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FMS Foundations: with Sarah Elson

Over the next few weeks, we're looking at First Man Standing, exploring in a series of interviews how it came to be and what the journey ahead might look like. The series will mix passion and action with the knowledge and experience of some leading voices in the area of male violence towards women and men's ministry within the UK church.

We spoke to Sarah Elson, a personal trainer passionate about positive relationships between men and women at the gym.

Gaz: Do you have any examples of any bad experiences you've had in the gym?

Sarah: It's usually a problem-free environment. There's a preconception that it's a manly, testosterone-filled space. But most of the behaviour I've experienced has been really positive. Guys can treat women in a way they wouldn't treat other men in the gym... If I'm using a squat rack, sometimes people come up to me and ask 'can I just jump in'? and interrupt my training. Little comments can be quite knocking to someone's confidence. If you're not so confident, those little comments can stick with people and it can deter them from going to a class in future.

Gaz: If a guy wants to give genuine training advice... how would you expect a guy to approach you?

Sarah: If I'm in the gym, unless it's a safety thing, I probably wouldn't want to hear it. They should earn the right as a friend, or gym colleague. You're there to train, so perhaps make the approach a bit more organic. If in doubt, don't bother.

Gaz: Do you have any ideas as to how we can try and challenge behaviour... beeping, cat calling, laddish behaviour when women are out training in public?

Sarah: Even if you think it's someone you know, don't beep! Text them later. The last thing you want is someone creating that shock. If you're running past someone, cross over to the other side and come back. You hear so many stories in the news about women being attacked... As a woman, even if the chances are so remote, all these things play through your head. If you have a day when you feel less motivated to run, and think 'I'll stay in tonight'... one night becomes two nights, which becomes three nights, and you can lose your confidence. Making comments on anybody's body size, or level of fitness, it's not called for. It's never nice.