The Gym Divide


I, a sedentary book worm, have become an avid exerciser. I have been a walker since college days, but a few years ago, my muscle-head husband introduced me to weight lifting. Twice a week, I visit the gym to push and pull my way to a better me.

I like weight lifting for many reasons. I am getting stronger. Need to move large trays loaded with hotdogs for students on Games Day? No problem! I have more energy during the day. And, oh yes, my clothes fit better.

I also hope I am doing long-term good for my body. Loss of muscle and bone mass begins early – and let’s not even mention loss of brain cells. Exercise is good for the brain, and weight-bearing exercise builds muscle and bone.

When I started lifting, I discovered there were male and female sides of the gym. And I am a little lonely for female company on the weight side of the gym. While women occupy the treadmills and elliptical machines, few approach the weights. On the “male side” of the gym, I can usually find a few petite co-eds and one serious female lifter, all younger than I. The men are very polite, almost courtly, as I skirt their heavy bars to reach the seven and ten pound weights. I fight the urge to call to my sisters, “Hey, come on in. The water – or rather, the metal – is fine!”

Yesterday, the high school physics teacher told me that his class was discussing leverage, and he used the shot put as an example. He also mentioned that Ms. Jones was a shot putter in college. One of the students immediately asked, “The librarian?!!!” (Stop giggling, Michele. Gentle reader, you would have to see me to understand. As one friend said, “You could be the shot put!”) The teacher chuckled; the class cracked up. “Now stop and think about that. . . . No, not the librarian. The biology teacher.”

As you may have surmised, I am rather small-boned and thin. While I have no interest in bulking up, there are distinct advantages to using the male side of the gym. The weights have done a lot for me (see above). I might be mistaken for a middle-distance runner. But no one would ever mistake me for a body builder. Or a shot putter.

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