Creating more inclusive workout spaces

Corvallis community member Elhum Oskui lunges in the Student Legacy Park. Oskui is an avid member of Dixon Recreation Center and works to represent a dedicated, strong group of women at Dixon. 

Tiffani Smith, News Contributor

Dixon Recreation Center working to increase women’s use of facilities


Working out can already be intimidating for various individuals. As a woman, walking into an environment where men outnumber the women can place even more obstacles in the way of participating in physical activity.

Some recreational sports facilities, such as weight room one in Dixon Recreation Center, can be demographically male-dominant, according to Josh Norris, the assistant director of the Adventure Leadership Institute and an ALI Instructor. Because of the overall environment, including the demographics, certain individuals may be uncomfortable with using these facilities. However, the Department of Recreational Sports is constantly working toward making all facilities inclusive for everyone.

“While we continuously strive to make all recreational sports facilities and programs as welcoming as possible, we recognize that certain spaces can be perceived as intimidating,” Norris said.

Access to fitness facilities is important for women, as well as individuals in general, especially at a young age, because it allows people to better their overall health, according to Cindy Howard, co-owner of Downing’s Gym in Corvallis and personal trainer.

“I think it’s really important for people to start (exercising) at a young age and continue that on. It’s a lot harder when you get older and I think it prevents a lot of things that women go through,” Howard said.

Beyond the Department of Recreational Sports, Oregon State University provides other fitness opportunities for students. Casey Leslie, an OSU junior studying biohealth sciences, chose to take the physical activity course Weight Training I for Women. Leslie feels more comfortable in this PAC class than in Dixon because of the demographic of the weight room in Dixon.

“Beginning weight lifting seemed like the best choice because even if you know what you are doing in a free-weight room, it is uncomfortable exercising with a bunch of eyes watching your every movement,” Leslie said. “Personally, I have only been in Dixon a handful of times and prefer to use the machines upstairs rather than on the main floor because it is always packed full of people, mostly guys, and I’d rather work out without being self-conscious of how I look.”

Recreational sports administration is constantly working towards creating inclusive environments in all facilities and programs, with the main goal being to provide options for all individuals to be physically active on campus, according to Tina Clawson, the senior assistant director of advancement and assessment.

In marketing specifically, recreational sports administration aims to portray the intended inclusivity of all recreational sports facilities and programs through various forms of media. These forms of media include, but are not limited to, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Youtube, as well as photos and written information displayed within facilities, such as Dixon.

“We make a conscientious and concerted effort to use images that depict the diversity of the community we serve. I think people are more apt to engage when they see others with whom they identify already engaged,” Clawson said. “If and when they see individuals with whom they identify in our posters, our fliers, in our employment, sitting at our entry desks, I think all of those things say, ‘come in,’ ‘welcome,’ ‘we want you here,’ ‘you’re welcome here,’ ‘let us know what it takes to make you feel comfortable.’”

“We try to discover what those barriers are, and then address those barriers,” Clawson added. “We want to remain responsive and relevant to students. So if people see a barrier, we want to hear it.”

Perseverance and self-assurance are key traits women need to triumph personal barriers and challenges they face in the usage of recreational sports facilities and programs, according to Elhum Oskui, a Corvallis community member and avid member of Dixon.

“I feel that I represent a dedicated, strong group of women at Dixon. Not all women make it to the gym almost every day and put in the work. It takes a lot of willpower and dedication,” Oskui said.

She has been featured in the Gazette-Times, on the OSU website and in various forms of the Department of Recreational Sports’ social media for her active use of recreational sports facilities, and the tenacity she has for representing strong women within the facilities she uses.

While Oskui primarily uses weight room one and cardio room one in Dixon, and the one-third mile track surrounding Student Legacy Park, other women utilize the various other facilities provided by the Department of Recreational Sports.

Priscilla Macy, an OSU graduate assistant for Diversity and Cultural Engagement, explored different facilities and programs provided by the Department of Recreational Sports during her undergraduate years at OSU. Through her experiences in recreational facilities and programs, Macy has seen first-hand how access to and participation in inclusive fitness facilities can directly affect an individual.

“All the experiences that were there for me to take advantage of through recreational sports led to what I would describe as a transformative experience. Through the discovery of what my passions and hobbies were, these experiences served as a catalyst for me to redefine my ultimate path,” Macy said.

Since graduating from OSU in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in recreation resource management, Macy has signed on with a company as a professional kayaker and had photos published from some of her kayaking trips. Her experiences in recreational facilities and programs provided by the Department of Recreational Sports at OSU have inspired her to further her education. Macy is currently working toward a master’s business association (MBA), and hopes to work in the outdoor retail or outdoor education industry.

Unlike Macy, who uses OSU fitness facilities to further her career, Austin Alexander utilizes them for exercise and socializing.

As a sophomore studying biochemistry and molecular biology, Alexander is an active user of various recreational sports facilities, particularly the climbing walls in Dixon and McAlexander Fieldhouse. She has been using these climbing walls for climbing training since November 2014.

According to Alexander, others that use the climbing center, as well as staff and Adventure Leadership Institute climbing instructors, are open-minded and respectful, and help create an overall comfortable and inclusive environment for all individuals, especially women.

As a member of the Climbing Club board, Alexander aims to maintain, and hopefully further, the inclusivity of the climbing facilities on campus, as well as other facilities within Dixon.

“I think that it would be really cool to have more of an outreach specifically toward women; have something like women workout nights. That’s something that I’m doing with the climbing club pretty soon,” Alexander said. “I’m going to be trying to get some of these new female climbers closer to each other, and then more incorporated in the sport and in training for the sport. I think that that is going to be really helpful to female climbers who might be coming in and feel kind of overwhelmed and put off maybe by it. That’s what I want to do, and I think that would be really cool just to have in Dixon in general.”

Although individuals may face challenges and barriers when it comes to using specific recreational sports facilities and programs, or fitness facilities in general, according to Alexander, the more an individual uses facilities or programs, and actively participates in fitness activities that interest them, the easier it will become to gain confidence in those areas.

Howard advises that women can begin to build this confidence by learning about the facilities and equipment specific to the fitness activities that they choose to participate in.

“Once you have the basic common knowledge, just go in and do your thing,” Howard said. “Set some goals, be confident in those goals and get focused. Don’t worry about what other people are doing. Just go and do your thing and be proud of yourself, and just live.”

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