Rhiannon Wellings loves going to the gym.
While doing weights and working out was the St Kevin’s College pupil’s passion, she knew the gym could be an intimidating place for young women, and she too had struggled with confidence, usually surrounded by so many boys.
Wanting to break down those barriers, Rhiannon (16) came up with the idea for a girls-only hour at the St Kevin’s gym and pitched it to deputy principal Craig Smith. Mr Smith was very supportive, and after securing funding for the initiative, arranged for Melissa Smith, from Melissa Smith Total Wellbeing, to run weekly girls’ weights room sessions after school on a Tuesday afternoon.
The first session was held last week.
Rhiannon said it was a safe space for girls to learn new skills and gain the confidence to go to them gym by themselves. Girls could workout by themselves in the girls-only environment, or spend time with Mrs Smith.
‘‘You get your programme, you get some advice, you get whatever you need in that hour,’’ Rhiannon said.
Rhiannon, who plays rugby and touch, said going to the gym was ‘‘great’’ for her mental and physical health. She had been a regular gym-goer, and learnt a lot of her skills from watching TikTok videos.
While she had some experience, she had learnt a lot from Mrs Smith’s sessions already, finding it useful to go back to basics and check her technique.
Rhiannon, who is in year 12, was thrilled her idea had come to fruition, and she was helping to empower other girls to feel confident in themselves. The sessions had also inspired her to do personal training course.
‘‘I like this whole atmosphere and empowering other women,’’ she said.
‘‘This is my passion — I love weights and working out.’’
Mrs Smith was also passionate about helping girls feel ‘‘strong, confident and empowered’’. She said the girls-only hour was a great initiative, and she was thrilled to be leading the sessions at her old school.
Weight training for women had been gaining traction in recent years — and there was a good reason for it, Mrs Smith said. It helped with strength and conditioning, and reduced the risk of injury.
She also wanted to debunk the myth that lifting heavy weights made women ‘‘bulk’’ up.
‘‘It’s always been seen as a guy thing, and women have always thought you do weights to get big and bulky, but that’s actually not right — the body doesn’t work like that,’’ she said.
‘‘You’re not going to end up like Arnold.’’
Mrs Smith has a bachelor of science, with a major in human nutrition, and a bachelor of physical education, with a major in exercise prescription.