Finding the strength to end stereotypes: How PV females are breaking barriers in the gym

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Rachel Karzin

Senior Rachel Karzin shows her increase in muscle definition as a result of her hard work at the gym.

Alyse Zuiderveen, Copy Editor

For years, females have been forced to conform to the limited exercise programs available to them – Jazzercise, Zumba and aerobics – with little to no ability to choose weightlifting. Many women felt intimidated by the male-dominated weight room and felt that any form of strength training was not meant for them; after all, the typical stereotype of a weightlifter was a muscular male. 

While weightlifting is not the only aspect of fitness that has experienced stereotypes in the past, it is an aspect of fitness that is currently experiencing a change in demographics as females are actively working to eliminate stereotypes surrounding strength training. 

One of these females is Rachel Karzin, a PV senior who has recently found her passion for strength training. “I started lifting as a way to build confidence for myself. I didn’t like the way I looked, and I wanted to make a change,” she shared. “Little did I know that I would absolutely learn to love lifting and it would not only help my appearance but also my physical and mental health. It really was something I fell in love with.” 

With Karzin’s newfound passion for strength training, she has experienced many challenges with sexism. “To be honest, when I first walked into the gym I was very intimidated because it was mainly men. It can be scary walking into a gym surrounded by all guys when you’re a 16 year old girl,” she shared.

The sexism surrounding fitness is not a new issue. During the 1960s and 1970s, aerobics began a new trend of doing cardio exercises in an effort to lose weight. With the rise in the popularity of aerobic exercises, women’s beauty standards evolved into the idea of a thin, toned woman. Women were fed unattainable beauty standards and were given the impression that those unrealistic body standards were considered beautiful. 

Aerobics soon evolved into Jazzercise, a predominantly female form of workout. Jazzercise and other forms of aerobics remain popular today; however, women are finding liberation in exploring strength training. Many students such as junior Hayden Evans have started the process of educating themselves on the importance of finding a balance between aerobics and strength training. “I try to lift or do strength training prior to my aerobic exercise because it builds more muscular endurance,” she noted. 

While some students like Evans have had the opportunity to learn about ways to build muscular endurance, many women lack proper training to do so. 

That is where the importance of fitness-related education for women comes in.

In February, Karzin began @rachelkarzinfit, an Instagram account dedicated to strength training education. On this account, she describes her workouts, the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and ways she stays accountable to be fit while remaining vulnerable about her own progress. This account has over 1,000 followers and has joined the Instagram fitness community. 

Karzin is already seeing the benefits of her account in the lives of her followers. “It is the best feeling ever to get a DM from someone saying you helped them start their journey. It is so accomplishing to know that your experience will help someone else get started,” she shared. 

While Karzin is one of the brave women blazing the trail for future female strength trainers, it is important to support efforts to end stereotypes related to women’s fitness. 

Karzin is following in the footsteps of women like Abbye “Pudgy” Stockton, who have been blazing the strength training trail since the early 1900s. Stockton was a strength trainer who brought attention to the power of the female physique. Her story gained notoriety in the early 1900s as she broke previously established barriers and proved that women could strength train with the same tenacity as men. Unfortunately, her story has been lost over the years, and with it, the progress she made in the strength training community. 

It is crucial to continue sharing the brave and courageous examples of women like Karzin and Stockton who have revolutionized the perceptions of fitness for women.

Karzin’s desire for fitness awareness must get our attention. It’s time for society to embrace the opportunity to educate and empower women to overcome stereotypes within the fitness community.