Gyms can be a daunting environment — the ‘scary weights area’ is something you’ll hear a lot of people talking about. But feeling intimidated by something isn’t an excuse to not give it a go.
Recently many women have been put off going to the gym because of the unwanted attention they receive, with platforms like TikTok helping their experiences go viral. We caught up with Myprotein PT Nerissa Shea to see how she would deal with unwanted attention and to pick her brain for any advice she has for feeling empowered in the gym.
“My friend came up with this movement. It's called #ownyourspace and it’s all about empowering women in the gym.”
Nerissa is all about mindset. If you believe something to be true, then it becomes true. Let’s put that in a gym context. Whether you’re confident or not, strut into the gym, pick up some weights and #ownyourspace. You’ll feel great. And remember, no one is even watching you anyway.
We asked if there’s a simple way to improve confidence in the gym.
“If you need to use a machine, go and ask the person how many sets they’ve got left. This might seem really small, but the more you do these things, the more you feel a little bit more empowered in the gym.”
Nerissa works with all sorts of clients — some confident, others not. She encourages them to speak to other people in the gym, ask them how long they’ll be on the beloved squat rack. Simple actions like this help her clients to own their space.
“No one else is entitled to be in there any more than you”
While Nerissa, luckily, has never experienced any unwanted attention in the gym, she sympathises with those who have.
“I think the best thing you can do if you don’t feel comfortable going up to the actual person who is doing it, go and let the management know, because it’s their job to actually make people feel comfortable in that gym.”
It can be daunting to report someone to management, but you’ve got to look out for yourself. And remember, if they’re making you uncomfortable, they’re probably doing the same to other people. This is another way you can #ownyourspace.
“Remember that you’re paying the same membership as someone else. No one else is entitled to be in there any more than you.”
You’re every bit as entitled to be there as someone else. And that includes your right to not be made to feel uncomfortable when you work out.
“Wear what you want”
It simply doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Your body is your space. Wear what you feel comfortable in, not what you think you think other people might want or expect you to wear. We've said it before and we’ll say it again:. #Ownyourspace.
“Wear what you want. There's this big movement at the minute ‘what do you need to wear a bikini?.’ A bikini body? No, you need a bikini and a body. You can wear whatever you want and whatever you’re comfortable wearing.”
Nerissa loves to see the confidence women gain by wearing whatever they want and owning it. She sees the gym as time for her body and her mental health, so that’s all she focuses on. She can’t afford to waste time worrying what anyone else thinks.
“It’s amazing when women have the confidence to strut into the gym in their shorts. All of this adds to feelings of self-confidence, but also to just realise you’re in there for you. If you have any unwanted attention, you shouldn’t have to go through that just because of what you’re wearing.”
“It's one of the most life- changing, empowering things you can do.”
As a dancer, Nerissa used to consider herself the ultimate cardio warrior. She’d punish herself on the treadmill day in and day out. But since she discovered weight training, she hasn’t looked back.
“I remember walking in and seeing the squat rack and thinking it was so scary. Then you get in it, and you do it and once you’ve done it once, you’re fine. It's one of the most life- changing, empowering things you can do.”
Now, as a strength-training-lover and PT, Nerissa encourages her clients to hit the squat rack immediately. And what a shock, they love it.
Take Home Message
#Ownyourspace. Whether it’s strutting up to the squat rack like you own the place, wearing your shorts for no reason other than wanting to or reporting unwanted attention to the manager. Each and every little step you take towards owning your space in the gym will only add to feelings of empowerment. Put your headphones in and squat your worries away.
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