By Alex Francisco and Jamie Cushman
It’s 5 p.m., you just got out of class, and you want to get a quick workout in before eating dinner and starting your homework. The only problem: hundreds of other people have the same idea.
Students at the University of Massachusetts face this issue every day as the school’s Recreation Center fills up in the late afternoon and evening when classes get out and people have more free time.
For example, this past Monday, March 6, about 1,200 people swiped into the Rec Center from the hours of 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., according to Assistant Manager for Building Operations Ben Blodgett.
With this many students exercising at the same time, some members of the UMass community are looking for ways to find more space for their workouts.
One place some students point to is the Rec’s three activity rooms. Used only for fitness classes and registered student organizations (RSOs), the general student population does not have access to these large, mirrored rooms.
Junior kinesiology major Sonia Manuel singled out the activity rooms as a great way to make the most of the space the Rec Center provides.
“I don't think we would need a bigger gym, but I wish they would make those mirrored [fitness studio] rooms on the second floor available when classes aren't going on,” Manuel said. “I feel like a lot of people would appreciate that extra space because there isn't a lot of room to spread out in the Rec Center. Not everyone feels comfortable to use machines and weights in such a small space that they provide.”
Opening up these areas and allowing students to spread out would not only make many current gym-goers happy, it could also make the Rec Center more attractive to a wider-range of people, like senior psychology major Erica Drachler.
"I pay to go to Planet Fitness in Hadley. I refuse to go to the Rec Center. It makes me really uncomfortable to work out and stretch well there when I feel like a bunch of guys are on top of me,” Drachler said.
Blodgett said the recreation staff does its best to make sure that these rooms get as much use as possible, but there currently are no plans to open them up for the general student population.
“I will say between the 40 plus RSOs that have times in there with their group fitness classes, there isn’t a ton of open availability. There is some oddball times where the room is unused, but we try to do our best to split based on schedules and availability of classes and other groups,” Blodgett said.
Another common complaint from students is the fact that the Rec holds just three squat racks, seemingly a low number of machines for a popular exercise at a gym that provides access to 22,000 undergraduate students, as well as graduate students, faculty, and community members.
"I think we need more squat racks, they only have three. There's almost always a wait for the squat rack area,” Manuel said.
Blodgett is well aware of these sentiments among the students, but points to a number of logistical issues, especially the high-cost of equipment like squat racks, that prevents them from adding more machines.
“That’s our number one, I would say recommendation or complaint from students, is that they want more squat racks, definitely,” Blodgett said. “It’s not falling on deaf ears, it’s just if you know anything about UMass or have worked with UMass, it’s snail speed around here. Nothing happens over night.”
Blodgett said ideally the Rec would have more funds in the future to purchase some more machines, like squat racks, and develop some sort of training course for students to ensure the equipment is used safely.
For now, students who want more space to work out and more access to machines will need to set their alarm and wake up early.