For many college students, maintaining good health is a top priority and can be difficult to juggle alongside academic and extracurricular commitments. Schools should minimize the barriers preventing students from leading fit and active lives. With Brown’s accessibility issues and limited fitness options, there are significant obstacles to staying fit here, and Brown could do a better job of facilitating healthy lifestyles for students.
One obstacle to fitness at the gym is the “bro culture” at the Nelson Fitness Center. For those who do make it to this gym, it can be an intimidating experience, especially when it is filled to capacity, which is quite often. While the cardio and machine sections of the gym are usually populated by people of all fitness levels, the free weights section is largely dominated by experienced male lifters. As someone who is new to fitness and trying to get into lifting or weight training, it can be a daunting task to even get access to a bench — let alone complete a full workout. The unspoken power dynamic between experienced and novice lifters is not only discouraging but also toxic.
Still, the Nelson — equipped with state-of-the-art machines and weights- — is one of the best gyms in Providence by far. But located on the northern bounds of campus, the modern facility cannot effectively serve Brown’s student body. For some students, the distance alone is enough to deter them from working out altogether. Others resort to south campus’ Bear’s Lair, a satellite gym with outdated, rusty equipment, grimy carpets, broken cardio machines and a blatant lack of barbells. Unfortunately, this facility constricts students’ fitness experiences given that it can only allow for quick cardio sessions or limited lifting workouts.
A simple solution to this lack of accessibility would be to create satellite gyms around campus that are well-equipped and user friendly. Right now, aside from the Bear’s Lair, the only other satellite gym is located in Keeney Quadrangle. This gym is newer and better equipped, but it is a small space primarily filled by the first-years who live in Keeney. There used to be a satellite gym next to the Verney-Woolley Dining Hall, but it was recently replaced with a lounge. This gym was never replaced with another fitness facility, and an announcement was never made about its demolition.
Perhaps, rather than pretending the V-Dub gym never existed, Brown could relocate the machines to another centrally located space. Complementing the old machines with newer weights and barbells would significantly improve the experience at a low cost. In addition to offsetting crowding in the other gyms, this could offer students much-needed space to pursue their fitness goals.
In terms of the human support for student fitness, Brown offers personal training classes. But the costs can be prohibitive. The personal training sessions cost $45 for just one hour-long session or $170 for four, which is far from affordable for many Brown students.
To combat such problems, some colleges have opted to train and hire student fitness instructors and personal trainers, which significantly reduces session prices and offers students exciting employment opportunities. Brown could benefit from doing something similar with its fitness resources. Not only would it slash the outrageous personal training prices, but it would also help even out the power dynamic in the gym by opening up opportunities for students experienced in fitness to help those who are looking to learn.
Another fitness alternative that Brown offers is studio fitness classes, which have a more affordable membership fee of $45 for a full semester. There are also free yoga sessions offered at Brown/RISD Hillel throughout the week. Increasing the visibility of these events and opportunities could further improve students’ fitness experiences at a low price.
Of course, these possible solutions involve trade-offs. Funding does not always come easily. But given the priority placed on health by both students and the administration, the current state of fitness options seems inadequate, and the solutions are within reach.
Samantha Savello ’18 can be found crying in the Bear’s Lair or be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.