Those who have not yet made the trek to the newly re-modeled Sports Centre will be shocked when they see that it has nearly doubled in size. In addition to the much-needed extra space, there are many new, exciting features: a new sports arena with the appropriate hardwood floors, lockers rooms with showers (that you will actually want to shower in) and a spacious, welcoming lobby that radiates professionalism. But while these additions are very much welcomed and appreciated by students who relish not being crammed into a single locker room and having the opportunity to exercise in a facility actually up for the task, the reality of the situation is that there is still a way to go. The full extent of these proposed changes is yet to be felt by students due to the staging of that various phases of construction.
At the moment, the gym is restricted to what most students know as the examination hall. This area contains all of the cardio equipment: treadmills, ellipticals and spinning bikes as well as mats for stretching and doing abdominal work, squat racks and weightlifting equipment. Prior to the ongoing renovation, this equipment was housed in five interconnected yet distinct rooms.
The combination of all of these materials has been the cause of both stress and relief to St Andrews students. Current fourth-year student and regular user of the gym Teresa Barros-Bailey welcomes the combination. “It is nice to be in there with everyone,” she says. “It’s less intimidating to go to into the weights area now rather than before when they were sequestered in a room that was very male dominated. it’s more of an equal playing field.” Another student, Alex Murray, admits that though the renovation probably should have taken place years ago, the openness of the temporary space is actually quite welcoming. He likes that he is able to come to the current set-up and immediately gauge what is available. “If the treadmills are taken, I see that and can choose to do something else,” he says.
The Athletics Union is clearly making an effort to maintain the gym as a viable student space during the renovation period. However, there are certain challenges that cannot be overlooked. The construction is distracting and at times interferes with workouts, such as when students were recently asked to vacate their treadmills. Electricity to that area of the gym needed to be cut in order for the construction work to continue.
Despite Ms Barros-Bailey and Mr Murray’s appreciation for the current setup, it can also be limiting. Fourth-year student Sarah Jones points out that the space limitations have meant that the loss of the mirrors typically found in the weight-lifting area. “It’s impossible to check your form and ensure that you are performing the exercise correctly,” she says. In addition to the limited equipment available, there is the issue of sharing the space. Students who wish to use the squat racks now have to share with the sports teams, meaning that there is less equipment available. Cardio classes attended by locals claim some of the exercise machines, which are then not available to students during the class’s running time.
While many students appreciate the new features of the sports arena, this issue with overcrowding extends to that space as well. The gym has been quartered by hanging curtains, and individual activities are assigned a quarter. In theory, this practice ensures that each respective sport, activity or class is given an equal share of the space when there is an overlap in the schedule. For example, when cheerleading and yoga classes occur at the same time, they do not physically impede on each other. However, noise does travel. It is hard to focus on being meditative while there is the distinctive counting of steps (“One… Two… Three… Four…”) and pop music floating in. One yoga attendee, fourth-year student Tori Gray, says that, though she tries to block it out, focusing on a practice that is “based on the rhythm of your own is really difficult with other noises around you.” And while those making the noise try to be considerate of the sound level, third-year cheerleader Thomas James says that keeping count is essential to the sport, as is playing music during practice. So both parties are stuck, trying to be considerate but also unable to engage fully in their workout.
Unfortunately, there is not much more that can be done to remedy these problems. Fergus Knight, the marketing and business manager of the Athletic Union, says that, for now, it is a waiting game. “We had to plan for the long term and unfortunately that means being uncomfortable in the short term,” he says, adding that these are the necessary measures the Sports Centre had to take to remain open during construction. The alternative was closure. Mr Knight says that construction for phase two, which will complete the new gym space, is on schedule to be finished by September and that the old building will be completely unrecognizable and ready for use by the time students return for fall term. Graduating students will miss the opportunity to enjoy the facilities, but incoming first years will enjoy the full experience.
The third and final phase of the renovations, the construction of the indoor tennis court facilities, will begin early next year, with the construction being completely finished by September 2017. Until then, the growing pains of the ongoing renovation will simply have to be accommodated. Until then, here are some tips for making the best of the current gym situation:
Rise early, stay late: Construction only takes place during business hours, so the best bet for an uninterrupted gym session is to arrive at the gym right when it opens or to save your gym session for later in the night. The opening hours for the Sports Centre are Monday through Friday, 7am – 10:30pm; Saturday, 9am – 10:30pm; and Sunday, 9am – 9pm.
Condense your routine: Pare down your usual workout to the bare essentials that will increase raise your heart rate for cardio and increase your strength. With fewer materials and less space, it is important to be as resourceful as possible.
Be efficient: If someone is using the machine you want to use, move on to your next one or try something new. Don’t get stuck waiting for someone to finish their reps and loom over them because then everyone feels awkward.
Have a plan: This goes along with paring down your routine and being efficient. Go into the gym with a plan for what you want to accomplish that day, whether it is focusing on your legs, arms or abs, and know what you need in order to feel that your goals have been accomplished. When you have a plan of attack, you do not waste time thinking about what exercise you might want to do next.
Students have been lobbying for a new gym for years. Like anything else, the final product is bound to involve some growing pains.
For more information about the Athletics Union, see the University’s website.