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When Whitney Blaylock got the idea to open an all-women fitness center, she ran with it.
Women’s World Gym will launch on Sept. 1, taking over 2,000 square feet of a warehouse-like space on East Allegheny Avenue. It’s a fast turnaround, considering planning started in July, right after Philly gyms were allowed to reopen post-coronavirus.
The spark was an oblivious man on a treadmill.
“I know it may sound silly, but this is the truth,” Blaylock said. She had wanted to take a selfie, but a guy just walked up in front of her and started using equipment, blocking the mirror.
“Wow, I can’t even take my own picture,” she thought to herself — and the gears started turning.
It was an annoying moment, Blaylock realized, but not unusual. The married mother recently lost 35 lbs. after a year of healthy eating and working out, she said, but her progress was plagued by self-consciousness around the male gaze.
“When you go into a gym and men are there and they’re looking and they’re trying to talk to you and things, that makes you feel uncomfortable,” Blaylock said. “And how can you try to work out when you feel uncomfortable? You’re going to pretty much give up.”
Enter Women’s World, which not only caters to an all-women clientele, it’s also designed and run by an all-women team. Men will be allowed in one hour a week, plus some forthcoming couples classes.
Though she’s opening a fitness center during the coronavirus pandemic, Blaylock already operates other businesses and said she’s not at all intimidated.
“I believe everything happened for a reason,” she said. “This space came about and it was ideal for what I was trying to do. This was kind of like the perfect fit.”
Blaylock runs a daycare that has reopened, as well as a consultancy that helps others open daycares, so she’s familiar with installing COVID-19 protections. The gym will require masks at all times, have hand sanitizer available, and do temperature checks.
The space at 426 E. Allegheny Ave. will be an open gym full of equipment. There are three kinds of classes on the schedule so far: HIIT, hip-hop cardio and twerk lessons. Blaylock is looking for an instructor with hopes to add a pole fitness session.
There’s a $30 monthly membership and a $50 option that includes three classes a month.
Graffiti walls and goodie bags
Women’s World Gym isn’t exactly entering an oversaturated market by setting up shop in the burgeoning pocket between Fairhill and Kensington. There’s one other gym right on the same block, according to Google maps, but most others nearby are miles south, in Fishtown or Northern Liberties.
The workout landscape is pretty lowkey to the north, where places like Feltonville and Juniata have mostly boxing gyms.
Options are even more limited when it comes to women-only gyms.
Philadelphia has one all-women open gym in the far Northeast, and a couple boutique spaces for mothers, or where women can work out with a personal trainer. Blaylock’s will be the only of its kind in the area.
And then there’s the powerhouse team she’s assembled.
The official Women’s World photographer is Taylor Baldwin aka @mama.photog on Instagram, the interior designer is a Black woman, and the videographer for the grand opening event will be, too.
When the gym opens to women of all shapes, sizes, races and ethnicities, the first 25 women will get free gym bags filled with goodies from Philly-based Black women-owned businesses.
Blaylock also thinks she’ll be able to tap into the slew of women entrepreneurs who work out of the building where her gym will be housed. The gym’s mission is “to have women confidently reach their fitness goals in a safe and comfortable environment,” and she’s excited to bring it to life.
“A lot of women, they are really ready to sign up,” Blaylock said. “They are ready to sign up now.“