Women in Austin have been flocking to women's only gyms in search of comfort and support while exercising.
Story by Marina Marquez
Women-only gyms rose in popularity in 1992 with the creation of Curves, a women's-only gym that focuses on weight loss and guidance and strength training. Curves currently has 600 locations across the United States and has led to different gyms focused on different types of exercise--all women’s-only spaces. Boxing Babes in Austin is one of these gyms. When you walk in, the first thing that stands out is the children’s play center in the corner. Beside the door stands a giant illustration of a woman wearing boxing gloves and ready to fight. This gym is dedicated to women from every walk of life and from ages ten to fifty years old. The instructors are women, the owner is a woman and the members of the gym are all women.
In a study done by fitness company FitRated, 65 percent of women say they feel some level of discomfort or fear of being judged when attending a traditional gym. In comparison, only 35 percent of men feel the same way. This is one of the reasons that Boxing Babes was founded -- to create a space where women could exercise and learn to box without male pressure.
The instructors are a large part of the environment of the gym, and at Boxing Babes, they contribute to the feeling of comfort and hard work. Instructor Ashley Bazan started at the gym cleaning for a reduced membership price, then eventually became a class instructor. She says she loves a woman-centered gym because she feels she is able to focus on bettering herself as a boxer without the added pressure of being one woman among a lot of men. “It’s definitely different training with all females versus being the one female in a male gym,” Bazan says. “Everyone is just here to support each other, no one’s here to bring anyone down.”
This sisterhood is something that helps Iliana Salinas overcome the intimidation that comes with going to the gym, also known as “gymtimidation,” according to Planet Fitness, a gym chain that focuses their advertising around creating a non-intimidating space. Salinas, a member of Boxing Babes, says it is this supportive and all-female atmosphere that makes her want to keep coming back long after her first class. “I just feel a lot more empowered when I’m around other women, and they’re all strong,” Salias says. “ I do feel more comfortable with it being an all-female gym, you don’t get judged.”
Being judged is not the only thing that women experience in co-ed gyms. Experienced powerlifter and UT professor of kinesiology Kimberly Beckwith says when she first joined the powerlifting world, she saw very few women at competitions or in gyms. Now, she says more women are joining in on the sport. “Maybe those who were not training before are choosing to come out and train with other women,” Beckwith says. “They feel more confident when there’s only women around.”