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How Do You Deal with Harassment At the Gym?

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

a woman at the gym being watched

Ever walked into a gym, ready to crush your workout, only to feel the weight of unsolicited attention instead of just the dumbbells?

Many Vancouver women are having to re-strategize - changing their routines, tweaking their outfits or even hopping over to a different gym.

For many people, the gym has become a place of unease due to unwanted attention and, in worse cases, outright stalking.

But why is this happening and when it does, how should you deal with harassment at the gym?

What Constitutes Harassment at a Gym?

Harassment in Vancouver gyms can manifest in several ways.

1. Receiving Uninvited Advances: From casual chats turning invasive to unwanted flirting or physical touches, these encounters may turn into sexual harassment scenarios.

2. Being Persistently Stared At: Many people, particularly women, voice discomfort about being intently watched while they exercise.

3. Being Approached: Regardless of intent, unwarranted advice is often demeaning, implying women lack workout expertise.

4. Sneaky Photo-taking: Disturbingly, creepers have been caught attempting to photograph women mid-exercise.

Types Of Harassment

General Harassment: Harassment overall involves acts of violence, intimidation and any inappropriate behavior targeted at an individual by another member.

This can range from verbal abuse and threats to more subtle actions like persistently following someone around, continually monitoring their exercises or making them feel closely watched and uncomfortable.

Inappropriate behavior and harassment can also include making unwanted remarks about someone's physique.

Sexual Harassment: Beyond verbal comments, sexual harassment is when someone inappropriately touches somebody with sexual implications. The UN defines sexual harassment closely here.

Stalking: Stalking is behavior that makes you apprehensive for your personal safety, lacks any valid reason and typically, this behavior occurs multiple times.

But if the behavior is explicitly menacing, even a single instance might qualify as criminal harassment. Stalking includes following you, your family or friends, watching you or tracking where you go, leaving threatening voice messages or sending you gifts you don't want.

a stressed woman

Staying Safe at the Gym: What To Do

Safety Precautions:

  1. Develop Instinct: You may be concentrating on your workout, but try to stay alert and notice if someone frequently watches or follows you. This way you can stop the behavior early on and make sure no one is following you home.

  2. Don't Engage: Wear headphones and minimize eye contact at the gym to avoid unwanted interactions and conversations.

  3. Workout Buddy System: Improve your safety by working out with a friend. It's good for your motivation, your safety and for your mental wellbeing!

  4. Be Careful Of Your Belongings: Secure your belongings in a locker and minimize the personal information you share out.

Why Are Women Ditching The Gym?

The pandemic ushered in an era of at-home workouts, and many women discovered they preferred the comfort of their living room to a gym environment (especially when considering the unfortunate reality of gym harassment).

Here's why more and more women are making the shift to home workouts:

1. No More Pervs: An uninterrupted workout without the discomfort of unwarranted stares or approaches is a significant win.

2. Save A Boatload of Money: Gym fees are VERY expensive. You can save $1000's each year and put this money towards other things that will help you reach your fitness goals and still come out financially ahead.

3. Invest In Home Equipment: Don't let the upfront cost of gym gear fool you. In the long run, buying your own equipment is the financially smart move. These home treadmills exploded in popularity during the pandemic and are one of the reasons why many women have ditched the gym altogether.

You can go for a morning walk avoiding the rain, darkness and creeps. Better yet, you can burn calories whilst watching TV or even have a sneaky work meeting.

4. You Save Time: It's easy to fit in a yoga, cardio or weights routine before a busy day if you eliminate travel time. You can triple your time saving buy doing chores in between sets for maximum efficiency.

What Can Your Gym Do For Women?

Gone are the days of passive posters and hushed whispers at staff meetings. Bold seminars and open discussions should spark conversations about making policies to encourage respect and boundaries within gym walls.

When Vancouver's fitness centers provide environments free of harassment, they pave the way for women, and you can nip potential escalations in the bud, ensuring every person's physical and emotional wellbeing.

Another tip: Gym layouts, when planned thoughtfully, can deter unwanted incidents. Open, airy designs can reduce hidden corners and, by extension, hidden threats.

By actively addressing and stopping gym harassment, we're not just improving the fitness industry – we're making a statement about the kind of community we aspire to be – respectful, supportive and harmonious.


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