Outgunned and overmatched

William Price

Why are you sweating already? You haven’t even walked inside the building yet. You glance over at the clock on your dashboard and read 9:40 p.m. in bright red letters. You slip the keys out of the ignition and fumble with your duffle bag before you start the trek to the front doors of the one of the largest collegiate exercise facilities on the East Coast. The RAC.

You slide through the front doors and are greeted with a smile from a RAC employee, a herd of absurdly muscular 20-somethings and the chorus of Kanye West’s “Mercy.” You pass through the gate and make your way toward the weight room and grab a bench. Out of the corner of your eye you notice Hulk next to you throwing up 375 pounds of metal like it’s a pool noodle and you decide that maybe cardio is more your thing anyway.

Then you jog upstairs, jump on a treadmill and set it to speed level three and happen to notice the patron to your left just finished a marathon and is cooling down at speed level eight. You know what? Your back hurts anyways and you take a rain check.

Finally, you slap some water on your face so everybody thinks you went hard in the paint in that spin class and roll out the front door.

Phew. Now that that’s over you can go watch ‘House of Cards’ and eat peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

Since the dawn of time, man has been comparing himself to his fellow man. This principle holds true to this day and you will not find a place more conducive to draw comparisons than a public gym.

Or will you?

Georgia Southern University’s Recreation Activity Center, or RAC, draws upwards of 5,500 students per day through its doors. The majority of which, according to Campus Recreation & Intramurals (CRI) staff and students who attend the RAC, could not care less about you or how you look.

”I think if I checked the guy beside me while I was running on the treadmill, I’d fall off,” Chris Butler, assistant director of marketing and communications for CRI, said. “I don’t think anyone’s really watching you, but in your head you might think they are. What happens is the more you work out, the more you realize that nobody has time to watch you exercise.”

Although it may seem like the mirrors riddled throughout the RAC are there for your neighbors to spy on you, they serve a much more real function. The mirrors are where they are for you to check your form in whatever exercise you might be engaging in so you do not hurt yourself.

”When you’re working out in a group fitness class, you’re surrounded by mirrors and other people and everybody is so concerned that everybody else is watching them. But, as an instructor I can tell you nobody is paying attention to anybody else. Everybody is looking at themselves in the mirror,” Amanda Kepshire, fitness instructor and CRI graduate assistant, said.

According to Emmy Richards, group fitness program director at the RAC, there are other reasons students may be forgoing exercise at the RAC.

“You know, in grade school we grow up playing sports and we’re not necessarily introduced to a gym-type facility until later in our lives, so we don’t grow up being conditioned to a recreation center like the RAC,” Richards said. “This is also a very critical time in everybody’s lives down here. They’re in a completely new place with no parents and are trying to find themselves. They have exams and being social and going out but also making good grades and fitness doesn’t always fit into that equation.”

Body image is also a key point to mention when discussing reasons why people may or may not participate in RAC activities, Dr. Janice Steirn, associate professor of psychology at GSU said.

”If the reason a person is embarrassed isn’t just general embarrassment, but because they don’t feel good about their body, then where the rest of us might think ‘if I do this wrong it’ll be embarrassing,’ they’ll be thinking it’ll be humiliating. Which is really a much stronger degree of embarrassment, which is a much bigger problem, the fear of humiliation,” Steirn said. “If you feel humiliated you won’t go to the RAC with a buddy, you won’t get a trainer to help you and it will be an issue for you.”

As doom and gloom as breaking through the barrier of low self-esteem, serial paranoia and living your life might sound, the CRI and the RAC does most of the dirty work for you. You have every piece of the workout routine puzzle put in neat order for you, from staff prepared to teach you how to do a pushup to a sauna to chill out in, the onus lies on the student to squeeze in that last piece.