EUGENE, Ore. - After nearly seven decades of separated workouts, the Oakway Fitness Center will be going completely co-ed.
Traditionally, men and women have separate designated workout rooms at the fitness center. If a member is looking for a co-ed experience, there are certain classes they can take and a co-ed exercise room. However, staff said they received a comment from someone calling them sexist for identifying and separating the genders. And when that person threatened a lawsuit, staff said they knew they had to make a change.
"We've been in business since 1958, and we've had to change as everybody else changes. The world changes, we have to change. The world is becoming a non-gender world,” said Kris Christensen, General Manager and Owner of the gym.
Christensen said reactions have been mixed. She said younger members have generally been reacting positively. However, seniors, which do make up a good amount of their members, are less excited.
One member said the separation is the biggest reason she attends this gym. She feels comfortable and safe with the women having their own space. She said she likes that she and the other ladies don’t have to worry about what they’re wearing or how they’re posing.
"It's just comfortable. And women and men both, when they're just with women or just with men, they kind of have a different dynamic,” said Phyllis Hogue, an Oakway Fitness member.
Christensen said she knows some women have been concerned about harassment and safety moving forward. And she wanted them to know that they’ll be taking extra steps to make sure everyone feels comfortable with the coming changes.
Christensen said it’s been a staple of theirs to have an option to work out separately. She understands that some members won’t be thrilled with the change, but she hopes they understand why it’s being made. She said this was not an easy decision to make, but it comes down to the longevity of their business plan.
"It's hard on people, and especially your seniors, it's really hard,” Christensen said. “So I hope that the members understand that it wasn't an easy decision, and it's something that we have to do to move on as a business."