The proposal to hold a women’s only weekly gym session at The Edge was passed at the Better University forum and will allow many to exercise comfortably.
This Sunday a women’s only weekly gym session will begin a three month trial at The Edge. The sessions aim to provide a more suitable space for women from different faiths to exercise confidently and without sacrificing their modesty.
The idea was proposed to the Better Union Forum by Namrah Shahid, where it was voted through by 13 of the 14 members of the panel.
Namrah has worked since October to ensure that women of all backgrounds and faiths have access to a private space in which to exercise. She is also an NUS delegate for women at the National Conference and an Islamic Society committee member.
Namrah said: “I’ve always been thankful for the women’s only swim sessions at The Edge but last year I started running outside because I could be fully covered up (with a headscarf), but in the lead up to races I have been wanting to train indoors but it’s hard to exercise in an enclosed space whilst fully covered.
“I want to be able to exercise comfortably.”
She wants to ensure that all women within the University and the wider community feel welcome and the sessions are open to everyone that identifies as a woman. The sessions will be run by female instructors and even the receptionist will be a woman.
Namrah wants to get many groups involved. She said “I have reached out to cultural and faith societies and Asian societies as participation in sport and exercise is lacking in these groups. This is often due to issues around modesty and exercising. Exercising can often be seen as an immodest thing to do as it involves a lot of movement of your body.
“There’s also a lack of modest sports wear on the market which puts women off exercising.
“I stick to tracksuit bottoms and long sleeve sports tops. I have a few running head scarves, they make you look like a bit of an egghead but do the job. They’re made out of the breathable lycra material so it’s nice on your head and aren’t any pins so it’s comfortable.”
Safety and comfort were key motivations for Namrah’s proposal: “It can be dangerous to exercise in a scarf as you lose heat from your head and when your head is covered that is dangerous and uncomfortable. Imagine exercising in your work shoes – it doesn’t make sense!”
Rebecca Mitzy, a fourth year Chemistry Masters student and has been promoting the hour to the Jewish Society. For her, the hour is very important. She said “As an orthodox Jewish girl, I can’t wear exercise clothes in front of men because of modesty reasons. With there being over 1000 Jews at the University of Leeds, this initiative is a great way to ensure that we can also exercise. Whether it is for religious reasons or for comfort, I’m very excited to run on a treadmill or even use weights in a totally comfortable, all female environment.”
Classes begin on Sunday 5th February at The Edge sports centre. The Edge will open earlier to accommodate the sessions, which will take place at 7:30-8.30am and will be free for Edge members and £7 for for Leeds University students and staff.
Bethany Donkin and Polly Hatcher