I spoke to four Nigerian women about what visiting the gym as a woman is like. Here’s what they had to say:

black woman in the gym

Bibi, 22

I always have a pleasant experience at the gym but there was this day, my friends and I were on the mat and the instructor was helping us stretch our bodies. It was painful and we were screaming. Three guys walked in while this was happening. One of them said, “See the way they are screaming. Their screams would make a sweet ringing tone.” 

I hissed in annoyance and his friend tried to apologise on his behalf. He said, “But he said it would be nice, na.” I was embarrassed because there were other people at the gym and they were laughing at the joke. When I got up from the mat, I gave him a piece of my mind. Rubbish. 

Mel, 21

I am a regular at the gym. One day, while I was working out, I noticed the owner of the gym watching me. I continued my routines, trying to ignore him but he started changing the trash bags and wiping down tables so he could be close enough to watch me. I caught his eyes several times and he didn’t stop. I knew I was safe because there were other people in other parts of the gym but I was definitely weirded out. 

, 23

I am a self-conscious person, especially around other people so being at the gym wearing tight clothes makes me uncomfortable. On some days, I wish men would not look at me. Male attention makes me uncomfortable.

I also wish they wouldn’t assume I don’t know what I am doing and try to help me. If I need help, I’d ask. Why do they have to touch my arms to get my attention, when they can see that I can see and hear them?  Because of this, I pay per day at gyms because I expect to feel uncomfortable and leave. 

I found a women-only gym in Lekki that I want to try. I hope I get to have personal space there. 

Wendy, 24

The best part of going to the gym is watching my body transform as I work out but the worst part is men talking to me at the gym. They either try to hit on me or tell me what to do. 

There was the time I went to a gym in Aba and this man came to disturb me. Normally, I lift dumbells of 10kg but I had an injury on my elbow so I was lifting 5kg that day. As I was doing my sets, this guy walked in and said, “If you are trying to lose weight, you should be lifting heavier weights. If not, you are wasting your time.” I ignored him but he stood in front of me, insisting that I pick up the heavier dumbells. When I got tired of ignoring his presence, I told him to fuck off. He walked away saying I was rude. Why are men? 

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Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.