I Worked Out at a Women-Only Gym to See If

“The women would start giving me feedback and sharing their stories,” she said. “And even though we would run in the park, we were together—we felt safe. Although some men would stare or catcall, it didn’t matter. We were protected by one another.”

When rain forced the all-female running group’s session to a nearby bar one evening, the idea for a female society intertwined with a fitness studio was born.

“Whether they’re playing in a basketball league after work or doing business at the bar, men have long had access to this ‘Old Boy’s Network’ that women have been excluded from,” Shear explained. “When I saw our running group laughing, socializing, and networking well past midnight, I knew there was a need for this.”

And while Shear has been pushed by investors to make the facilities coed to attract a larger audience, she’s not interested in budging. Many of her clients would, quite literally, have no other place to exercise if Uplift disappeared—for some clients, religious reasons prevent them from exercising or removing certain articles of clothing in front of men. And whether her trainers are developing exercises tailored to women who are undergoing treatment for breast cancer or those who are pre- or post-natal, the studio is focused on serving the most underserved female segments.

Courtesy of the author

I took a class called Express, which combines the studio’s four signature workout styles into a single 60-minute high-intensity training session.

When class was about to start, 11 of us including myself (the classes are capped at that number) were ushered into a rectangular-sized studio lined with dumbbells, yoga mats, and a mirrored wall. Looking forward to an all-out HIIT weight training session, seeing the mats was a disappointment. That is, until I realized they’re pretty much just there to collect students’ sweat.

After a standard in-place cardio warm-up with jumping jacks and high-knees, we jumped right into our weight session. The instructor encouraged us to pick up two sets of weights, a heavy and a light set. And while I take frequent breaks when I lift on my own, our strokes were synced to the beat of the music—leaving me no time to rest and abnormally exhausted only 15 minutes into the workout.

The rest of the workout moved seamlessly from plyometrics like burpees, lunge jumps, and squat jumps, to abs sets, with an ounce of rest in between each (I think I sipped from my water bottle only once or twice). Of course, while there weren’t specified times for breaks, plenty of the other women in class took pauses on their own, and the instructor seemed to take no notice. I should also mention that she was emitting continuous positivity. There were no “punishments” for dropping to your stomach during a plank or failing to reach the specified number of repetitions in a set.

We finished with a series of yoga stretches to end the class—which I totally welcomed at this point.

Sweating it out with all women was inspiring, and I was grateful for the positive—and creep-free—atmosphere.

It should go without saying that not all men are chauvinists hell-bent on disrupting a woman’s workout flow. And to be fair, not all women are welcoming and nonjudgmental. But if you’ve ever been in an uncomfortable situation at the gym, or have been the recipient of feedback about your body (even if the intentions are good) when you’re just trying to lift some damn weights and get on with your day, you can imagine how refreshing it is to remove that part of the equation completely.

I received an amazing workout at Uplift, and I’ve also had amazing workouts in coed facilities with male instructors and gym-goers. But there was something innately special knowing I was sweating it out among like-minded individuals.

Also, any gym that stocks their cabinets with pinot noir is fine by me.

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