Get Physical, But Not With Others


One last thought about the meat market. No, I'm not talking about your local deli counter or butcher shop. I'm talking about health clubs — and the testosterone and estrogen that fills them.

Ever since the fitness industry began booming in the 1980s, many health clubs have had the reputation of being more than a place to get fit. More akin to the nightclub scene than gym class, clubs in the 1980s were the place to see and be seen. In fact, many a relationship has blossomed — and others perhaps withered — at a health club.

As clubs changed over the years and, hopefully, welcomed more “normal” folks in their doors, this stereotype has become less common. Members now join clubs to make friends and get healthy — not just to find their next hot date.

However, some stereotypes die hard. About a month ago, I attended a group exercise class that combined lower- and upper-body weightlifting for a quick workout. Due to the 30-minute format, the instructor urged us to use heavier weights. At first, I thought using the heavy weights was what drew the large number of men into the classes. (The male-to-female ratio was about 1 to 5, much higher than your average group ex class.) I soon learned otherwise.

During the warm-up, the instructor told us that moments before class, she ripped a hole in her shorts while doing squats. The instructor had thankfully changed into new shorts after the incident but still gave details of exactly where the old pair ripped and why. Then, about halfway through the class, to the tune “The Humpty Dance,” the females in the class did about 100 laying hip thrusts while almost all the men in the class craned their necks around to watch the females do, as the band Digital Underground would say, “the humpty hump.” As if that wasn't enough, the cool-down consisted of some more provocative stretches, held for extended periods of time. Even members outside the group ex room came to the studio's windows to watch.

I thought I was in the class to tone up, but I guess others may have been looking for more than that. I thought the days of the health club/nightclub were pretty much over, but apparently they're thriving at some facilities, including mine.

Here's a note to club operators: be careful. Not everyone — male or female — appreciates the extra attention. Sure, most of your members are adults and should behave themselves, but they don't always. Discourage members from drooling over the ladies in the group exercise room and consider creating a dress policy for your club. At one university where I used to teach, all students had to wear a T-shirt and shorts — no skimpy tank tops allowed. Although some students grumbled, many more said they felt more comfortable in an environment that was less focused on their physical attributes — or lack thereof.

Take a trip around your facility and ask a few members if they feel like they're on display. If so, make some changes. Leave the meat market-type environment for the nightclub — or better yet, the grocery store.

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