‘Women on Weights’

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Leader for Women On Weights, Katie Gowell (right) introduces a student to the weights. Photo by: Helena Wolfe

As someone who’s been active most of my life, I’ve always enjoyed pushing my limits where fitness is concerned. For example, since I turned 30 this year, I decided to celebrate by signing up to run the Tough Mudder race with a team of family and friends in Lebanon, Ore. in August. Signing up for the race was a way to make a commitment to myself to prioritize fitness in my life again, and it’s a pretty hardcore race—based on the training the British Special Forces teams use—so my training for it will have to be equally intense: cardio, weights, running, the works.

That being said, lifting weights is an area of fitness that has always been intimidating to me. This is due to both my lack of knowledge about it, and to injuring my shoulder one of the first times I used weights. But when I heard the Academic and Student Rec Center was offering a class for women to learn more about using weights, it sounded exactly like what I needed.

ASRC personal trainer Katie Gowell, a grad student with a focus on education, said that the Rec Center has had this program for a while, but that it’s been less structured in the past.

“I’m a Group [Exercise] certified instructor, and I really wanted to make this opportunity more like one of those classes,” she said. “I had lots of clients who had never been on the third floor of the Rec Center before, who were [too] intimidated or afraid of injury,” to want to use weights in their routine.

“After working with several clients in the weight room and seeing how it empowered them, I wanted to take the mystery away from weight programs,” she said.

The class is called Women on Weights, and is offered every Monday and Wednesday from 9–9:45 a.m. During that time, Gowell is on hand to help women learn how to use the different machines and equipment, and to learn what, when and how to lift. The free class is in a drop-in format, and all levels of experience in regard to weights are encouraged to attend.

Gowell explained that in each session she chooses a focus to go over—generally certain machines to work out certain muscles—then demonstrates the basic form of each exercise, how to set up the machine, and what it will accomplish for the muscle group being worked. She then allows time for those attending to rotate through each machine she’s demonstrated.

Gowell is positive and encouraging, monitoring the form of the students when using the machines, giving positive feedback and making corrections and adjustments when necessary.

“I want to get people to feel comfortable using the weights,” she said, adding that questions about exercises are also encouraged.

Gowell became certified to teach Group Exercise last year, and earned her personal trainer certification last June as well, both through ASRC.

“The class has really flourished and I hope it continues to,” Gowell said. “We’re trying to attract a community of women to occupy this space, and to create a community of strong women to set aside this time to feel like they’re a part of something. It’s about finding something fun that works for you.”

For questions about Women on Weights, you can contact Gowell via email at kgowell@pdx.edu

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