UMass Goes for Muscles and Health

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Article and video by Liv Fahey for Professor Steve Fox’s Multimedia Journalism class.

In September of 2009, UMass Amherst opened the doors to a brand new 38 million dollar recreation center. Athletic Business Magazine wrote of the new facility in its annual “Architectural Showcase” and claims that it’s one “the best in recently constructed athletic, recreation and fitness facilities around the world.” UMass students that utilize the new gym are more than pleased with the shiny basketball courts, wide range of exercise equipment, and vast array of free fitness classes. “I go the cardio kickboxing class and it was definitely a full body workout. I was sore for literally three days, in places that I didn’t know I could be sore” said senior journalism major Paige Gildner.

The athletic center can be found on Commonwealth Avenue, directly across from the Mullins Center. It’s easy to get to and available along a bus route. Students make the trek from the Southwest Residential Area, walking in packs along the sidewalk. Despite the cold and windy days of December, undergrad boys and girls wearing mesh shorts and short sleeved shirts holding basketballs and yoga mats jog briskly to the gym. The cars have to yield constantly to let students jaywalk across the streets and through the parking lots.

Although the Rec Center certainly has peak times during the day when the gym is crowded, more often than not it’s easy to find a machine and get a solid work out. With 140 pieces of cardio machines and free weights, 3 wooden gymnasium floors, an indoor track, and a cafe/juice bar, the recreation center was well worth the wait. Undergraduates students are allowed to belong to the recreation center as a part of the regular tuition while graduate students and outside community members have to pay a monthly fee.

Aside from providing students with a fresh environment for working out, the Rec Center also opened up a wide range of student employment opportunities. Students work as floor supervisors, lifeguards, class instructors, personal trainers and equipment assistants. After this upcoming winter break, the gym will officially be opening its doors at 5 A.M., and is looking for even more students to fill those positions for early morning shifts. “I started working here at the beginning of the semester, it’s a great place to be” said freshman Jenna Paquette, a floor supervisor at the Rec. Center.

One reason for the great success of the Recreation Center rests in the fact that it replaced Boyden Gym. Boyden still exists but is now only available for use by UMass athletic teams. My guess is that there are no students sitting in their rooms crying over this new development. Boyden Gym, which was located in the basement of the building and held only 7 treadmills, will not be missed. “I never have to wait for a machine at the recreation center. At Boyden you had to sign up ahead of time and wait in line” said senior Demi Kavaltzis when asked about her work out experiences.

College kids and working out go hand in hand. That’s not to say that every undergraduate here at UMass is hitting up the gym on a regular basis, but the ones that do have it ingrained in their daily routine. Whether boys are going to “swell”, which is a new slang term for muscle building, or girls are going to use the elliptical for an hour, kids will always be there, counting away the calories. Sometimes it’s for health reasons, but more often than not it’s for physical reasons. “When I look good, I feel good” said super-senior Brian Eastman. It’s an undeniable fact of life that we are deeply invested in our physical appearances.

With 24,000 feet of space, the Rec Center is one of the most popular buildings on campus. Emily Seery, a senior kinesiology major, told me that “The Rec Center is the best investment that UMass could have made.” Students love the space, availability, and exercise class options provide by the new gym. It’s become a key component of many peoples daily lives here at UMass. No matter the weather or time of day, the rec center will always draw in a faithful crowd, you can count on that.

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