By Jennifer Kotila
DASSEL, COKATO, MN When first approached about separating young men and women for strength and fitness training, DC High School physical education teacher was not on board with the idea, she said.
Although the adminstrator who approached her had an article evidencing the benefits of separating young men and women, she decided to test the theory herself.
She separated the times that the male and female sports teams were allowed to use the weight room, she said.
It was not long before Berg realized that when young women were allowed to workout without young men present, it took a shorter amount of time for the women to become comfortable with the equipment, Berg said.
After the young women became acquainted with the equipment, and how to properly use it, they were much more comfortable in a mixed-sex environment, Berg said.
So, Berg approached the curriculum advisory committee in October 2010 with research in hand, including a survey given to students about the interest in such a class, her observances in separating the sports teams, and another study completed by the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District.
“There was immediate acceptance of the concept for a female strength and conditioning course,” said Cokato Elementary Principal Lorene Force, who is also the curriculum director. “Several members (of the curriculum advisory committee) commented that they wished there was a course of this nature when they were in high school.”
The course was offered for the first time this year, and because of demand, was offered both first and second trimesters.
The class is offered to 10th through 12th graders, with the option of taking it once per year.
This fall, 22 young women were in the class, and another 18 are signed up for second trimester.
If a class is missed, students are required to make it up before or after school when the weight room is open.
“It doesn’t even phase them that guys are in the weight room, because they know what they are doing,” Berg said.
Before the female-only strength and conditioning class was offered, only a few young women would take strength and conditioning training each trimester, Berg said.
There are still some young women who choose to take the mixed-sex class, Berg said.
Berg has noticed that the young women in the female strength and conditioning course are more comfortable increasing their output than when in the mixed-sex course.
“They are more willing to be able to fail, given the environment they are in,” Berg said. Meaning, they are willing to continue repetitions until muscle fatigue sets in, and they are no longer physically able to continue.
Berg also realized that young women will use a wider variety of tools, such as stability and medicine balls, in their strength and conditioning training than young men, who stick mostly to the weights.
“Many of the girls in this class wouldn’t have taken the (mixed-sex) class, or come in to the weight room before and after school,” Berg said.
Now that they are in the class, she sees them more often at other times the weight room is open, she noted.
More comfortable with women only class
Many of the young women in the class acknowledge the fact that they would not have taken it if it were not female only.
“I probably would have taken one of the team sports classes (instead),” said sophomore Whitney Wuollet.
“It’s fun with just girls,” added sophomore McKenzie Wisuri. “You don’t feel dumb.”
Wuollet and Wisuri were working out together with Bosu balls, (half ball with a platform on one side used for stability and balance training) doing squats.
Junior Amanda Nessett, who was working on pectoral flies with free weights, agreed with Wuollet and Wisuri, saying it would have been awkward taking a mixed-sex class.
Working on her parallel squat was junior Brittany Dimond, who said she probably would have taken the mixed-sex class, but would have been nervous in front of the guys in the class.
Senior Janina Peterson would have also taken the class as mixed-sex, but the female only class fit better with her schedule.
“But, it’s fun if girlfriends try to help each other work harder,” Peterson said, who was assisting her partner, senior Natasha Wuollet, on the bench press.
Wuollet admitted she would not have taken the class as a mixed-sex class. “I’m more comfortable around girls,” she said.
“Girls are more fun to compete against,” said senior Jessica Moe, who was working on the lateral pull-down.
Guys are stronger, so competing against them is less balanced.
Competing against other girls is fun because thay are more evenly matched, Moe noted.