Opinion | Going to the gym is a key step in destroying the patriarchy

By Jessica Snyder, Senior Staff Columnist

There’s no denying that the fitness industry has become extremely popular during the pandemic. 

While there are plenty of on-campus student recreation centers, the one I frequent the most is always “The Pete,” or Baierl Student Recreation Center at the Petersen Events Center. It seems like it’s everyone else’s favorite, too — even with the practically mandatory hike up Cardiac Hill, it’s still always packed. 

I think something like a crowded gym up a steep hill intimidates a lot of people, especially beginners. All of the on-campus gyms are accessible with your student ID and don’t cost any additional money, which is why going to the gym is an easy choice for students. 

The summer is one of the only times to escape this rush, being that fall and spring semester classes aren’t going on at that time. If you don’t stay for the summer, you will have to find your confidence in the gym amongst big crowds of people. 

Furthermore, the gym is especially intimidating for parties that aren’t cisgender males. While attendance rates are split about 50/50 between the sexes in all gyms, weight training is still something that is predominantly male-based

Regardless of when you decide to start going to the gym — whether it’s crowded or a ghost town in the summer — I think it’s time for those who aren’t cisgender males to start going to the gym in order to destroy the patriarchy. If not only for that, then also to benefit themselves.

Learning “how to gym” is something that took me a while to understand, but I think I’m getting the hang of it. I wasn’t getting enough calories, and definitely not nearly enough protein. I then stopped cardio, but continued my long full-body workouts. I have now settled on a split of the muscle groups for each day with guidance from my Army gym-rat boyfriend, spending less than an hour at the gym. 

It might take a while to figure out what’s best for you, but the best way to learn is to make mistakes. In general, you can’t go wrong if you’re eating right and spending about an hour of your time daily at the gym. 

After I started to know what I was doing in the gym, I became more confident in myself. I felt better about my body, knowing that the work I was putting into it was good. I don’t exactly look the way I want to yet, but that’s okay. It’s a work in progress, and I’ve learned that more and more by going to the gym. 

It turns out the gym isn’t such a scary place after all, especially the ones at Pitt. You can have confidence in knowing that everyone there is a student at the same place that you are. I haven’t had a bad experience at any of the student gyms — everyone is doing their own thing. If you ask someone to use something or how many sets they have left, most people are nice and try to help you out. 

Furthermore, there are a wide range of identities that make up the fitness community at the Pitt gyms. There are people of different genders, sexual orientations and skill levels there and no one ever judges. I truly think that student gyms are some of the most diverse places on campus. 

Going to the gym on a regular basis has helped me reach goals in more ways than one, even when I’m not at the gym. For one, I’ve definitely gotten better about my eating habits. I used to pig out on a lot of junk food. I was filling up on empty calories, but I still wasn’t even getting enough to maintain my body weight. I felt like crap, but my body didn’t reflect that. Although it might not be for everyone, I use a basic calorie counter now to make sure I’m getting all the nutrition I need in a day so that I can keep going to the gym. 

I usually go to the gym with the three hours that I have in between my classes. Going to the gym has helped me keep a steady routine for myself throughout the week. This little break that I have in between my classes allows me to use some energy to burn off stress and get ready for my next class. After that, I have the rest of the day allotted to study or go to my club meetings. 

As far as what I actually want to look like, fitness-wise, I have to set goals in order to reach them. If I want to look more defined, I have to have the dedication to go to the gym nearly every day. It’s work, but it’s taught me that nothing is achieved without putting a little effort into it.

I think that being strong when you’re not a cisgender male scares people. Being strong and muscular is something that is often attributed to testosterone, but it doesn’t have to be. Whether you go to the gym for your health, confidence or simply just to have a routine, it’s all welcome here. 

A gap still exists currently when it comes to the demographics of sexes that go to the gym, but it all starts with knowing that a crowded fitness center isn’t as intimidating as it appears. The first step to breaking this divide is walking in and owning it. 

Jessica Snyder primarily writes about the little things in life. Write to her at [email protected].