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November 30, 2016

No jeans at the gym

Normally when I get told off for wearing the wrong clothes, I look around and wonder how the hell I found myself in a costume party. So it came as a bit of a surprise when one of the new Recreation Center’s 200 student workers interrupted my tricep pushdowns to tell me about the dress code. I’d been away for a semester after all, and to me the Recreation Center really is as shiny and new as it looks. Of course, I started wondering after my fellow student had duly notified me of the Recreation Center policies, why I couldn’t use the new workout rooms in the same clothes that I had always worn to work out in in the old gyms.

So I did a bit of investigation. As it turns out, the Rec Center’s fitness and weights area has a dress code better suited to Pleasantville than to the lifestyles of University of Massachusetts students. The regulations on their website require that, “Proper exercise attire – footwear, upper and lower body clothing – must be worn at all times.” When it comes to shoes, you have to wear sneakers, and they can’t be the sneakers that you just wear around in daily life – those are dirty. Apparently, my hiking boots looked prohibited enough to draw my warden’s notice, but in his final judgment seemed okay. The regulations go on to say that we have to wear decently modest shirts that don’t show the “full torso” before reaching their real sticking point: pants. The website specifies that, “Jeans and pants with buttons, metal zippers, metal rivets, belts and belt loops are not permitted. These items accelerate wear and tear on the equipment and could pose a risk of injury.”

Ah. There was my problem. I wore jeans to work out in because I didn’t have the lugging capacity to bring extra pants with me to the gym, and I didn’t have the time in the middle of my class schedule to trek up to the Orchard Hill Residential Area, get sweatpants, walk to the Rec Center, change, work out, change back, return the sweatpants to my dorm room and get to class. Sure, my jeans didn’t have metal rivets or studs that could cut into the cushions of the weight-lifting machines, but according to the Rec Center’s dress code, the button, metal zipper and belt loops will cause enough damage on their own – despite my not humping the exercise equipment.

Of course, one would think UMass would enforce these rules with an eye towards practicality, the same way they enforce the rules on what we can keep in our dorm rooms. They always did it that way in Totman and Boyden gymnasiums, where I used to exercise. However, my first-hand experience at the Rec Center indicated otherwise. Apparently, the Rec Center administration actually expects students from five out of six living areas on the eastern and northern edges of campus – and those who live off-campus – to walk through the day slinging an extra bag of gym clothes on our already-bent backs, just to make sure we conform to their views of proper gym attire – in addition to walking all the way across campus to the Rec Center in the far west, where the Elves and Valar dwell undying in the Mullins Center.

Skeptical of my own irritation, I decided to talk to the person running all this. Senior associate director of campus recreation Jeanne L. Orr happily enlightened me. She told me, “There’s always a dress code in a fitness facility … You want participants in exercise attire … People are exercising, that’s what they should be wearing.” She explained that the dress code avoids clothing that damages equipment, like my jeans with the metal bits at the crotch. When I asked about what the new Rec Center meant for those of us living in the east whom always used Totman, she told me hundreds of pounds of equipment were moved from the Totman and Boyden to the new Rec Center. “There’s no reason to keep open a small satellite facility,” she said. Finally pounding the last nail in the coffin of my frustration, Orr told me about the cost/benefit analysis that justified closing the old Totman gym, and noting that in any case, “It makes it difficult, I’ll be honest with you, to adequately supervise patrons in locations when they’re in other places.”

It all makes sense now. We had to build a new Rec Center because otherwise our construction budget would go to waste, and we had to close the old ones because we just didn’t have the budget for them. Besides, closing the more convenient gyms makes it easier to control how exercisers dress. That’s what’s important, after all: making sure everyone not merely refrains from damaging the equipment while exercising, but also looks good for UMass brochures. Of course, campus recreation isn’t at all unreasonable. If I can’t lug extra clothes all the way across campus and back every time I want to work out, I can always rent a locker for the semester at the low, low prices of $20 for a half-locker and $30 for a whole locker, so I’ll just pony up the cash and pose for the marketing photos – complete with sweatpants, white T-shirt, buzz-cut hair and vacuous smile.

Eli Gottleib is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at

6 Responses to “No jeans at the gym”
  1. Joe Cool says:

    Clearly you’re not familiar with fitness facilities in general. Before you write about something that bothered you, you should become more familiar.

    As for the excuse that you cant “lug” you pants to the gym, thats a load. First off, you could just wear sweat pants to class, or put them in a bag, or rent a locker that is available at the Rec Center.

    Second, if you’re wearing jeans and hiking boots to work out, you’re prob not getting a great workout and shouldnt be writing about something youre unfamiliar with

    Thirdly- every new facility is going to have its problems. For me, I disagree with the fact they dont want people dropping weights in the weight room. But for something as simple as bringing the right pair of pants to workout out in, come on man, figure it out.

  2. muad'dib says:

    Yeah, dude, lighten up. The Rec Center doesn’t exist for your use and convenience but you for its. You should know this stuff!

  3. Zack says:

    These are the same rules that you will find in any normal gym. Honestly you shouldn’t workout in jeans and hiking boots anyways lol. Get some workout gear. Throw it in your bag or something, its really not that hard…

  4. Jim Gallip says:

    The spanex lulu lem thing gotz ta go.. yea some chicks real nice to see with thin bodies, BUT the girls now a days are fat and they think they can wear this stuff. You ever think that you look like a fool and seeing your fat @#$ unless your a black guy most people do not like to look at this lard . Just a thought. There are sweat pants to cover your fat belly butts.

  5. Adam says:

    I cannot believe you are in college and do not know this. You are a total douchebag

  6. Billy says:

    i work out wearing jeans in my garage. Never had a problem. Imagine a gym without cushions or perfume. That’s how it should be. Get comfortable AFTER the gym, break yourself down and stink while you’re there. I’m sure tuition would easily cover new equipment every semester. Grow a pair. Real men wear jeans to the gym. Pussies wear anti-chafing cream. Bust your ass at the gym, then GTFO. If this offends you, take a Valium and grab a Starbucks concoction to make it through this tough time. My condolences, sorry for your loss of man card.

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