Orienting to FitRec: A Dummy’s Guide to FitRec and Scary Gym People

All the sweaty people, where do they all come from? FitRec. | Photo by Patricia Bruce

Orienting to BU Fitrec is a series one-time post aiming to help the Class of 2015 gym newbies in the sometimes bumpy transition from high school to Boston University the couch to Fitrec. 

Boston University’s Fitness and Recreation Center (widely known as FitRec) is a multi-million dollar building dedicated to the health and well-being of BU students and people living in the local area. It’s the university’s glorious bastion of sweat, tears, egos and sleeveless t-shirts.

You’re also paying for it, whether you use the place or not. So it’s definitely a good idea to try the place on for size. And for better or for worse, it’s shortly after New Years! So make good on that resolution that you really should have made.

Unfortunately for those not highly conditioned to a gym atmosphere, FitRec can be terrifying. It’s populated almost solely by your peers and encourages you to look like a sweaty, uncoordinated buffoon at nearly all times. And if you aren’t looking like one, you’re working out wrong.

Here are some tips to bring out your inner Genghis Khan, to claim and conquer FitRec as your very own. Just try not to pillage and burn the place.

Survey the Land: Before committing to a workout plan, take a preemptive tour of FitRec and get an idea where all your necessary workout equipment can be found. Most popular workout equipment, such as treadmills, dumbbells, and smith machines, can be found in different places on multiple floors. Nothing says “new and confused” like walking around like a child lost in the mall.

Wear Comfortable Clothing: Fixing a physical insecurity is the number one reason people go to the gym, and fear of others judging that insecurity is the number one reason why people stop going. It’s difficult to muster up the tenuous bravado needed to ignore perceived social judgment; don’t ruin that bravado by wearing ill-fitting or disliked clothing. Or light-colored t-shirts that scream sweat stains.

Be Prepared: As the Boy Scouts famously say, be prepared. Don’t ping-pong back and forth between your workout and the water fountain; bring a small-rimmed water bottle. Eastern Mountain Sports sells wide-rimmed water bottles that will end up dumping all your water reserves on your face; recycling a 32oz. Snapple bottle works wonders. Also, bring your own motivational music. “Someone Like You” and “Jar of Hearts,” FitRec All-Time Hits, are better suited to sobbing into a tub of ice cream than exercising. Lastly, if you’re serious about working out, bring a notebook to record your progress from week to week. It gives you street cred.

Fake It ‘Til You Make It: If you are a girl using weights, someone not shaped like Adonis, showing emotion other than “manly” apathy, exerting effort on the treadmill, using a machine another person wants to use, or sticking out in any way possible, someone will probably be giving you an odd look. Luckily enough, their opinion does not matter with regard to your workout routine. So do not let it. The only time it does is if someone tries to cut you in line for something. Assume you’re better than him or her (you probably are) and stand your ground. It gives you even more street cred than a notebook.

Practice Smart Fitness: The more you know, the better off you will be health-wise and the more you’ll blend into the environment. Consult a personal trainer, do research online, and go on a regular schedule. Don’t reward yourself with a HealthyBlends smoothie if you wouldn’t have consumed those calories otherwise; you’ll undo your calorie loss. Unless you’re using incline, don’t walk at 3.5 mph on the treadmill; that’s typical walking speed down Comm Ave. Initially use basic exercises, push through the pain, tidy up after yourself, and you’ll look like a bona fide professional.

Ghost Hours: Throughout the vast majority of the week, FitRec is fairly busy. It can be filled with lines, intimidating body builders, and apparently everyone you’ve ever met in your life ever. Fortunately, there are several hours where FitRec is fairly unpopulated. Weekday hours from 6am-9am and weekend from 8am-10am are ideal for you (apparently masochistic) early birds. For you night owls, you might have to sacrifice something else: your Friday or Saturday night.

When the clock strikes 8pm on either night, the gym empties out. Maybe 15-20% of FitRec’s equipment is in use, and none of the judgmental gym crowd is around. The atmosphere becomes strangely welcoming because only the serious few are left. Think of it this way. While the mean-machismo men and the girls-who-cardio-so-slow-they-can-read-Cosmo are out drinking away their calories, you’ll be molding yourself into Batman or Wonder Woman. You are a dedicated superhero, and are therefore awesome.

Bring a Friend: Having a trusted cohort during any given gym session can make the awkward stares from muscle-jocks and elliptical girls far less damaging to the self-esteem. Not only does it tell people that you are awesome enough to have friends, but it also makes awkward moments less embarrassing and more hysterical. Dropping a dumbbell on your foot will create an inside joke instead of shame. Mostly.

Heading to the gym in a pair (any more and it’ll be impossible to get work done) is also an excellent safety precaution. Part of working out comes with pushing yourself as far as you can humanly go. Doing so will force you to toe the line between “maximum power” and “oh crap, I’m going to drop this bar.” Having a friend will allow to safely push yourself the farthest.

Congratulations! You now have the sufficient knowledge to model-walk into and out of FitRec with ease. As long as you keep going on some consistent schedule, your experiences will get easier and easier. Employees and gym rats will recognize and accept you, and the initial hesitance will evaporate into thin air.

If you see someone in FitRec who looks intimidated (you can tell by the trademark deer-in-headlights look), help them out. Build a community and kindly offer advice; you’ll learn that there are quite a few people there willing to do the same.

Jon Erik Christianson

Jon Erik Christianson

Jon Christianson (COM/CAS '14) is the zany, misunderstood cousin of The Quad family. His superpowers include talking at the speed of light, tripping over walls, and defying ComiQuad deadlines with the greatest of ease. His lovely copyeditors don't appreciate that last one. If for some reason you hunger for more of his nonsense, follow him at @HonestlyJon on Twitter or contact him at jchristianson@buquad.com!

One thought on “Orienting to FitRec: A Dummy’s Guide to FitRec and Scary Gym People

  • January 30, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    This is SO helpful. I would’ve loved to have read this first semester freshman year. Thanks Jon!


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