“Empowerment Hour” Comes to the Fitness Center for the First Time

By, Madalyn Johnson & Jocelyn Visnov, Web Editor & Asst. Production Editor

The Lasallian Women and Gender Resource Center hosted Women’s Empowerment Hour for the first time at the Commons Fitness Center last week.

The opening session happened on Nov. 2 from 1:15 p.m. to 2:15 p.m., and represented a big initiative by staff members of the LWGRC. The team has been passionate about creating such a session in order to give women the opportunity to feel comfortable and confident in an environment that is traditionally male dominated.

The Women’s Empowerment Hour was spearheaded by LWGRC intern Amanda Touse. A senior majoring in business analytics, Touse proposed this idea when applying for the internship with the LWGRC last winter. Touse was eager to get it approved, even if it meant going through a long, tedious process.

“That was part of the application process that I went through, was to give an idea of a program you wanted to see them [LWGRC] help put into fruition,” she said. “I thought that having a women’s only hour would be really great. I’ve seen things all over TikTok about it and stuff and I was like, ‘You know what, that could be something really amazing that Manhattan could have for their women, students.’”

Touse began talking to the director of the fitness center, Jay Ahmed, on Sept. 7, the day of the club fair on campus. Once the process began, getting the hour approved became complex. This included the college’s faculty having to check what could legally happen to the LWGRC, and the staff having to brainstorm how to advertise the idea to the student body.

“From there, we kind of put things in the works,” said Touse. “He [Ahmed] was talking to his bosses and everything and getting credit, making sure we were actually allowed to do this legally. Then we went through the marketing phase where I had to make several different versions of flyers just because we needed to be really careful with the wording of everything. So, we did some versions of that and then it fully got approved last week.”

Amanda Touse and Jackie Lubarsky spot each other while lifting weights. JOCELYN VISNOV / THE QUADRANGLE

On top of seeking legal support, the LWGRC needed other students and clubs at Manhattan College to contribute to the promotion of Empower Hour. By networking with various clubs, sending out Google Forms and working with the athletic teams to advertise the hour on social media, LWGRC members were able to receive immense backup in advocating for a time so vital to female students. The efforts made to promote the Women’s Empowerment Hour have even worked in the return of some MC fitness clubs, who are looking into collaborating with participants of the session.

“On social media, a lot of the clubs have reposted everything,” Touse said. “Some of the board of the PEK fitness program was really interested in working with us and maybe creating a tutorial in the beginning where we can advertise their lifting series by having that there for the women. The gender center obviously has been really great and then suddenly, athletic teams have just been sharing content. It’s just word of mouth to support, it’s something really great to see, and we got a lot of positive feedback from the initial interest from Google Forms.”

Rachel Cirelli, a co-director for the LWGRC, has supported Touse and other interns in their efforts to make Empowerment Hour happen.

“It was just a good idea, and it took off because she [Touse] picked up on something that like a lot of people had had made comments about, like you know, ‘I don’t feel comfortable’ or ‘I want to go towards the weights and it doesn’t feel like I can.’” Cirelli said. “So she picked up on something that was definitely a campus issue.”

Cirelli explained that this hour-long period is an opportunity for not just women, but people of all identities to explore fitness in a judgement free environment.

“A lot of people want to call this a woman’s only hour and like, this event is not about being exclusive.” Cirelli said. “We have a lot of people come in not just identifying as female, saying that they wanted an hour like this. So we want to make sure that we’re creating space for all identities.”

The official flyer for this initiative posted around campus and on social media to publicize this event. AMANDA TOUSE / COURTESY

Along with creating an inclusive environment, Empower Hour aims to give students and staff an opportunity to grow comfortable and confident in the gym, regardless of their skill level.

“This hour isn’t just for gym novices, but if you are someone whose reason you don’t go to the gym is because you don’t feel comfortable with the equipment, our whole goal is to start having more assistance for those types of things.” Cirelli said.

In the future, the LWGRC would like to expand Empowerment Hour beyond independent workout sessions. Some of their potential ideas include incorporating athletes to teach students how to properly use the equipment, schedule group workout sessions guided by an instructor, or bring in guests from the community to teach group fitness classes.

Although there hasn’t been any extremely negative feedback that has hurt the initiative of the women’s only hour, Touse said students have still questioned the purpose of it. To cut down on the criticism and negotiate with those doubtful of the hour’s success, the LWGRC decided to make the Women’s Empowerment Hour during cleaning hours to make the point that time is not being taken away from those who go to the gym during regular hours.

Megan Gillooley, a student worker at the Fitness Center, expressed her enthusiasm for the initiative going forward.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for people to come in who aren’t super comfortable in the gym,” she said. “Girls have the opportunity to do free weights, and we eventually wanna start workshops too.”

Stepping into the experimental stages of this idea, Touse and members of the LWGRC are proud that the hour is now operating, but have the long-lasting goal of making the Women’s Empowerment Hour a permanent part of the MC fitness center.

“I want this to be a lasting program, ‘’ Touse said. “I don’t want this to just be something that kind of happens this semester or kind of finishes when I graduate, I want this to be a resource for a woman on campus. The message I want to send is that the gym shouldn’t be something to be feared or anything like that, exercise and fitness is really helpful and beneficial to overall well being. I want to create a really welcoming and inclusive and empowering hour for women to be able to feel like they can go in and do whatever they want without any judgement.”

The Women’s Empowerment Hour will run from 1:15 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the fitness center. Stay up to date on hours and programs involving Empowerment Hour by following @mc_lwgrc on Instagram.