“No men, no make up, purely workouts!”

15 May 2019

Shannon, Reactive Training Gym Member Photograph: Cynthia Kimola

Women-only gyms in Glasgow

The NHS recommends adults get in 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week to stay healthy and happy. But, how to do it? Tackling your weekly quota for exercise in a gym is a fairly common way to achieve the goal. Glasgow is home to numerous gyms and recently a handful of sex-segregated gyms for women who prefer to work out comfortably in women-only gyms have popped up.

Glasgow has a mixture of women-only gyms and mixed gyms that offer separate female-only classes. One mixed gym that offers classes aimed specifically at women is Reactive Training Gym, located in Glasgow, which offers women-only training classes four times a week. Robert Clarkson, the owner, says he started the classes in 2015 after getting many requests from women to start some.

Robert said: “We are a gym for women who hate the gym and we had a lot of inquiries from women who didn’t feel comfortable training on weights in a mixed class, to set up a female only class for them.”

He continued: “These separate classes allow them to be comfortable with weights and we tailor the exercises to build confidence when doing tough circuits.”

Women only session at Reactive Training Gym. Photograph: Reactive Training Gym

Shannon Neil who has been attending the women-only classes at Reactive Training Gym for over a year now, says that she was not initially looking for a women-only class but while researching gyms, she came across Reactive Training Gym. She read reviews of the women-only classes and decided to try it out. She said:

“When I decided to lose my extra weight, I went to a regular gym alone to do workouts but I felt like I was not doing them correctly. I used to feel like when I [was] doing weights and people [were] looking at me, I didn’t know if they [were] watching me because I am girl or they [were] looking at me because I [was] doing it all wrong and before you know it I was focused on that and not on the training and that took away from my gym experience.”

She adds that she also felt a bit of isolation. “It was not easy and sometimes a bit intimidating to seek help from the instructors. But since coming here, even though it’s a group session, we are not so many and get personalised training as we do the classes and that’s what attracted me to it.”

Neil mentions that she was not confident and a bit nervous when she first joined thinking she wouldn’t be able to keep up, but Robert was able to adapt the exercises to her fitness level. She said: “Robert is a very good instructor as he goes around checking to ensure you are doing the exercises correctly with good form.

“Reactive Gym changed my life. I have lost over five stone since joining the gym. The workouts are adapted to you and tailor-made to suit you and your goals even though it is done in a group session.”

One thing Reactive Gym also strives to sustain is a team building spirit for all gym members with an array of activities outside the gym such as hiking. Neil added: “I love Reactive Gym as there is a sense of community. Here it feels more like a family and it’s really great for mental wellbeing as you are comfortable working out. We also know each other through the classes and have developed a friendship and encourage each other to go the extra mile.”

Robert, owner of Reactive Training Gym. Photograph: Cynthia Kimola

Robert trains the ladies and he says he has seen a lot of improvement with their esteem and confidence levels since they started their classes. Robert said: “Once they are able to lift weights and do things they were not able to do before, the confidence at the gym skyrockets and we see that transfer to other parts of their lives such as being more deliberate with their diet and they develop and maintain a healthier lifestyle.”

The other ladies I spoke to say they choose to attend female only classes or gyms because they do not feel judged. They feel all those in attendance are working towards a particular goal and they are doing it together.

“You don’t feel like someone is staring at you when you are working out. Sometimes it’s quite embarrassing as you don’t know if they’re checking you out or if they’re staring at you because you are doing it wrong,” said Neil. “It has changed my life. I have a little boy and I used to feel like I could not keep up with him, running around and playing with him. So since I have been able to lose the weight, I can do all that and much more with him.”

Val, Curves Coatbridge Manager. Photograph: Cynthia Kimola

Curves, in Coatbridge, is another women-only gym in Glasgow. It is part of  Curves International, Inc., the chain of fitness centres for women, known for its 30-minute circuit of cardio, strength and stretching training.

Curves Coatbridge manager, Val Docherty-Hayes, says at Curves, they celebrate non-scale victories and don’t only applaud a drop in weight but also celebrate other things like going down a dress size or being able to keep up with kids in the park without getting winded.

Their oldest member is 80 years old and the youngest is 15 years old.

Val explained: “We cater to a wide range of women with different needs and different bodies. Our women-only gym makes them feel more comfortable and that helps them to stick with their programme better. It’s a great thing.

“We have a mix, older ladies, younger ladies and we are all in different levels of fitness and come in different shapes and sizes and we all embrace and encourage each other. There’s no judgement. You do what you can and we cheer you on when you surpass your goals.”

Val shared a number of success stories from women who’ve attended Curves, like one of a 79-year-old woman who has been able to lose weight and increase her fitness level to the point where she no longer needs to take her diabetes medication. “I don’t think she would have attained that success if she were in a regular mixed gym. She is able to be among women and those closer to her age and push herself without feeling awkward.”

Curves is a fitness centre but it is also the place where great bonds of friendship can be forged. Fiona Grabiecc, a proud member and team leader, has been going to the gym  for four years and she says other than fitness, the women-only gym also has social benefits. “It’s not only concentrating on working out, we talk and share experiences and that helps us with our mental wellbeing as well.”

These women-only gyms offer a place where women are free to work out without feeling self-conscious about themselves or the opposite sex.

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