March 29, 2011

The Campus Gym

The main fitness center at my campus is a great gym in many ways. The building is large and spacious with glass windows that overlook a glistening body of water. The gym has tennis courts, basketball courts, an indoor running track, and every machine you could want. Most of the equipment is relatively new, and repairs are completed quickly. They have complimentary towels. The gym employees are friendly, and roving personal trainers offer free introductory sessions. (Once I felt bad that nobody was participating in an introductory session, and I offered to be trained. She seemed disappointed that I couldn't think of any personal fitness goals, but she taught me how to use the rowing machine.)

However, for grad students, using the campus gym does come with some drawbacks. First, it's far away from the neighborhoods where most of us live, and parking is restricted until 4 p.m. It takes me 30 minutes to drive there, or an hour by public transit. This means that when I decide to go to the gym, I'm already committing 1-2 total hours to transportation alone, not to mention time spent on getting ready, my meandering little workouts, and showering when I get home.

Second, the gym is often very crowded, especially during peak times like New Years and the beginning of a new quarter, when everyone is starting their overly ambitious fitness routines. I believe campus gyms are even more vulnerable to seasonal rushes because admission is free to all students and faculty, so there is no financial downside to working out in January even if you know you're probably going to quit by February. The gym is especially crowded after 4 p.m. when parking is unrestricted, which is the only time I can reasonably go (I'm not going to spend an hour on public transit to work out). Today was the first day of the new quarter, and there were lines for fuck everything. When I arrived, I could not use any of the cardio machines because they were all occupied.

This brings me to another problem. The campus gym is not only crowded, it's crowded with your students, your former students, and even some of your professors. It's awkward enough to be sweat-drenched, with a hot red face and messy hair, in front of strangers -- but I feel even more self-conscious when my students see me panting and struggling through an interval. And when I see professors at the gym, even though they are doing the exact same thing, a little part of me wonders if they are thinking, "Oh look, it's Di Di, and she's not working on her dissertation."

The professors-and-students issue also complicates the locker room situation. I'm not one of those instructors who is obsessed with strict boundaries and formalities. But I never, ever want to see my students naked. Ever. Not even for a split second by accident. I also don't want them to see me naked. They can use my first name, friend me on Facebook when class is over. But I think clothes should be on when we see each other.

Sometimes I fantasize about joining a gym in my neighborhood, my own gym where I would never see my students. I could drive there in 5 minutes and park for free, and it wouldn't have limited hours during breaks in the academic calendar. Nobody would recognize me or talk to me or bother me... (in my fantasies, the entire gym is vacant except for me... I realize that in reality I would probably have to contend with men trying to talk to me, and there would still be crowds around New Years).

Unfortunately, real gyms cost money, and I'm already poor and facing a summer without income. Even though I know I would work out frequently at my hypothetical student-free, crowd-free, fitness paradise, it's not a justifiable expense when I have a free option. Gym memberships are the kind of luxury expense that grad students can't afford, like cable and going to the dentist. In the meantime, we just have to wait for summer, glorious summer, when the undergrads leave, parking is copious, and I can use whatever machine I want without waiting. Ahhhh.


  • I no longer use campus gyms. I just can't, even though I can go for free because my husband is a professor.

    I used to work out in the campus gym in OKC. I look younger when I'm sweats, and students would ask me what my major was, and I would answer: "Oh, umm, actually, I'm not a student. I'm married to a faculty member." They would then look shocked and appalled.
    That was awkward, but then there was the Most Awkward Moment of My Life when I was in the shower and heard: "Hey, look, that's Dr. R's wife."

    I have never used a locker room since. I went through a phase where I would change at home, drive to the gym, drive home, and then shower, but that just got gross.

    This whole "having students" thing is annoying, isn't it? And I absolutely agree -- rigid boundaries = silliness. But nakedness and teaching just never, ever mix.

    By Blogger Inksster, at 4/2/11, 10:00 AM  

  • I also never change and shower at the gym. I change at home (or quickly in the restroom stall if it's too cold to wear shorts outside) and then drive home to shower. Since I don't work on campus this year, I'm always headed home anyway, so that part isn't too bad.

    And fortunately, my gym has a restroom that is separate from the locker room, so I can avoid the locker room entirely... but it's definitely an annoying hassle. If/when I am an actual professor, I will probably pay for my own membership elsewhere.

    By Blogger Di Di, at 4/2/11, 2:46 PM  

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