To the average SAS student, the APEx is a place for ‘meatheads’. The testosterone filled aroma of this workout facility seems to only attract athletes who want to become ‘swole’ and ingest protein powder by the scoop-fulls. Of course, this is only a stereotype. Yet why does this athletics facility still remain a mysterious place?
Mr. Gaskell, a teacher at SAS and weightlifting coach for barbell club explains that “The APEx center (or the Athletics, Performance, Exercise Center) began as a project by students. The facility itself is still a transitional space, it is not its final form. The point of it being: If we wanted a world-class athletics program and we wanted to increase the overall level of health and fitness among the students, we needed a large space.”
And as the ‘gym-bros’ flooded into the APEx, the inevitable happened. So did a few ‘gym-gals’.
When junior Lara Van Vuuren entered for the first time she felt “extremely uncomfortable” and when she walked in immediately just stood by the door and looked around, not knowing what to do or where to go”. She didn’t feel like it was her place.
Alongside Lara are a small percentage of gym users: The ladies of APEx.
“When the APEx was in the dojo, it was 99% male. More recently, the demographics have shifted,” says Gaskell.
Mellony Kadakal, a frequent user of the APEx explained that “It is not rare to be the only girl in there. It used to bother me, but then I realized that it didn’t matter and that I shouldn’t care.”
Senior Shelby Spinks agreed, “for a long time it really bothered me that I was the only female there. I started going to the gym as an underclassman and found it super intimidating to see all the upperclassmen boys who knew exactly what they were doing.”
“If you are worried about the guys judging you,” snickered junior Laura Young, “they are more concerned about how they look and spend the entire time staring at their own reflection more than staring at what you are doing!”
The ‘gymtimidation‘ is real. However, in recent years the stigma regarding females being physically strong has changed. The debate of ‘Strong vs Skinny’ has been challenged.
“Skinny used to be the ideal body image,” said Laura Young, “Today we have the ‘thicc’ memes! Butts are coming back into style and the only way you’re going to get that butt is to squat, deadlift, and lunge.”
But besides the cultural change in physical appearances, the shift in physical health is an important issue.
According to Sutter Health, a not-for-profit health system in Northern California, nearly half of teens aged 12-21 years are not active on a regular basis. The number of overweight teens in America is increasing because they don’t get enough exercise. Teenagers who are physically active have higher self-esteem and experience less anxiety and depression. Not to mention the benefits exercise has on one’s academic life.
However, specifically for women, The World Health Organization claims that physical inactivity is generally more prevalent among girls and women than their male counterparts. The benefits for women include less risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis, breast cancer, and psychological health.
Since the APEx is open from 5am to 7pm and can be used at any time throughout the school day, it is easy to find time to exercise in the midst of a busy high school life.
Varsity cross country runner, Kate Callon, uses the APEx, “either before school at 7:30, during free periods, or between 5:00 and 6:00.” Kate prioritizes exercise and takes time out of her day amidst a busy high school life.
“Having a good workout regiment and having a balance of cardiovascular and strength building activity is more important compared to any excuse,” says Gaskell, “It will ensure not only a high-quality life but a long life of high quality living where you are still active when you are older.”
For swimmer Anna Bierly, training at the APEx helps her with her sport. “We train out of the water so we can maintain our land fitness and get stronger in the water. I’d say it helps.”
So, for anyone who recognizes the benefit of exercise and take some action: Go for it! Bring a gym buddy, ask for help, or do research. Whatever it takes!
“Girls should walk into the gym without feeling intimidated. There is no reason for us to feel inferior,” explained Shelby.
Or just remember, as senior Avantika Raikar put it, “Ignore the little boys, if you want to workout, you should!”
“I think fitness for women gives one a sense of empowerment. The more you pay attention to your physical health, and you work to become healthy, you will feel stronger both physically and mentally,” Lara remarked, “As I matured, I became more confident in myself, and felt more comfortable in a space like the APEx.”
Times have changed and so have beauty expectations for women.
Mr. Gaskell put it perfectly:
“I think that it’s powerful for women to be strong and fit. I like the fact that the definition of beauty has changed culturally. This idea of the damsel in distress is changing, and we can see beauty as strength. It is an important message for young girls and ladies to pick up.”
Whether you are male or female, exercise will benefit all. By harnessing the well-equipped facilities of the APEx, you can get your work out in easily any day. And for all the future ladies of APEx, however male-dominated it may be, you are stronger than you think!
Every day is another chance to get stronger, live healthier, and to be the best version of you.