Queen’s Ladies in Fitness Training creating community for women in the gym

Despite pandemic, club providing community, comfortability, and confidence for women seeking active living on campus

QLIFT’s outspoken attitude toward creating a more comfortable place for women at the ARC contributed to the redesign of the women's gym, QLIFT's co-chairs said.
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Credit: 
Supplied by QLIFT

Even though the ARC has been opening and closing sporadically this year, some athletic clubs are still making do.

Queen’s Ladies in Fitness Training (QLIFT) is one of those clubs.

Started in 2019 to provide a community for women students who felt intimated by gym settings, QLIFT has held up this mandate throughout the pandemic by bolstering its social media presence, particularly on Instagram, and continued to promote active living with a greater sense of solidarity for students on campus.

To learn more about QLIFT, The Journal spoke with its co-chairs, Kathy Wang, ArtSci ’21, and Yossra Zaza, ArtSci ’21.

Speaking to the club’s origin, Zaza noted how QLIFT’s founders saw a gap in the way fitness was presented on campus and knew that more could be done to make women feel comfortable in male-dominated areas of the gym like lifting zones.

“They wanted to make a club where people could talk about how to get to that position where they feel comfortable going into the gym by themselves, or with a group of women and working out at the squat racks or the heavier lifting areas.”

“[Before COVID-19] they would go in groups, or they would promote different activities for women trying to go to the gym,” Zaza said.

Zaza added that QLIFT’s outspoken attitude toward creating a more comfortable place for women at the ARC contributed to physical changes to the gym’s layout. Last year, the women’s only section was restructured to have more exercise equipment related to heavy strength training.

Speaking to how they tangibly foster that comfort and confidence for club members, Wang and Zaza said it has centred around the notion of “sharing”—whether it’s sharing an identity as a member, or sharing information regarding advice, expertise, and knowledge.

“Prior to COVID, we had merchandise,” Wang said. “The idea was that girls could wear that to the ARC.”

“[They] could have that connection with people even if they hadn’t met before.”

In addition to merchandise, QLIFT acts as a resource for members to receive advice on exercise and nutrition. It places particular emphasis on helping members comfortably transition toward weightlifting, which is something many individuals are often apprehensive to do.

Commenting on this, Wang noted that another big part of the club is dispelling myths around weightlifting and reinforcing non-toxic body images.

“A lot of girls don’t want to lift because they don’t want to get bulky,” she said. “[We’re] enforcing the idea that being strong is good.”

Since the pandemic started last year, QLIFT has made concerted efforts to retain that level of communication, connection, and community in an online format.  Noting how its Instagram only used to be a platform for showcasing club events, Zaza and Wang said their page has taken a whole new shape as a source of information and inspiration for things like home workouts, healthy recipes, and other helpful resources for exercise-related topics.

With safety restrictions apparently in place for the foreseeable future, Zaza and Wang spoke about some of the content they plan on integrating into the page to make it more substantial in the long term. In addition to bolstering posts about nutrition and exercise-related myths, they want to start featuring more videos of club members to round out QLIFT’s sense of community.

Speaking to what they hope to improve on the club front, Wang and Zaza said that going forward, QLIFT could benefit from a bit more structure in terms of how the club communicates with members, and what it can offer in terms of specialized areas of expertise.

As a final note, Wang gave a brief reiteration of QLIFT’s mandate.

“At the end of the day, our aim is just to create sort of a safe community and space on campus for everyone to feel comfortable working out or lifting or participating in fitness at their own pace.”

“Everybody is entitled to feel strong and empowered and comfortable in the gym, and that’s what we’re striving to create.”

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