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Fitness and recreation: Navigating a crowded gym

As each new semester at Belmont begins, there’s a pattern emerging at the Fitness and Recreation Center.

There’s just a lot of people in the weight room.

More than 7,000 people now make up Belmont’s student population. Those students — combined with the faculty, staff and Belmont’s neighbors who also use the center — take up more room than the fitness center currently has to offer.

“Right now, there tends to be a little bit more free time for students. Maybe their classes haven’t gotten too busy or anything like that, so naturally we are more crowded,” said James Zeller, the director of the Fitness and Recreation Center. “Once post fall break hits, we see a little bit of a drop, but it’s not too much. We still have a consistent number who continue to come. We’re pushing almost over 5,000 visits per week.”

During the campus-wide discussion on the fate of the Hitch building, many suggested that students wanted a bigger Fitness and Recreation Center. The center itself didn’t have any part in the suggestion, so there are no foreseeable expansions coming up.

But don’t give up on the dreams of an iron body just yet. There are more options other than the treadmills and the barbells inside the fitness center.

“We’re not getting any more machines. We don’t have any more room for machines,” said Zeller. “But we have lots of equipment. We have lots of kettlebells, we have lots of resistance bands.”

Group fitness classes also offer a fun way to get a workout in. Whether it’s with Zumba, yoga or circuit training, there’s something for each student.

“Going to the group fitness classes is super great. In there, you’re more structured,” said Lillian Jones, a student worker at the gym. “Even if there are a lot of people, the group fitness instructor is really good about making sure you don’t feel too crowded in there. Like Zumba – we had 112 people in there, but there was still room for everyone to dance and have fun and get the most out of it.”

The weight room also offers more than just a place to use the ellipticals. There are plenty of under-utilized pieces of equipment, said Zeller. Events like the recent Belmont FitFest are also meant to teach students to use these pieces of equipment so they have more options for their workouts.

“What I would encourage students to do is to not rely so heavily on machines and talk to us and ask us about how to utilize some of the other equipment that we offer,” he said.

What Zeller and the rest of the staff at the gym are trying to stress this semester is that students don’t have to turn around and leave just because all the machines are taken.

“It’s easy to go sit on a machine and do what the machine allows you to do. It takes the thought out of it. But to use a resistance band and to understand the resistance band can provide you a really, really good full-body workout. That’s what we’re trying to teach and convey to students,” Zeller said.

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