If you haven’t hung out at a gym or fitness center lately, it’s time for another look. We still have a long way to go, but many gyms are changing in ways that make them safer, more welcoming spaces for women in midlife.
Here are a few pleasant surprises that gyms have in store for you.
Cardio Equipment That Won’t Bore You to Tears
Many gyms have upgraded to treadmills and other machines that sync to your phone, letting you indulge in your favorite electronic escape while you burn off calories. If you prefer, you can program the built-in display screens to take you on virtual journeys through different scenic settings, like a beach or mountain trail.
Need more of a challenge? Most cardio equipment includes options for variable routines with changes in speed, slope or intensity. You can choose routines that match your own fitness level.
Workouts are getting safer, more effective, and less cumbersome thanks to innovative technologies that are popping up in gyms all over the country. “So many things make training easier and faster than it used to be,” says Robert B. Foster, owner of RBF Fitness and Nutrition in Providence, Rhode Island, and host of the Shut Up and GRIND motivational podcast.
Heart-rate monitors are built into many cardio machines, so you can be sure you’re working hard enough, but not too hard. Some gyms also include innovations like movement-tracking wearable tech or smart mirrors, giving you real-time feedback to help you or your trainer see whether you’re doing a move correctly.
If you have all-too-vivid memories of trying to adjust weight machines without crushing your fingers, you’ll love the next generation of electronic strength training equipment. The amount of resistance is digitally controlled, and the system stores your settings, adjusting the challenge level as you improve.
Male-dominated fitness spaces don’t always feel welcoming to women in midlife, and all-female gyms are on the rise. As Chika Ekemezie points out in a 2021 article for Vox, women-only gyms aren’t a perfect solution for everyone. Some of them have limited equipment choices that don’t offer enough of a challenge for advanced lifters. But if you feel safer and more comfortable training in a women-only environment, these venues are a great option.
More Emphasis on Diversity and Inclusion
There’s plenty of room for improvement, but many fitness spaces are stepping up their efforts to serve clients of all ages, genders, shapes, and sizes. Big names like Gold’s Gym have publicly committed to diversity, at least on paper, and Anytime Fitness recently ran an ad campaign showing diverse groups of people working out. In some areas, you even can find gyms built by and for underrepresented groups.
Personal Trainers for Every Body
Many gyms have trainers available, either for an extra fee or as part of your membership. Personal training is nothing new, but the industry has evolved beyond the stereotypical bootcamp tyrants who push you until you’re in agony. Many trainers hold special certifications for working with different populations, including women in menopause.
Robert Foster recommends looking for an experienced professional who’s certified through an accredited organization. Top-tier certifying organizations include the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). Before you make a choice, talk with the trainers at the gym you’re considering. Ask them about their qualifications and their experience working with women in your demographic.
“The price can put people off,” says Foster, “but you don’t need a trainer forever. If you work with one for just thirty days, it’s going to completely change the way you train.”
Cleaner, More Sanitary Conditions
The sweaty, stinky, scary gyms of pre-COVID days aren’t totally gone, but both staff and customers at many fitness spaces are more germ-conscious than they used to be. It’s still a good idea to take your own precautions if you’re at high risk, such as working out at off-peak times, especially during cold and flu season.
Smaller, Boutique-Style Fitness Studios
A fitness studio is a perfect option for women who want a more personalized, less intimidating experience than a big gym offers. At many studios, a trainer will work with you one on one or in a small group setting. Studios come with a higher price tag, but if you’re just getting started or have special fitness concerns, they can be more than worth the investment.
Finding Your Fit
You won’t see every feature you want at every gym. Think about what’s most important to you, then check out a few different spaces. More than the fancy amenities, pay attention to what your own senses and intuition are telling you. Do you feel safe, comfortable, and energized? Does the vibe motivate you to work out harder or make you want to hurry home to your couch?
The best part of getting back to the gym might have nothing to do with innovative technology or inclusive spaces. “One of the most pleasant surprises is that people find they’re stronger than they think,” says Foster. “Don’t worry about the end results. Worry about crushing each day. In six months you’re going to love where you are.”