During my first semester, I had a great schedule going. I was nervous about going to a college gym compared to my local YMCA, which I had gotten so used to, but I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t really crowded. I could go after my class and be able to walk over to any machine I wanted, only occasionally having to wait for someone to finish. I could sleep in some days without fear of walking into the gym later to find that there is a ridiculous amount of people.
This changed after winter break. At pretty much any hour of the day, there were so many people in the gym to the point where I felt uncomfortable there, even as someone who has been going to the gym for several years and has a relatively good understanding of how all of the machines work and how to do certain exercises. I felt terrible for my friends and other students who were already anxious enough to start in the weight room because now they have to deal with extreme crowds and fear of judgment. It helps me to know that no one’s watching me and everyone is doing their own thing, but that is much easier said than done, again, considering the time I’ve had to practice that mindset.
Everyone told me that the crowds would go down by March with the whole “New year, new me,” thing, but it’s approaching May, and I still find myself having to wake up at 6:30 a.m. to get to the gym before the crowd comes. Even then, there are days when there’s a crowd before 8 a.m. The other day, I woke up at 6:45 a.m. to get there before my 9:30 a.m. class, and when I checked the RecPlex live section on the Fairfield app, there were already 20 people in the weight room alone. Now I can’t complain—there have been days where there have been 50 or more people and those are the days I tend to just stick to running. It isn’t even worth it to try and go once it hits 30 people. You’re unlikely to get a machine, and the small space to use free weights is crowded.
Many people, including myself, use the gym as a way to destress, and I lose that when I’m trying to work out surrounded by tons of people. At that point, it’s almost impossible to mind your own business and do your own thing because the whole experience is just a sensory overload that takes away from any calming effects that working out is supposed to provide.
That brings me to my next issue. There is no space. At all. Usually, when I complain about the lack of machines, people will tell me just to use free weights, but even that space, which takes up less than half of the gym, fills by the time there are five people. It’s because there are machines just behind and benches just in front. There are separate open rooms in the gym, but they lack any heavyweight, so for anyone that needs something more than 20 lbs, you’re limited to the small free-weight space. Even the machines are packed together. When I’m going to wipe down my machine, I find myself having to wind through other machines and people standing and waiting.
Some people would say that the gym is usable, and that’s fair, some people are more comfortable in crowded and overwhelming situations than others. But to most, it’s only usable if you change your schedule around its busy hours. The RecPlex needs to consider dedicating more funding toward expanding the weight room to add either more machines or simply just more free space, as it will improve students’ well-being. It’s a known fact that exercise can help with physical and mental wellness, and there shouldn’t be any barriers limiting students from participating. When students can not use a place meant to de-stress and unwind because of limited space, it means that Fairfield has failed its students.