Every Type of Woman You See in the Gym

From the extremely hench older ladies to the Instagram Gym Babies, now is the season to play Where's Wally at your local PureGym.

by Hannah Ewens, Lauren O'Neill, and Emma Garland; photos by Charlie Kwai
07 January 2020, 9:00am

Welcome, women of the gym. Photo by Charlie Kwai, taken at @outrivals_oldst

Women of the gym: who are they, why are they here and what do they want? These are just a few of the questions raised by a sweeping glance around your local leisure centre or membership-based sweatbox, packed with breathable cotton, the ambient sound of grunting and very empowering water bottles. For some, the gym is a haven. For others, a burden. Some actively avoid it, using YouTube "cos it's free babe", while a not insignificant number of women seem to literally live there.

Whichever way you lean, The Gym is a presence in so many lives, in one way or another. And for that reason it is one of the few places where the entire spectrum of humanity can be observed, like a zoo or the audition room for Britain’s Got Talent. But to return to the original question: women of the gym, who are they…


Whether it’s the Australian spin instructor wearing a Gymshark headband and screaming “PUSH” at you over an EDM remix of a Green Day song, or the personal trainer who thinks basic health and fitness are tantamount to army training, these so-called “hard bodies” are the very hungry caterpillars of the gym. Nothing’s enough for them. You could push harder than you would in stirrups giving birth to triplets, but your glutes will never be as strong as theirs. Their limbs are so hard that if you prodded them too forcefully you’d break a finger – but you, worm, you can’t even make it through 45 measly minutes of cardio without losing your breath! Pathetic!

Incidentally, you will never actually see this lot working out – ever. Either their sessions with you are ‘downtime’ from the other nine hours a day they spend pumping iron, or they’ve sold their soul to satan in exchange for an 8-pack.


The gym is horse girls’ world and the rest of us are just sweating and making ungodly noises in it. They are fairly easily spotted: always blonde, with a straight, shoulder length cut or a ponytail; always wearing a Big Gym T-Shirt that they received from taking part in a 5k or netball match put on by the finance company or consultancy they work for. When not at the front of the class or being competitive with themselves on the treadmill they can be found in the changing room talking about their upcoming country weddings (this isn’t a joke, we've been privy to it on a number of occasions.)


You don’t know if you fear them, or want to become them (you won’t). The older hench women are always somewhat slender but firm. They are impressive; they are fine women to behold. They have not only lived through more than you can imagine, and regularly bench more than your quivering muscle memory can comprehend. Find them deadlifting 300lbs in extremely tight vest tops sporting the respectable deep skin tones of a woman who came up before everyone got really obsessed with SPF.

women of the gym
Some women of the gym world.


Hey, you: woman who is always here. Do you have a high-powered job, do you have a partner? Do your strange friends only see you in classes? You can’t have a dog, because you never leave the building. You’re in the morning classes, you’re in the evening ones; you are as much part of the gym interior as the bikes and the cross-trainers. It’d be a surprise if you weren’t in our periphery, continually trotting upwards on the stepper. You’re fit, obviously. You’d have to be to live here, in the gym. But, who are you?!


Something we think about often when banging gym is how on earth the women around us manage to wear matching sets to work out in. Most of our gym visits are hastily planned affairs preceded by a desperate dig through our drawers for something passable to wear, after almost forgetting that we'd booked a class. As a result, we have both admiration and deep envy for the gals in h2t Lululemon who manage to look like ballerinas in the 7AM “Ass and Abs” class that we have dragged our rotting carcasses out of bed for.

In the world of the traditional gym, these are the women whose sumo squats PTs film to post on their promotional Instagram stories accompanied by peach emoji and neon cursive text. These woman have perfected ‘gym makeup,’ always look nice in leggings, and somehow manage not to smell after their workout. They are the top of the gym food chain and I have nothing but respect for them.


A rare beast, these women are hard to find. But there will likely be one individual in each class, especially if you frequent a boujie city centre gym offering free Aesop shampoo and Hollywood mirrors. Aping the behaviour of a straight male in literally any fucking spin class, this woman will either do the very hardest possible exercise in the variety of options offered, or she will do this AND modify it entirely. She’ll do her own thing. Could you copy her? You’ll try and fail, potentially injuring yourself very seriously in the process.

The gall, the sheer cheek… the ingenuity. There is only one question I have for this woman and it’s are you offering discounted PT sessions?


After morning classes in particular, these people are all of a fairly specific type – that is, the women who barge around in the changing rooms spinning into tasteful office wear like the Tasmanian Devil because they have an IMPORTANT JOB in the CITY that they HAVE TO GET TO or the APOCALYPSE will DAWN and MONEY will END. Do you want that???? No??? Well get out of their fucking way then.

women of the gym
Welcome to your local hellscape.


We’ve all seen them: not stretching, using free weights in a way that gives you a hernia just to look at, occupying the treadmill for 50 full minutes so they can walk at a consistent 2mph while scrolling through Instagram bored as fuck. These are people who either leave the gym in pain or without so much as the glisten of a single bead of sweat. These are people who, fundamentally, do not like exercise. They’re not here to gradually hit personal goals, steeped in patience and discipline over time. No, they’re here to feel like they’re doing something that’s good for them – like having a snack pack of apples with your Big Mac.

There is typically a spike in this demographic around January and May, when everyone who has either “overindulged” at Christmas or booked an impending holiday feels compelled to work out for posterity even though it will achieve nothing and they hate it. And we know this because, save for a brief five-month period where one of us got seriously into powerlifting at a suburban enterprise called “Dave’s”, we are completely useless dickheads. Just eat the burger and live your truth.

@hannahrosewens / @hiyalauren / @emmaggarland

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