Athenas Lifting Club looks to empower non-male lifters

Student-founded club aims to promote confidence and strength in the weight room


Courtesy of Athenas

Members of Athenas Lifting Club participate in a training session at a Functional 45 training studio in Winston-Salem.

Aine Pierre, Online Managine Editor

Inside the Sutton Center’s gym is a weightlifting room that some on-campus refer to as the “fishbowl,” where onlookers from other floors can watch every second of someone’s weightlifting workout. Junior Martina Lammel Knebl said that in a male-majority workout environment such as the Sutton Center, working out in spaces like the “fishbowl” can promote feelings of insecurity and hypervisibility.

“[The girls who work out in that room] all feel like fish in a fishbowl because everyone’s staring at them,” Lammel Knebl said. “And that’s just not how you should be feeling in the gym.”

This was the impetus for Lammel Knebl and junior Virginia Wooten to start Athenas, Wake Forest’s non-male lifting club. Athenas, per Wooten, is open to anyone who does not identify as male and has an interest in lifting, regardless of prior experience. Some members, like Athenas’ two founders, are personal trainers, others are just starting out.

“It’s your own time; come as you will, and we’ll take you from whatever point,” Wooten said. “There are people who are personal trainers like me who just came just to meet some other girls who enjoy doing this and people who have never stepped foot in a gym before. It’s been really cool to just see that commonality of wanting to be around like-minded, strong and confident individuals on campus.”

In the vein of strength and confidence, the founders chose the name Athenas to honor the Greek goddess of warfare, strategy and wisdom.

“We were going for a badass name, so we felt like Athena covered all the bases,” Wooten said. “All we want for the girls in the club, for ourselves, for the members for exec, any new members and for any woman honestly, part of the club or not, is to feel like an Athena.”

Confidence and strength are built in many ways, however, and everyone has unique obstacles to overcome in their pursuit of those attributes.

“We’re helping girls who are struggling with eating disorders, and we’ve had a lot of people tell us that they had eating disorders and they just couldn’t turn that around, and they joined us because of that,” Lammel Knebl said. “So we want to take a more positive view on mental health. Because yes, Athenas is about working out and looking good, but more so, it’s more about feeling better and empowering ourselves.”

Lammel Knebl said that she has been heartened by the growth the girls in Athenas have undergone.

“It just makes me feel happier knowing that we can help these women be happier and more confident,” she said.

And, according to Wooten, even nonmembers are noticing a positive impact.

“I actually had men on campus who I didn’t even know personally who came up and said, ‘hey, heard you’re associated with Athenas. I just want to say thank you, you helped my girlfriend or friend,’” Wooten said. “It was really cool to see the positive reaction from men on campus about this.”

As the club continues to grow, its founders hope to support its members in even more ways, including connecting with the Women’s Center and THRIVE Office, as well as bringing in guest speakers.

“We’re working towards just getting guest speakers in, such as licensed therapists and dietitians who can talk more about mental health and nutrition and provide just good opportunities for our girls,” Lammel Knebl said.

Athenas’ new meeting time for the Spring 2022 semester is yet to be announced, but new members are encouraged to attend meetings once that time is set.