How to navigate the gym: an upperclassman’s guide for freshmen

By Jessica Chaiken

Rec Center: Paige Teeny/ Daily Collegian
Rec Center: Paige Teeny/ Daily Collegian

As the new semester kicks into full throttle and students begin to settle into a routine, it is important for them to incorporate regular gym workouts into their schedule.

For some, the gym is a magical place. A place where the shine of the metal weights brings joy, the sound of feet pounding on the treadmill warms the heart and each drip of sweat is a perfect drop of happiness. For others, the gym is a nightmare.

As a freshman, or even just as a newcomer, the gym can be initially intimidating. So many different machines and equipment in one place can be completely overwhelming. But, with a little bit of direction and the motivation to go, anyone can become an expert at the gym.

The UMass Campus Recreation Center is located across from the Mullins Center, which is a convenient location for some, but not for others. It is a mere ten-minute walk from the Southwest Residential Area, and seconds away from the Commonwealth Honors College Residential Area. It is a state-of-the-art facility with a plethora of workout machines and equipment to satisfy your every fitness and exercise-related need.

So what is it that makes the gym so intimidating?

For some, not knowing how the machines work. For others, it can be the atmosphere.

The Rec Center is the one place on campus where many students congregate, regardless of their majors or interests. It is a clash of personalities: there are the so-called “gym rats” who never miss a day, the runners who seem to run forever on the treadmills, the elliptical fanatics, the yoga enthusiasts, the weight lifters and just about every other type of person you can think of. Having a variety of different types of people at the gym can be a great resource because you can learn new and different exercise routines from others. Yet, in some cases during peak hours, the influx of people can overcrowd the gym and cause chaos.

It is difficult to get yourself to work out on a regular basis, especially when the gym is teeming with students. The best way to prevent this uncomfortable situation is to go to the gym when it is less crowded.

Peak hours at the gym are approximately 3 p.m., or in the evening before dinner. During these times, the gym can be very crowded and you will have a much more difficult time accomplishing a satisfying workout. A great time to go is right when the Rec Center opens on weekday mornings, which is from around 6 a.m. (opening time) to 8 a.m. This is because only the disciplined early-risers will be there, and luckily there are not many of them.

Kiley Glavin, who has worked as a facilities employee at the Rec Center, for over a year, advises that the gym is always most crowded at the beginning of each semester, but empties out a bit more over the following few weeks. Glavin suggests that the best time to attend the gym is before noon, probably between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. For those still intimidated by the thought of going to the gym, she recommends, “Don’t worry too much about it if you think that other people are watching you. Everyone is in their own zone.”

One piece of advice to you would be to take advantage of the entire gym. Do not just run on the treadmill and leave. Check out the weight room and all it has to offer. There are so many different machines there that are just waiting to be used. If you don’t know how to use a machine, ask somebody. You may think that others at the gym may not want to help, but it does not hurt to ask. They may surprise you and take time out of their workout to help you. You can even ask a Rec Center employee.

The group fitness classes are also a great way to get your workout in for the day. The instructors direct you in what to do, so you don’t have to think about what to do next. Check out the group fitness class schedule on the Rec Center’s website and test a few out. If you want a hardcore jump-start workout, try spin class. Need a good cardio boost? Try cardio kickboxing or Tabata. The possibilities are endless.

The important thing is that you give the gym a try. Working out on a regular basis will keep you healthy. The more you go, the more you will learn to love it.

The gym is truly a melting pot for the motivated. Going to the gym is the one time you can set aside each day where you are allowed to be selfish (to a certain extent, of course). So ignore your inner laziness, and the little voice inside your head telling you no. Go at your own pace, your own time, and be confident. You can do anything you put your mind to, so seize the day.

Jessica Chaiken can be reached at [email protected]