For some members of our community, the Concord Academy fitness center serves as a safe space. However, many feel intimidated by the culture in the fitness center, preventing them from using the space. This raises questions about fitness culture at CA: do all members of our community feel the fitness center is a welcoming environment? Do people feel uncomfortable in this space?

To help answer these questions, I sent an anonymous form out to the entire student body, asking them to reflect on their experiences in the CA gym. The majority of students feel that the fitness center is a safe place, with 61.9% of those surveyed agreeing that it is a safe/inclusive environment. “People there are super supportive and really nice,” one student reported about their experience.  When asked about their favorite aspect of the gym, another student shared that they appreciate “the way people encourage you, no matter how much you’re lifting/what you’re doing.” 

Many CA students enjoy using the fitness center, with one student sharing that, “It is a fun activity to do with friends,” said one student. “Going with friends and getting stronger together while listening to the Rock and laughing!” shared another about their favorite aspect of this space. 

Students who reported feeling welcome in the CA gym also shared that this is in part because it is not usually crowded. “I like that there aren't usually too many people in the gym when I go, it makes me feel comfortable in the gym, and that people are open to trying the gym with me, and learning how to lift,” said one student about their experience. 

However, many students also reported feeling hesitant to use the fitness center, with 76.2% of those surveyed sharing that they have felt intimidated to enter the gym. When asked why they feel this way, one student reported that “I fear I might be judged.” Another student shared that they are intimidated by “the idea that a select type of person can/are allowed to go to the gym.” 

The survey results also demonstrate that underclassmen tend to feel less comfortable at the gym than 11th and 12th graders. “When I was an underclassman, I was scared to use the gym because I was intimidated by the upperclassmen,” reported one student. “It was very uncomfortable until I became a senior,” said another. Additionally, some of those surveyed stated that their gender identity makes them feel more hesitant to enter the gym. “Now that I’m older, I feel much less intimidated, but being a woman and entering the gym, I often used to feel uncomfortable or that I wasn't doing things right,” indicated one student. When asked why they do not feel comfortable in the CA gym, another individual shared, “I personally dislike the people who frequent the CA gym - also, I am a woman.” This relates to the idea that only a specific type of person can use the gym. Many feel that this is a safe space only for male students who look a certain way. 

Although many CA students do feel that the fitness center is a supportive and encouraging environment, there should definitely be a push to make this space more accessible to beginners, underclassmen, and people all across the gender spectrum. Some students are already pushing for this, for example, groups such as Femme Weightlifting help to empower all students to use the gym, creating a space where they feel encouraged and supported. There are so many ways that we can work to help people feel more comfortable in this space, allowing the gym culture to become more welcoming to all members of our community.