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By Dominique Bonessi

Women arrive fully covered and once inside another part of their personality is revealed as they uncloak themselves.  The amenities and gym at Aspire Health and Wellness not only act as a place to relax and exercise, but it also an escape for women—well it certainly is an escape for me.

Turkish Bath

In previous blog posts I have mentioned interactions between men and women as being very minimal.  At the gym women can relax, take off their hijab, and be comfortable in their environment.  As an American experiencing an all-women’s gym for the very first time—after a week—I have learned so much about Jordanian women’s fitness, body image, and self-care.

Let me begin by saying that the culture of division between men and women has—in a way—affected women’s views towards fitness and exercise.  The gym is only a small—very small—part of the other amenities like steam room, spa, beauty salon, pool, and Turkish bath (which I am hoping to try out).  Most of the gym equipment is cardio machines and there is very little in the way of free weights, weight machines, and benches.  For being a small gym this is understandable, but again—as an American—I am so used to the idea of large weight area, cardio machines, and several weight machines.  While at the gym I’ve noticed that women tend to stick to the cardio machines, and when I started working out—with the little weights they had--I got stared at as if I were doing something out of the ordinary.  Truthfully, there is not a culture of fitness and exercise for women, but slowly this trend is changing.

At Reclaiming Childhood, the program I volunteer at twice a week, girls learn about exercise, sports, healthy living, teamwork, and leadership.  This program was started by two American girls and it really speaks to the fact that many women don’t consider exercise.  A number of the girls in the program are either overweight or obese, and this program may be the only time of the week they have to get out and move.  However, that is not to say they are not concerned with self-care and body image.

Women in Jordan are gorgeous, they have excellent fashion sense, they know how to apply makeup like pros, and they take the time to pamper themselves.  This is one thing many American women should consider taking more time for themselves even with busy schedules.  Although it may be fair to say that many American women would say they do treat themselves, and that going to the gym on a daily or weekly basis is their method of self-care.

So maybe self-care and body image can take two forms exercise-fitness, and relaxation-rejuvenation.   I will say I am happy to come from a culture where exercise and fitness are seen as essential for a healthy lifestyle, but at the same time I could probably work on my self-relaxation and rejuvenation—now where is that Turkish bath!