It all started during an experiment working out like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. I was sitting at the cable row machine, doing the final exercise of DJ's back workout—a grip-strength killer full of rows, cable pulls, and dumbbell shrugs. At this point, my grip strength was shot, so while I rested between my last two sets, I looked at my hands. An older gentleman working on the next machine over decides, at this moment, to say to me: "Yeah, those are calluses!" as if I'd never seen them before in my life.
WTF? I had headphones on with music full-blast. I know how to behave in the weight room. And the existence of calluses certainly falls under the umbrella of "common knowledge." There's not one understandable reason why this guy would've made this comment.
But even if none of those things were true, that kind of unsolicited remark—that tone—is never okay. Mansplaining is never okay. And in the gym, where women are building strong, badass bodies to fight the patriarchy? It sure as hell shouldn't fly. (It's all right here: The Huge Problem with Dudes Mansplaining at the Gym.)
Yet, the mansplanations rain down during women's workouts like sweat during spin class. When I asked my Facebook friends if they've ever put up with a similar situation while working out, it seemed as if every gym-going female in my network had at least one story about dudes mansplaining the hell out of their workouts. (It's no wonder some women are afraid of the weight room.)
The true stories below will make you clench your fists, roll your eyes, and want to sign up for a boxing class—but they also might make you realize you've been a victim of mansplaining a time or two yourself.
Dudes, stop it. And women, let's fight back. Because there are enough ~characters~ you have to deal with at the gym—and, hell, horrible men you have to deal with outside of the gym—and the workout mansplainer shouldn't be one of them.
"Then he proceeded to follow me around the gym for my whole workout to 'watch my form.'"
Once, I was doing power cleans at the gym (which I learned how to do properly as a collegiate track athlete with a strength and conditioning coach). At the end of my sets, a trainer came up to me and told me I was probably lifting too much and then tried to sell me a training package with him so I could "learn more about lifting." I said, "yeah... I'm good." Then he proceeded to follow me around the gym for my whole workout to "watch my form." I was paranoid he was going to try to make me pay for training when I was just doing my own workout. I never went back to that gym because I was so annoyed." —Kristin, 26, New York City
"In front of my class, he mansplained that none of these moves would be effective."
I was teaching a hip-hop boxing fusion class and the instructor from the boxing class before it came in to watch. In front of my class (which is regularly filled to maximum, and which I created, developed, researched, and choreographed) he mansplained that none of these moves would be effective for them in a fight. He said that they were all made-up moves with a false title of "boxing." Uh, correct, because who would make twerking and then dropping to do a burpee their go-to fighting move? —Kelley, 31, New York City
"He unclipped my attachment."
An older gentleman approached me while I was working at one of the cable columns performing overhead triceps extensions using a double rope attachment. I was resting between sets when this man came over, unclipped my attachment, and attached the pushdown attachment. If that wasn't annoying enough, he went on to demonstrate his technique and suggested I use his attachment instead of my own. While trying to keep my cool, I explained that I preferred my method of doing things as I was following a specific training protocol and that's what it called for. Needless to say, this man was not pleased to be shut down and walked away. I changed my attachment back and put his away. If you're going to offer unsolicited advice… just don't. —Abby, 25, Boston
"If I wanted his advice, I would have asked."
One time at the gym I was doing biceps curls with 15-pound dumbbells. This guy kept looking at me and it was making me uncomfortable. Eventually, he came over and explained to me the "proper" way to do curls. I was annoyed; if I wanted his advice, I would have asked. I felt belittled for being one of the only women lifting in that section and his audacity to come and "help" me. —Biz, 23, New York City
"He took the battle ropes right out of my hands."
I was at the gym with my sister and she was doing some light resistance training and I was doing some HIIT stuff—box jumps, burpees, heavy rope moves, and so on. These two guys were there and it seemed like one was "training" the other but clearly not a trainer from the gym. They were just messing around, which is fine, but then "trainer" guy turns to me and starts cracking jokes. I just ignored it at first, but then he said, "Here let me show you how to do that" and takes the battle ropes out of my hands and shows me some single arm swings (with horrendous form) and is like singing and telling me how to keep a beat? Then he gives them back to me and waits to watch me to implement his changes. —Danielle, 22, Long Island
"Men would correct my form but ignore the awful form of other guys."
When I was in law school, I got really into lifting. I did CrossFit for a while but mostly I went to my school's basement gym. I saw a woman in the weight room maybe like once a month.
My favorite thing to do was squats. They had a real squat rack (not a Smith machine) and I would squat almost every day and would max out as part of my last set. On multiple occasions, some random guy would come over and try to talk to me about my form, help me put the bar back after I was done, or take it down.
One, my form is impeccable. As a former dancer, cheerleader, tumbler, I know form. Two, there were two squat racks and there were always these dudes squatting at the same time who had awful form! Like, with rounded backs or on their toes and squatting a large number of plates. So it was total BS any guy would come correct my form when the guy across from me is about to get a hernia. Lastly, if I squatted that amount, don't you think I can put the bar back on my own? Why do you think I need help lifting 45 pounds? —Nina, 29, New York City
"A guy told me to lift lighter weights."
I belong to a nice gym and was on one of the squat racks the other day with my headphones. A guy came up behind me and stood there until my set was finished, then asked me to take my headphones out and proceeded to tell me that I looked like I was struggling with the amount of weight and that I should probably lower it. I looked at him, smiled, and said, "I'm okay, thanks" (with a smirk). He finished off by saying, "Anyways, looks like the work is paying off." I rolled my eyes and put my headphones back in. He then followed me when I was leaving and asked if he could have my number and take me out sometime. I literally laughed in his face and walked out of there! —Sage, 23, Chicago
"He didn't know what a Romanian deadlift was."
I'm a personal trainer at a gym, yet when I was in my professional trainer clothing and doing my own workout, a man came up to help me "fix" my deadlift form. Little did he know, I was doing a Romanian deadlift and didn't need his help, "knowing how to properly bend my knees to 90 degrees" during the deadlift. It's funny how he thought he could correct me, yet had never heard of a Romanian deadlift. Oh, and he asked if he hadn't heard of a Romanian deadlift because it was "for females." Nice. —Melissa, 22, Ithaca, NY
"He told an in-shape, mid-20s woman not to 'get too heavy.'"
I once overheard an out-of-shape, slow-jogging, middle-aged dude smugly tell an in-shape, mid-20s woman not to "get too heavy" as she lifted.
Then there was the time my Uber driver let me know that I shouldn't be proud of biceps curling 30 pounds in each arm and that I should be doing at least 40. He told me I wasn't "trying hard enough," and that if I "lift twice a week" like he does, I'll be able to do 40 like him. —Marissa, 29, San Francisco
"Once he saw my first working set of 245 pounds, he suddenly had a change of heart."
I had my hoodie up, sweatpants on, hair up, headphones in, locked in. My look alone should've screamed, "Nope, not her. Don't even look. Don't even speak." I started my warm-up sets in the squat rack and I heard a guy sigh "Ugh…." At this point, it becomes increasingly difficult to ignore his presence to which I said, "Can I help you?" His reply: "How much you got left?" to which I say, "Well, I just started about 6 sets, but you can jump in." He smirks and says, "I'll just wait," assuming my 6 sets will be of no bother since it's a "girlie" weight to him. (Now, my friends don't just call me Quadzilla for nothing." As I warmed up, I stripped off my sweats and exposed the wicked wheels ready to put work in. Once he saw my first working set of 245 pounds, he suddenly had a change of heart. He walked over and said, "Oh, I'm nursing an injury, it will just be annoying to change weights so I'll do something else." HA. Okay, sure, buddy. —Jennifer, 32, New York City