Before I started my own blog I used to write some guest posts for my hubby (Old Munki). However, I thought it might be time to dust some of these posts off and refresh them. One of the older posts was from 2014 where I attended a fabulous seminar but had a terrible experience at the host gym. The gym in question is now closed (which may say something) but essentially the owner was slightly freaked out by the thought of women actually training and committed several other faux pars which inspired this post about welcoming women (and basically humans) into your gym. Here is the shortened and spruced up version…
Essentially this blog was about common sense and valuing your physical gym space rather than being a lady grappler but if I can experience it only a few years ago it makes sense to keep elements of the blog alive…
Tip 1 – Don’t freak out when women show up at your gym or at least try to hide it!
It really makes for an awkward first impression. Women do want to train BJJ, it can be fun and enjoyable. So you may get one or two rocking up, beware!! This where simply good business comes in – you know the basics like being nice to people and say hi! Don’t act like the gym I visited by only speaking my husband and assuming I wouldn’t be training and needed a seat out of the way!
Tip 2 – Value hygiene!
When I visited this fabled gym you weren’t allowed shoes in the matted area (and left them at reception) which was fine and normal, until it dawned on me that you wouldn’t have practical access to your shoes / flip flops if you needed the toilet. The gym didn’t appear to provide any communal flip flops or similar and there wasn’t the usual default gym signage re shoes and toilets. If you needed the loo people levitated or had bare feet! Yup communal toilets and bare feet = mat nasties!! BJJ is a sport where you need a high level of hygiene and cleanliness unless you like skin infections and lurgie! This isn’t a female thing as I know many guys who will also be thinking “ewww nasty” as they read this. Having clean mats is a must but also consider the surrounding areas obviously clearing general rubbish (no old water bottles and tape etc.) but also remember to get the vac and duster out to ensure minimum dust and cobwebs (which can make the most spotless of mats look definitely dingier)
Tip 3 – No bespoke female changing room, no problem!
When I visit gyms I haven’t been to before tend to wear my shorts and sports bra/rash guard underneath my clothes just in case their short of changing space but the gym that inspired this story took it to a whole new level. I’ll be honest over the last few years as the sport has grown it’s become rarer but not having one isn’t a huge problem or red flag towards its female friendliness. The key is thinking in advance about how alternatives are done or handled – whether it is using an office space or sharing your changing room with storage space or simply kicking all the men out of the communal changing area it doesn’t matter. What does matter is showing you’ve thought about how you cater for women in advance and its part of the gym culture and nobody is surprised by it.
Bonus tips re changing rooms
Based on the gym that triggered this blog if you did have a women’s changing space as a storage room or if it’s broken and has grown into such a state of disrepair it becomes a unique hazard then please try and remove the signage. Nothing says welcome more than a discontinued women’s toilet/changing room! Although you still may get queries on your gym priorities if you have a junk room rather than a changing room!
2. Have at least one mirror that’s accessible – This is mainly about mat hair. Anybody with long hair knows you will look horrendous after rolling. An easily used mirror is a definite plus. Even more so if you do day classes/privates where people need to get ready for work afterwards. Checking hair, doing makeup or just checking your clothes are on straight are really helped by mirrors especially if you don’t have to go between a couple of rooms or jump/crouch about to use them!
Tip 4 – Love your Loo! – I’m going to add a separate point re toilets on this as shared unisex toilets are a lot more common in the gyms I know and frequent. I don’t expect every gym to go to the standards I have seen in the US (including a rose-tinted toilet roll holder) but a dingy loo will always trigger warn thoughts in my head re a gyms hygiene. Cleaning it goes beyond saying but consider air fresheners etc. as well. Women do have a stronger sense of smell and fifty or so guys using a toilet a day can take its toil! Also, little things like ensuring a rubbish bin and a potential storage space for gym emergency kit (female hygiene products) can all go a long way to making life easier and you gym just seem a bit more female friendly.
Tip 5 – Feeling hot, hot, hot! – Ok this is a new one and maybe it’s more important to me as I am writing this in January as an older masters grappler but, gym temperature goes a long way. BJJ is understandably sweaty but when it’s also wearing grappling, socks, woolly hats and 2-3 layers under your gi then it starts to become much less fun! I’ve trained for a while so I know how cold it can get in the gym and have a full range of kit to help me cope but a new person (or a visitor from a warmer gym) won’t. Not every gym can have full central heating and Britain is always full of weather surprises but only the most hardcore people are going to pay you money to freeze themselves doing BJJ. Not paying the heating bill / getting some form of heating is def a false economy especially when it becomes to spectators, children, ladies, masters grapplers and beginners (so basically most people!).
The reality is if you have a great group of people, and a coach that respects, values and support the women that train there it becomes easy to overlook the physical aspects of a gym. But what a lot of people forget is that you have to stick with a gym in order to realise how great the club/people/ coach is. Ultimately first impressions can be very much more bricks and mortar so sometimes trying to welcome more women and people to a gym is simply about going back to basics and looking at the space your providing.