The weight room: Close-knit community or alpha male energy?


Despite a smaller space and less equipment than a regular gym, Urban’s weight room is inhabited by over 50 students. For many, Urban’s weight room is a desirable workout space due to the community. 

“I’ve definitely made friends through the weight room,” said Nobu Nitta-Mack ‘24, fitness club co-leader. “Friends in different grades as well.”

Along with strength and conditioning students and sports team athletes, the weight room is regularly used by students who want to work out. “Everybody in the weight room that’s consistently going…pretty much knows each other [and] we’re all friends; we have our own set of jokes and memes,” said Simi Bohuslav ‘24. In addition to the lack of cost and commute, for Bohuslav, the close-knit community makes Urban’s weight room stand out from others. “The Urban weight room removes a lot of the friction of going to a gym [because] I have all my friends in there,” he said.

Despite many positive experiences, the weight room hasn’t felt welcoming to everyone. “I’m not as sociable as the other people in the weight room,” said Tara Monks ‘23. “A lot of people use [the weight room] as a social scene. [That adds] a level of social anxiety on top of [feeling] judged.”

Many female and nonbinary-identifying students echo this feeling of judgment. “I still like to work out…I [just] wish the dynamic [of the weight room] wasn’t so…difficult to be in…You walk in, and it’s all guys,” said Paris Cardenas ‘24. Instead of the weight room, Cardenas regularly goes to a gym outside of Urban. “Nobody knows you there. Sure, it’s still all men, but at least if they judge you, it’s not someone that you’re going to see every single day.”

The gender dynamics do not go completely unnoticed by male-identifying weight room users. “There tends to be a little bit of alpha male, loud energy,” said Niko Asai ‘23. “I try to work on that [and] make sure I’m not giving off that vibe.”

“If I was a female, I might be scared to go in [the weight room],” said Bohuslav. “It’s mostly guys.”

The tension surrounding gender in the weight room can be attributed to male-dominated, often toxic gym culture. “[A] guy gets to walk into a gym and be like, ‘This is a space where I belong’,” said Siela Brunello ‘23. “Women have to earn…that confidence through how much weight they can lift [and] how much they can bench.”

However, Brunello recognizes the importance of Urban’s weight room. She mentions that without Urban’s weight room, she wouldn’t have started lifting. “Getting the opportunity to find new ways to exercise or push your body to limits that you didn’t know you had [can be] really fulfilling,” she said. “A lot of people don’t get that opportunity unless their school offers it or they somehow get free access [to a gym].”

After the 2022 fall term, the weight room is temporarily moving from its indoor space to the Salkind Center Roof due to the construction of Urban’s new performing arts center. According to Kimble Torres, the strength and conditioning coach in the weight room, the roof will be used for one to two years. Head of School Dan Miller thinks students will benefit from this switch. “The outdoor space might make it feel more welcoming and accessible to a range of users, including those who have not traditionally felt comfortable in those spaces,” he said.