January 18, 2005

Working out proves to be laborious

Members of the University community headed to the Gerald Ratner Athletics Center to shed post-holiday weight have noticed that fulfilling their New Year's resolution is harder than expected—due not to the strenuousness of the workouts, but to the difficulty involved in getting a machine.

It has become more time-consuming and complicated to work out at Ratner this quarter because of its increased crowdedness. Overcrowded conditions and complex procedures have begun to discourage students from exercising. As Toby Kramer, a second-year college student, said: "The gym is really crowded—it makes workouts take longer, which keeps people in the gym, making it more crowded."

Crowdedness is a large problem in the rotunda, which is often congested in the late afternoon, said Jon Bruner, a third-year in the College. He has not been able to use the elliptical machines in two weeks, he reported, because they've been blocked up for hours.

"I don't think that the signup sheet really helps—I think there would be a great deal less wasted capacity if people had to use the machines when they showed up," Bruner said. "There are often a few minutes where patrons who aren't signed up would make good use of the machines, because the people who reserved them are late."

Like Bruner, many students have voiced complaints concerning the implementation of the sign-up sheet in the Cardio Rotunda. The sign-up sheet is seen as inefficient and problematic, causing longer waits and making it more difficult to work out. "There are people who sign up for 45 minutes and then go on for 50 minutes, and also people who sign up for as much time as they can who only use it for half the time," said Brett Westphal, a fourth-year in the College. "And then there are people who just walk in and use the machines without signing up at all."

According to Jennifer Coleman, the assistant athletic director for facilities management, the managers did initially experiment with the idea of having a "first come, first serve" policy.

The sign-up sheet was originally put in place so that the maximum number of people could use the cardio machines. Specifically, it was intended to accomplish a number of things: enforce a time limit so that no one person would use the machines for too long, eliminate the trouble caused by people "saving" machines for their friends, and give people an idea as to how long they would have to wait for a machine.

The problem with the sign-up sheet is not inherent in the policy, but rather in people's lack of awareness about the particular rules. Coleman emphasized that "in order for the current sign-up system to work effectively and efficiently, patrons must become aware of, and adhere to, the policies that are in place."

Although the highlights of the policy are prominently posted on the wall, directly above the sign-up podium as well as in the hallway leading up to the rotunda, the majority of students asked were not even aware that they existed.

The rule sheet states that patrons are not allowed to sign up for machines more than an hour in advance, and only for up to 45 minutes at a time on one machine. It also states that if a machine is not claimed five minutes after the beginning of the time block, it will be relinquished to another patron.

Coleman assured that the Ratner staff would be making more efforts to enforce the rules, especially during peak usage hours. She explained that increasing the number of cardio machines is not a financially realistic possibility, so this improvement will hopefully be effective enough to lessen the crowds and reduce the wait, making it easier to drop those unwanted pounds.

Until then, Mollie Kazan, a second-year in the College, continues to blame the sign-up sheets for her lack of exercise: "I really don't like the sign-up sheets. It discourages me from going to the gym. Now I'm getting fat. Thanks, Ratner!"