Some women avoid using campus gyms for personal or religious reasons. PHOTO: Natalia Balcerzak

Work it, girl!

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By Beza Getachew

Second-year Ryerson student, Safia Weheliye, has never used the gym facilities on campus.

She would like to, but religious beliefs and personal preferences restrict her from doing so.

“I’ve never gone, simply because I don’t feel comfortable doing gym when there are guys,” she said.

According to the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU), accessibility at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC) and the Recreation and Athletics Centre (RAC) is an ongoing concern for some students.

This past summer, the RSU began working on the Women’s-Only Gym Time campaign – an initiative to create female-only hours at both the MAC and RAC to address this issue.

“We’ve heard from folks that identify themselves as women on campus that there’s an interest in having more women-only gym times and workout space,” said Melissa Palermo, RSU president.

The campaign landed the RSU a meeting with athletics to discuss the concerns.

The RAC pool currently offers women’s-only free swim time three hours a week. For an extra fee on top of the $126 that students are required to pay for access to campus gym facilities, women can also sign up for female-only swimming lessons or take part in an instructional class called “Women on Weights.” But some students think that the provided hours are not enough.

For females who are unable to use the facilities on campus, the nearest women’s-only gym off campus is Curves on Bay and Gerrard streets, which requires a six-month commitment and costs $59.80 per month. FitSanity, another women’s only gym on Church Street, offers unlimited classes with no commitment for $249 per month.

There is no guarantee that more female-only hours will be secured at Ryerson gyms. But in the meantime, the RSU has created a temporary solution.

On Nov. 1, the campaign organized the first of four women’s-only yoga class in the Student Campus Centre. The event drew 14 women, including Weheliye.

“I loved it,” said Weheliye. “The whole point of the women’s-only campaign is so Muslim women and women who don’t feel comfortable doing gym while there are men around can have time to do it and have fun.”

Third-year social work student, Daniela Glaser, is working on the campaign through her involvement with Racialised Students’ Collective and believes more women only hours at the gyms would create a safer environment.

“When you’re in a gym and surrounded by males and, let’s say, doing positions in a yoga class or on certain machines, you feel uncomfortable,” said Glaser.

Glaser has used the gym on campus once, but like Weheliye, would use the facilities more if the campaign succeeds and is able to secure additional women-only hours.

“I think it’s a fair thing to fight for,” she said.

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