One last thought about double standards. In the past few months, I've been hitting the gym pretty hard. I recently signed up to run a half marathon, and because the February weather has been frightful, the treadmill and I have become BFFs. Week after week, I'm putting in hours at the gym, in addition to my regular time there teaching group exercise.
Although I used to be an afternoon-workout girl, I've recently transitioned to a morning sweat-session devotee. Since I've been going before work, my new routine requires that I shower at the health club. I belong to a large national chain that isn't bare bones, nor is it luxurious. The locker room is clean with name-brand soap in the shower, but it's nothing to write home about. It also has private showers with stalls and accompanying doors, but no hook for your clothes or towel. Generally, though, I'm pleased with the locker room for the $35-a-month membership fee.
Since I tend to get bored running so much, my husband has started accompanying me in the morning. Because the gym is also on his way to work, he showers there, too. But his shower experience is drastically different from mine. In fact, the first time he got ready for work there, he came out of the men's locker room with a bewildered look on his face. His one question? "Um, does your locker room have doors on the showers?"
"Of course!" I told him. What place besides a sports team's locker room doesn't have private showers? Apparently mine, he said. Yes, the showers each have a stall, so there's no mass showering area, but the stalls have no doors or curtains for privacy. My husband's obvious question was, "Why have a 'private' shower stall without doors?"
Good question. We asked a staff member, and her only answer was, "That's just how it is," along with a mention that staff members who have to do locker-room checks find it uncomfortable, too. This mainstream club was trying to market to those trying to lose weight, especially to obese individuals. I somehow find it doubtful that those people who are already afraid to come into the gym and work out would want to shower without any privacy.
Sure, stereotypically, women usually enjoy more privacy than men. But if my husband, who is in darn good shape with 6 percent body fat, and fully clothed staff members feel uncomfortable in the locker room, then I guarantee they're not the only ones. Can you imagine how someone with 46 percent body fat feels getting down to his skivvies in front of the guys who were just benching 200 pounds in the weight room?
If clubs truly want to attract the virtually untapped deconditioned market, they have to change every aspect of their facility to make it more welcoming and friendly. It has to be addressed at every level of the business. From how welcoming your front-desk staff is, to member group exercise programming that isn't just for your hard-core exercisers, to doing basic tutorials on how to start up a treadmill or set up a cable-crossover correctly, clubs need to reexamine their practices. Hold a sensitivity training for your staff to make them understand what it might be like to be overweight and self-conscious working out with others.
Be sure to focus your services equally on both males and females. Male members can be just as shy about undressing in front of others as women are, and they deserve the same amount of respect and attention. My husband has recently been looking into joining another facility, which happens to have personal showers in both the women's and men's locker rooms. Coincidence? I think not.