Inside a gym, there are, at times, sharp divisions and self-imposed segregations that separate the different rooms. There's no real logic to the phenomenon. It's driven simply by fear – not of the people who occupy the different rooms, but of the exercises that take place in them.
The doors to health clubs are open to all who seek a healthier life. Wander through a gym and you'll find a melting pot of races, religions, ages, genders, backgrounds, and political and social beliefs. That's because none of those things matter inside the walls of a gym. All that's required is a desire for self-improvement.
But once you get inside the gym, there are, at times, sharp divisions and self-imposed segregations that separate the different rooms. There's no real logic to the phenomenon that puts certain groups of people in one room and certain groups in another. It's driven simply by fear – not of the people who occupy the different rooms, but of the exercises that take place in them.
It's time to end this division and desegregate. Here are three places to start:
1. The free weight room. This the closest thing there is to a "man cave" in the gym. The bench presses and the power racks are male-dominated areas that can be intimidating to some women. In fact, when giving tours of my health club to potential members, it's not uncommon for women to look at the free weight area with its iron bars and heavy plate weights, and say to me, "Well, I'll never go into that room!"
That's a big mistake ladies. Barbells allow you to attempt powerful movements like squats, deadlifts, bench presses, military presses and bent rows. While all of these movements can be done with dumbbells, kettlebells and even some machines, barbells offer the most effective way to lift weights because of the dual grip (you can't lift as heavy safely with dumbbells or kettlebells) and the additional use of core muscles to keep you balanced (you don't get the same effect with machines).
These exercises should be embraced, not feared, by men, women and children. These are the movements upon which all other strength training exercises are based. You may need help learning proper form and you may not feel comfortable here in the beginning, but don't avoid this all-important area of your gym.
2. The group classroom. Just as many women avoid the weight room, many men avoid group exercise classes. Some feel the exercises in group classes are glorified dance moves meant to work up a sweat but not build strength.
Baloney! Truth is, many men can't handle a truly challenging group class because they're not used to the constant movement and the fatigue on the heart and lungs. Today's group classes include strength training moves done at a cardio pace, which can be an extremely difficult combination. The guy who has a workout consisting of doing 10-rep sets followed by a two-minute break should give group classes a try and see what intense exercise is really all about.
3. The treadmill (set to high speed). "Oh, I'm not a runner," is the excuse I hear when I challenge some of my members to crank up the treadmill speed beyond their comfort zone and switch from a fast walk to a jog or from a jog to a run. While it's true that some people, because of knee or back issues, probably shouldn't run, more people avoid running simply because it's hard.
If you're too out of shape to run for long stretches of time, run for one minute. Then the next time you work out, run for two minutes. Try to add 30 seconds each time after that. Build up you endurance over time.
So the next time you go to your gym, try entering a new room. You'll be amazed at what you can accomplish there.
Frank Shelton is a certified fitness trainer and owner of The Village Gym. He can be reached at (302) 376-3060 or firstname.lastname@example.org.