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Decor of ladies-only section in Saskatoon gym feels 'patronizing': fitness coach

cbc.ca logo cbc.ca 2019-04-15 Heidi Atter
a person posing for the camera: Kalli Youngstrom is a fitness and nutrition coach in Saskatoon. © Heidi Atter/CBC Kalli Youngstrom is a fitness and nutrition coach in Saskatoon.

A Saskatoon fitness coach is speaking out about a ladies-only section in a local gym that she says doesn't feel empowering.

The new Motion Fitness in Saskatoon features an area for women only. It's called the "Empower" room.

Kalli Youngstrom said she is not against a women-only fitness area.

"I am appreciative that there's a special area designated for women who aren't comfortable in the main gym," she said.

It was the decor and design that took her aback.

a room filled with lots of furniture: Gregory Wilson/CBC © Gregory Wilson/CBC Gregory Wilson/CBC

Youngstrom said the main gym is painted with bold yellows and other colours. The ladies-only area has muted pastels with flowers on the walls and the word "empower," she said.

"I called it Easter egg colours," she said.

Youngstrom posted her dissatisfaction on Instagram and generated a lot of discussion.

"What a lot of the ladies said in response to me on Instagram was that it felt like a daycare," she said.

"It comes off a little bit, you know, patronizing in the sense that it almost infantilizes women."

She said she thinks it was unintentional and doesn't believe any harm was meant, but she hopes it becomes part of a bigger discussion on gender equality.

Youngstrom said she tried to approach a couple of personal trainers and the gym manager to see if she could talk with the designer of the space about their thinking and psychology. She said she also tagged them in her post on social media but didn't get a response.

"I was disappointed because I really truly wanted to have a discussion," she said.

Motion Fitness in Saskatoon declined an interview but said in an email statement that they always try to provide an all-inclusive space and support everyone with their fitness goals.

"The Empower room received its title, not with the intention of stereotyping, but with the intention of providing each of our rooms a unique name, similar to our group workout and spin studios," the statement said.

Youngstrom said she knows she doesn't speak for all women and that she posted about the space on social media to open a conversation. The general feedback was agreement that the design matters and that it should be the same as the rest of the gym, she said.

"In my mind, having the title be Empower but then have this obvious different choice in colour and the flowers on the wall that doesn't feel empowering to me," she said.

Gregory Wilson/CBC © Gregory Wilson/CBC Gregory Wilson/CBC

She said she hopes the ladies-only space will painted the same as the rest of the gym.

"There is no need for a difference."

She said she still loves Motion Fitness and is a current member. Youngstrom also said she hopes they will look into a men's-only area of the gym to truly have equality in general for men who would prefer that environment.

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