Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Creating a women-friendly workout space

Thursday, December 16, 2021

A post on Facebook’s Living at Southeast page sparked the conversation of having a women-friendly space at the SEMO Recreation Center.

Agribusiness Animal Science and Agribusiness Business Communications major Zoey Zahradka was the one to originally make the post asking for a more comfortable place to use workout equipment at the Recreation Center, which soon gained traction through shares, likes and comments.

“I was talking to some of my coworkers who have also experienced the uncomfortability of trying to workout in a room full of men, and they suggested I make the post on Living at Southeast,” Zahradka said.

The post generated many comments from other women and non-binary people who agreed that a space away from the dominanlty male weight room would encourage much more participation in exercise opportunities at the Rec Center.

“Some of the thoughts that run through my head while in the weightroom full of men are things like ‘Are they looking down on me? Do I need to cover something up? What am I going to wear to the gym to maybe bring less attention to myself?’” Zahradka said. “Basically, what can I do to minimize myself and make myself smaller in that situation?”

Zahradka said she believes this is something that women and non-binary people should not have to deal with when wanting to go to the gym to better their own health.

Social Work junior Hailie Green has been frequenting the SEMO Rec Center during her time as a student, making her fairly comfortable at the gym, but she understands the overwhelming feeling of such a male driven environment.

“My main concern is for the other girls that are working out because you can see when they are uncomfortable,” Green said. “It is very blatantly obvious through their faces and their body language.”

Both Zahradka and Green believe that there are ways to create a comfortable and safe working environment for everyone.

Director of Rec Services Eric Redinger agrees that his main goal is to make the Rec Center more appealing to people who may feel intimidated, whether that be based on gender or just somebody who is brand new to this environment.

Although it is not possible to make a gender-only space due to regulations in Title IX, Redinger suggested alternatives that can create a comfortable workout environment away from the weight room.

“Each of our studio rooms upstairs have their own niche feel to them,” Redinger said. “Studio one is a jungle gym and plyometrics room. Studio two is a boxing style gym, with battle ropes and a tire flip machine. And studio three is another dumbbell room with fixed barbells and a cable station.”

The studios upstairs do not include anything heavier than 60 pounds, which is an attempt to steer away those heavy weight lifters that can be intimidating and uncomfortable for some people, Redinger said.

Some of the people that engaged with Zahradka’s post mentioned creating a group of women and non-binary people to encourage and support each other through their exercise journey at the Rec Center.

Redinger proposed that this idea would be perfect for the unique option the Rec Center provides for a fitness-on-demand class, which allows for individuals or groups to schedule their own private times to enjoy a pre-recorded workout class of any genre in a comfortable and positive environment.