One of the biggest perks at Mercer is the fitness center, a fully operable and free gym for students and faculty. Open from 6 a.m. to midnight throughout the week and 10 a.m. to midnight on the weekends, the fitness center offers a variety of exercise classes taught by students for students and faculty, along with an extensive cardio and weight lifting set-up. It is an incredibly valuable resource for students, but there are a few things to keep in mind prior to stepping inside the gym.
No one cares what you’re doing
As someone who is deeply self-conscious, especially in an athletic scenario, trust me when I say, literally no one in the gym cares about what you’re doing. The staff is too busy working or studying while everyone else is focused on their own workout or worrying about others watching them. While you aren’t the only one feeling like that, it’s important to not let it psych you out! Listening to music, daydreaming or focusing solely on your workout are some surprisingly effective ways to forget that other people are there.
Start packing up by 11:30 p.m.
Here’s a fun fact about Bear Force members for you: between 11:00 p.m. and 11:30 p.m., the remaining Bear Force workers come into the fitness center to start shutting down everything for the night, wiping down machines and changing out equipment. It’s a lot easier to do when there aren’t three girls on the treadmills and five guys using the weights. And workers aren’t typically able to leave until everyone has left. So make sure to keep an eye on the time, and start clearing out before the clock strikes midnight.
Don’t forget your equipment
From towels to basketballs to locker keys, someone is always forgetting something, and it’s up to workers to go chase it down 20 minutes before midnight. If you check out a basketball, make sure to bring it back up from the intramural courts and hand it back in. Double-check that you return your locker key, especially because those can get you in some serious trouble if you don’t return them. Toss the towels into the bin by the door, so that they can be washed for the next day. Finally, remember: just because you—a 6’3 bodybuilder who can bench press 250 pounds—can lift your weight does not mean that I—a 5’6 girl who works out with cardio instead of weights—can. Be courteous and try to rack your weights in the correct spot after use.
Don’t be unnecessarily loud
The fitness center has music playing for most of the day, but many patrons also bring their own phone or MP3 player to listen to music, which is perfectly fine! Unless, of course, you don’t have headphones and start playing music out loud. In that case, chill on the music until you can grab your headphones because no one else wants to hear your new playlist.
Make sure you come stocked
There are three things that you never want to step foot in the gym without: a bottle of water, headphones and either a phone or MP3 player. Regardless of what you’re doing, working out in complete silence is grueling. One of my friends takes the chance to catch up on the newest episode of her favorite Netflix show, but YouTube or Hulu also work. As for water, that one is a bit more obvious. There’s nothing worse than slowly dying of thirst because you forgot to grab that bottle of water off the shelf at the POD.
Know the best hours
If you’re just starting out at the gym, it can be incredibly intimidating if other people are there, no matter what I tell you. With a bit of practice and observation though, you can figure out the hours when the gym is typically empty. The best times unfortunately and unsurprisingly tend to be the most inconvenient, such as early in the morning — like from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. — or really late at night — from 10 p.m. to close. I’ve been told that the more popular class hours, specifically midday, also tend to be emptier. One good rule of thumb is to see when Chick-fil-A and Panda Express are closed or empty during that day and aim for those times.
Hopefully, you’re feeling more prepared to hit the gym with all of these tips under your belt. If not, and you’re still wondering if it’s worth it, here’s a little reminder for you: whether or not you use it, your tuition is still paying for it after all. So make sure to get your money’s worth out of the fitness center!