From hip thrusts to hanging-upside-down sit-ups, I do a lot of embarrassing moves in the gym. Even the humble squat is pretty awkward since I usually end up grunting, sweating, and shaking all while sticking my butt out as far as possible (and then wondering if my leggings have gone indecently sheer). Oh yeah, and I'm trying not to drop some very heavy weights on myself. So I'm just going to say this: Mid-squat is absolutely the worst time to approach any woman in a gym.
Yet the other day at the gym a man came up behind me, just as I'd hit parallel. "Excuse me," he started and I cringed as hard as one can with a loaded bar on their shoulders. I re-racked my loaded bar, pulled out my earbuds, and turned around, expecting a rushed dude wanting a turn on the rack or perhaps a personal trainer coming to tell me the gym was on fire and I'd missed the sirens and should evacuate immediately. (I mean, why else would you tap someone on the shoulder while they're in a squat?) Nope. It was a young guy with a very smug look on his face.
"Hey, I was watching you from across the gym," he said. (What up, creeper?) "And I have to tell you that you're doing that all wrong. In fact, I was so worried you were going to hurt yourself I almost ran over and grabbed that bar away from you!" (As if he could! I lift heavy.)
I bristled as he then proceeded to mansplain proper squatting technique, giving me a bunch of unnecessary and wrong advice. He even threw my weights on the floor (!!) and moved me out of the way of the bar so he could demonstrate.
Of course, I couldn't think of anything good to reply in the moment. I think I offered a meek, "Oh thanks," to which he nodded and pointed a finger at me like I was a disobedient child. Then he trotted off, leaving me to pick up the mess he'd made, fuming mad.
Here's what I wish I'd said: "Actually I've been lifting weights—and successfully back squatting—for longer than you've had facial hair. And also, you're doing it wrong. Both the squatting and the facial hair."
And unfortunately, this isn't the first time this has happened to me. While I've definitely gotten some great, helpful tips from fellow lifters of both genders, it seems like the people who know the least are the most eager to give advice. I've been mansplained to about everything from protein powders to lifting programs to my menstrual cycle (seriously) while on the weight floor. I usually listen politely and then let it go, returning to my workout. After all, I'm not trying to be hypersensitive or mean here. But something about this most recent incident has really stuck with me. Maybe it was that supreme look on his face, like he'd saved me from certain death and that he'd done the world a great good that day? In reality, the only thing he'd rescued that day was his own ego.
Or perhaps I'm still annoyed because I know my experience isn't unique. Almost every woman I know who's spent any time on a weight floor has a similar story to share—and overzealous men are often one of the top reasons ladies give for not wanting to lift weights at the gym. But lifting weights is fantastic exercise and has incredible health benefits specifically for women. We need more reasons to encourage women to lift weights, and mansplaining has the opposite effect.
So dudes, if you see a lady on the weight floor and you're unsure whether or not you should lay some of your wisdom on her, ask yourself: Has she asked me for help? Am I a personal trainer on duty? Do I even know what I'm talking about? Is she about to actually crush herself or a small child who has wandered in from wherever small children come from in these ridiculous hypothetical situations? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then abort your mission now. (Or at least wait until we're between sets.)