Four Ithaca College physical therapy seniors held the first-ever lifting clinic for women at the Fitness Center on April 17, in hopes of its being continued by other students in health-related fields for years to come.
As part of a volunteer venture to help the college community required for students in health fields, seniors Linda Annan, Ally Bartkowiak, Lisa Bates and Theresa Lau taught eight women proper lifting technique in the Fitness Center weight room. Their goal was to make women feel more comfortable using weights to get stronger in a traditionally male-dominated endeavor.
Annan said the motivation for the program came partly from her own observations and experiences with a strong gender divide between men and women in the gym. She said she constantly sees the majority of the men using the lifting equipment, while women use the cardio machines.
She said she feels comfortable on the lifting equipment because she knows what she is doing but that the male-dominated space could be intimidating for women who are less familiar with proper lifting technique.
“I’ve even gone in to lift myself, and you get dirty looks by guys, you know, they’re like, ‘This is my territory,’” she said. “We want to teach girls how to lift weights the right way, to get a good, full-body workout and not just like, ‘Oh, read Cosmo for the 10 best tips to get a better butt.’”
The group walked the women through the weight room, teaching proper technique, beginning with back squats and deadlifts, then moving on to the bench press and abdominals using free weights.
“Don’t be afraid to make noise,” Bates said to the women as they learned how to properly rerack the bar after a set. “Because I’m sure as hell all these dudes are making noise, too.”
For the lifting clinic to become a precedent, sophomore Nicole Veltri, a clinical health studies major, will be coordinating the program next year, with the idea of handing it down to a new group of students every year.
Veltri said the first time she realized the importance of making women feel confident lifting weights was when she overheard a conversation between two women at the Fitness Center. She said one woman told her friend she hated working out with her because her looks made her feel insecure.
“I think that everyone overall needs to take a step towards lifting more and not worrying about how they look, but how they feel,” she said. “The compliment should be, ‘You look a lot stronger, you look like you’re lifting more, you look like you’re smiling, you’re more comfortable,’ not, ‘Wow, you’re losing weight.’”
Senior Jaclyn Celona, who attended the event, said she appreciated it because she learned techniques she will now use regularly when she goes to the gym. She said the event also helped her feel less intimidated as an individual in the weight room, not just as a woman in the weight room.
“It’s really for yourself,” Celona said. “A lot of my friends use all the weights in there. I’ve just never felt comfortable with it.”
Jan Purdy, facilities attendant at the college, has worked with the students running the event through the Mind, Body and Me program, a program for faculty and staff at the college, helping them become healthier using campus resources, including students in the health fields.
Purdy said she was a swimmer for many years when she was younger but never learned how to lift. She said she appreciates the assurance she gained from knowing how to properly lift heavy weight.
“If you don’t know how to do it, you’re kind of intimidated about going in there, I mean there are a lot of guys in there,” she said. “This way, you can get an education on how to use some of the equipment without getting hurt.”
Veltri said she wants women to no longer feel intimidated by the weight room.
“There’s no reason to be nervous,” Veltri said. “It’s not a scary place to be. We’re all here to better ourselves and to feel good about ourselves, so we might as well embrace it.”