The Goergen Athletic Center (GAC), a hulking red and white terror, is home to a horde of rippling-muscled monsters: sports, cardio, and weights – to name a few. Without being equipped with the right information, students may be scared away. As an introvert with high anxiety and persisting trauma from high school gym, I’ve been intimidated by the GAC for quite some time too. 

But fear not, incoming students and GAC newcomers, I will divulge all my secrets on how I befriended the fitness monster.

Inside the GAC, you’ll find various facilities. However, without participating in a club, intramural, or varsity sports team, you’ll most likely be frequenting the Fitness Center, Leibner-Cooper Room, and Aquatic Center (though our tennis, squash, and racquetball courts can be used with reservations).

I never planned on utilizing the GAC during my first year at UR, but some hallmates of mine convinced me to join them for Zumba in the Leibner-Cooper Room. Zumba is one of the many group fitness classes held in that room throughout the week. Surprisingly, it boosted my mental health and even strengthened the relationship with my friends – creating a weekly tradition of attending Zumba and getting dinner together afterward. Last year, Caren Gellin took over as the Zumba instructor and the class only got better. She focuses on fun, body-positive routines that have honestly never made me feel more in tune with my physicality. 

However, beyond Zumba, I was still hesitant to explore the GAC further.

Sophomore year I experienced a crippling wave of body dysmorphia. I was never satisfied with how I looked in the mirror – no matter what I wore, what I ate, or how much I weighed. This continued into junior year until my dad convinced me to tag along at our local Virginia gym during winter break. I developed a routine and brought it back to UR with me to use at the Fitness Center inside the GAC. I was doing weight training – working on building muscle and toning my body – and splitting my days between arms, back/shoulders, and legs. The stability gave me a positive jump start to every day (and Starbucks as a reward), and I’ve learned a few things that made tackling the gym a whole lot easier.

  1. First, establish your routine and try to hold yourself accountable. Pick some days and times that work for your schedule – try avoiding 5-7 p.m. as that’s when the Fitness Center is most crowded. Use the day lockers (free of charge) or talk to GAC employees about renting one in the locker room. In the Fitness Center upstairs, you’ll find the weight room on the lower level and the cardio stations on the upper level. The Leibner-Cooper Room on the ground floor of the GAC is also a great option for warmups.
  2. If you’re hesitant to go alone, find a friend to go with you — that way you can keep each other motivated. When using the Fitness Center, try doing bench exercises by the mirror first. There are only a couple benches, even fewer adjustable ones, so you’ll want to get one as soon as you can. Have a smaller gym towel to claim your space and keep stations sanitary. Also, be sure to clean your station before and after use.
  3. When using machines, be flexible in the order of your exercises in case someone else is utilizing the one you want. However, when you’re on a machine, don’t feel rushed to finish. Some students with bad gym etiquette will hover, or others may even venture to ask how many sets you have left. Do not cave to their whims – when you’re at a station, it’s your time. They can wait.
  4. Even if you’re with a friend, remember that your workout is about you. Do what you want to do, what you can do, and what makes you feel good. Don’t let anyone else get in your head; I know it can be hard not to compare yourself to those around you but try not to let your eyes wander. Your progress and achievements are the only things that matter – no one else’s. 
  5. Remember to construct a kickass playlist that maintains your focus; going to the gym without music can be a pain. You can hear grunts, weights dropping and being picked up, chit-chat – this can make you distracted and even nervous. So don’t forget your music! Music empowers you to do your best during your workout and so does the right outfit. Whether it’s leggings, shorts, a t-shirt, or sports bra – find something that makes you feel confident and comfortable.
  6. Last piece of advice: some other Fitness Center staples include a reusable water bottle, weightlifting gloves (to avoid irritation), loose clothes to fit over your workout outfit in the winter, and a change of shoes on snow days. And don’t forget your student ID to swipe in!

At the end of the day, staying self-aware and evaluating how your time at the GAC is affecting your mental and physical health is key. While holding yourself accountable to your routine is important, you shouldn’t suffer for it. So please take a break or reassess your routine if needed – never make yourself feel guilty for making changes. 

Hopefully with this information you’ll be befriending the fitness monster in no time – I believe in you.

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