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The stress of undress
Date:3/15/2012

Sweating in the gym, surrounded by others, pounding to the beat in group exercise class has become the norm for many women. But when it comes to the experience of changing in the locker room, the acts of disrobing, dressing, showering and being naked in front of others, can be very discomfiting. It's a complex experience as women are faced with an awareness of their bodies different than in any other space.

"I walk into the change room and pace anxiously up and down the rows of lockers. I look for an empty aisle, hoping for some semblance of privacy. I don't like to change in front of others, it makes me uneasy. Perhaps I'm uptight. Or maybe I have what experts would call 'body issues.' But either way changing in public cause me stress."

So begins a new study looking at women's experiences of changing in a public change rooms. Author Marianne Clark, a doctoral student in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Alberta, says it was her own experience as a dancer and frequent user of fitness facilities and therefore of public dressing rooms and change rooms that led her to explore how other women felt. "Using these facilities, I've always felt an unarticulated discomfort," says Clark.

The act of undressing and being naked, and particularly where there is the potential to be observed by others, can be daunting, as much of the way we think about ourselves and our self-confidence is wrapped up in our notion of ourselves as fully clothed. Undressing in front of others, can, according to Clark, "disrupt" our experience of ourselves, because it reveals an intimate self we don't usually freely display.

Clark says in talking to other women about their experiences in these spaces, "They all had a story and it usually involved a time when there was another person involved."

One woman described being pre-occupied walking into the gym, then suddenly becoming aware of the presence of others in the
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Contact: Jane Hurly
jane.hurly@ualberta.ca
780-492-6821
University of Alberta - Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation
Source:Eurekalert  

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