By: Melanie Yin
This year, I got a Pulse membership. I’ve been very pleased with my decision thus far, but one part has been worrisome: the no sleeves rule.
The requirement that students wear a full shirt with sleeves at all times has been in place, puzzling students, since the early 2000s. The reasoning behind the policy is that people who are new to the gym feel insecure and intimidated when they see how fit and muscular other people are. As someone who is very new to gyms, I certainly understand feeling like someone is going to call me out as an imposter who does not belong in an environment where people understand how to work bench presses.
However, I have to say that I can tell that everyone around me is way more ripped than I am, even when they are wearing sleeves. That extra bit of fabric does nothing to hide the fact that the bodies of other people are much more toned and well-muscled than my own. I also wonder about the arbitrary decision to enforce dress codes on one small portion of our bodies, but not others. How are long sleeves so different from long pant legs? The premise of the argument in favour of the dress code is confusing. Regardless, I still feel self-conscious and awkward and out-of-place.
Furthermore, the athletics manager who made the no sleeves decision back in the early 2000s clearly did not consider the fact that it is difficult for women to find exercise clothes that are not tank tops. As a result, instead of wearing exercise clothes that wick your sweat away, I am left in the unfortunate position of wearing cotton tees with sleeves that develop pit stains. No one wants to see pit stains. This is something that discourages me, and potentially other students, from enjoying workouts.
Instead, why not let McMaster see my shoulders? I’ve demonstrated the lack of effectiveness of the no sleeves rule in reducing anxieties. If we’re aiming to actually reduce anxieties around working out, why not have specific hours for “gym noobs” like myself? We could meet other gym noobs and crack jokes about how shocked our parents were when we decided to get memberships. Maybe we’d meet up beforehand and enter the gym together with other noobs during regular hours.
There are many policies that would actually aid in reducing anxiety and increase the confidence of people new to working out, but the no sleeves rule is not one of them. Let us have more comfortable, less embarrassingly sweaty workouts. Not everybody will choose to wear tank tops, but give us the choice.