“Women on Weights” empowers women to reclaim the gym
Fitness program builds female students’ confidence in weight room
Ifedayo Balogun, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, didn’t feel confident in the weight room at first. She said that she felt intimidated by confident gym-goers who knew exactly how to navigate the room.
That changed after she joined AU’s Women on Weights program, which helped her navigate the weight room with a set routine that suited her workout style. Now, she said, intimidation doesn’t hold her back.
“There’s so many people in such a small, confined space,” Balogun said. “When you go in there and you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s very intimidating, especially with people who do know what they’re doing.”
The Women on Weights program was designed in 2016 to help women gain confidence in the weight room. Sessions were held on Feb. 27, March 6 and March 20 in the Cassell Gym for the spring 2019 semester and taught AU faculty and students the basics of weightlifting.
The first session began with a tour of the facilities and an in-depth look into the benefits of weightlifting. Participants learned about the varying intensity levels of weight training, the basics of form and use of machines.
For Emily Derbyshire, an AU alum, gym employee and participant in Women on Weights, the most valuable part of the opening session was learning what was fact and what was fiction when it comes to weightlifting.
“We talked about debunking the myth of becoming super bulky,” Derbyshire said. “I think that scares a lot of women away from weightlifting, but it really is important for your health.”
The second session reviewed the squat, bench and deadlift — three of the most important “powerlifting movements” according to Kline. The last session ended the program with a programming lesson, where women learned how to create their own, unique weightlifting routine. Kline said she wanted the participants to gain the confidence to tackle the weight room on their own.
“I hope they can...go right up to a machine or a dumbbell or barbell and just start lifting without hesitation,” she said.
Jenna Archer-Barone, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, started the program after a friend suggested it. A softball player of 14 years, Archer-Barone is no stranger to weight training, but she wanted to get back into it while at college.
“This program is important because it gives women the ability to know what they’re doing and feel confident and comfortable in a male-dominated area,” Archer-Barone said.
Research finds that women have lower testosterone levels and rarely “bulk up” like men who weight train do. The program encourages women to move past this myth and push themselves, Kline said.
“They think if they lift heavy they’re going to bulk up, get big and then, unfortunately, people are afraid they’re going to look masculine,” Kline said. “But I think weightlifting now is turning the tables—what does ‘looking like a woman’ mean? Why do we have to be put into this box?”
This article originally appeared in The Eagle's April 2019 print edition.