Separation in the gym highlights incorrect expectations of gender roles

The Geneseo Workout Center has two main divisions: the guys' room and the girls' room. For any unaware of this divide, the guys typically control the weight room, which features treadmills, a wide range of free weights and all of the nautilus machines. Girls are more apt to frequent the cardio room that is stocked with elliptical machines, stair climbers, stationary bikes, rowers, arc trainers, medicine balls and a small collection of hand weights.

A trip to the gym the other day drew my attention to the sharp divide between the sexes between rooms. Why, especially, is it that women stay almost exclusively in the cardio room? The answer is fairly simple: ourselves. The stigma against a majority of women really hitting the gym and taking advantage of all its capacities is one that originates from no one but us. I'll try to avoid over-done "girl power" sentiments, but seriously, ladies. Pull yourselves together.

This annoyance of mine originally sprung up after a comment from a friend after seeing me look up proper form on Bodybuilding.com. Normally I have no problem laughing along with jokes at my expense, but this one struck a nerve. What's so wrong about trying to know what I'm doing? This seems to be a common problem that, now that I'm looking for it, is popping up everywhere.

Many girls – though certainly not all – typically are unsure how to correctly use much of the exercise equipment in the weight room. If we use it incorrectly or use it with bad form there is a certain expectation that everyone else in the surrounding area is being judgmental. Even if we know what we're doing the amount of weight being used may be much lower than that of all the guys nearby. This uncertain self-consciousness is crippling.

I've heard from far too many girls that they would rather stick to the cardio room, where they are comfortable, secure in their knowledge of what to do and removed from most judgment. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, at face value. If you have no intention of getting stronger or toning up, by all means, continue to swing away on your elliptical. If you are really looking to become fit and strong, however, it's time to face up to whatever insecurities you may have.

So what if you don't know what you're doing? There are thousands of resources that detail the best form and exercises needed to attain any goal. Check out a book, read a fitness magazine or go online to any number of sites, many designed specifically for women.

If there is still hesitation, consider all those guys that spend hours in the gym. How did they learn proper technique and form? They don't inherently possess that knowledge any more than women do. They had to learn it as well. So why not ask a guy friend for some tips or grab a gym buddy who has a little more experience under his – or her – belt.

There is no reason women should be afraid of going in the weight room and doing their thing. You may not know exactly what you're doing at first, but who really does? It takes practice to gain experience. So why not take a chance? Just go for it.

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