interact with content largely because of its visual appeal. It is not a text-based platform; we focus less on what the poster says and more on what the image shows us.

Therefore, it is easy for “feel good” messages, which are often not based on scientific evidence or professional advice, to gain a nod of approval strictly based on what users see. – which can be a toned stomach, a dynamic nutrition infographic or hearty plates. full of nothing but chicken and rice.

Discovery Balance

Roberts chooses never to look at the number on the scale.

She goes to the gym three to five times a week. She tracks her calories to make sure she gets enough protein, but doesn’t follow a strict diet. Her overall goal is “to be stronger,” something she said she measures by how she feels rather than by her reflection in the mirror.

“#food” is the 25th most popular hashtag on Instagram, and “#fitness” comes in at 30th. Photos of foods perceived as “healthy”, however, are most popular when posted with this tag. Studies show that 42% of consumers use social media for advice on what to eat.

Instagram use is also found to be associated with a greater tendency to exhibit orthorexic behaviors.

The National Eating Disorder Association defines Orthorexia Nervosa as an “obsession with proper or ‘healthy’ eating”. “Food options are not available. They may also obsessively follow the advice of “health” blogs on social media.

The more people post about this type of lifestyle, May said, the more toxic it becomes. For herself, being healthy is all about balance, and it can look very different to people.

“There’s no one definition of (being healthy),” May said. “Personally, for me, living a healthy life is about being mentally happy and content with myself and feeling good physically. I don’t necessarily trust the number on the scale or whether I’m eating healthy even for days in a row. …it’s a matter of balance.

About Keith Johnson

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