It’s Friday, so here is another guest from your favorite intern, Laura!

College gyms aren’t exactly like other gyms, in fact, they’re kind of a unique place. You are constantly bombarded by your classmates, dormmates, and that kid you’ve met 100 times but can’t quite remember his name.  High traffic times aren’t pre or post 9-5 but rather follow your class schedule.  And if you go to a school like mine, more money is put into academics and athletic teams than the dinky ‘recreation center’.  (Sorry BC, love ya, but our gym looks like an ancient circus tent. And no air conditioning, really?)

So if you’re a college student, this is dedicated to you. I understand the plight of using every last ounce of energy you have after class to motivate yourself to go workout, only to find the gym is packed to capacity and the line for the treadmill is longer than the one for the new iPhone. So here I’m going to break it down for you: when peak hours are, what amenities to look for, and random tidbits I’ve learned over the past 4 years.

Peak Hours: In general, if you enter just about any college gym between 3-730, give or take a half hour, you will find it jam packed with students. College kids flock to the gym post class (or post hangover, if it’s the weekend) and leave when its time to do homework (or time to get ready for a night out, ahem, weekend again). Special cases include…

-Sundays & Mondays: I find Sunday afternoons and Mondays as a whole are busier because everyone feels the need to burn off those post weekend party drinks.

-Fridays: Mid afternoons expect the same type of Monday busyness with kids getting their workout in before the weekend madness ensues.

-Post Winter Break to Spring Break: This applies to every gym. The combination of New Year’s resolutions and spring break body goals mean the gym will be absolute havoc. It’s this time of year you will probably have to make the effort to get up a littler earlier and beat the big crowds of sporadic gym-goers.


-Group Fitness Classes: A lot of college gym’s offer free workout classes, whether its yoga, spinning, total body conditioning, kick boxing, etc. These are great substitutes for your normal routine.

-Personal Training: As a trainer at BC’s gym, I know just how much more affordable personal training is at college recreation centers.  They usually offer great group packages, so get some friends together and make an appointment.

-Equipment: This goes for any gym. There is always something at the gym, whether it be dumbbells, weight machines, barbells, or cardio machines.

Random Tidbits:

-If you’re an elliptical fiend but can only workout between 3 and 7, expect lines. I find I can get a better workout using cycling bike, the erg, running outside, or swimming, so definitely start to consider your options and be willing to step outside your workout comfort zone.

-Circuit training is also another great option if you are time pressed and want to avoid the rush of people. Warm up, then pick a sequence of 4-6 exercises you can perform with available equipment and do it 3 times through.

-Finally: It’s worth waking up an hour early or sacrificing 45 minutes of social time to work out. Trust me, taking too many days off from exercising catches up with you fast in college. You never regret a workout.

Question of the Day: How do you combat your gym’s high traffic hours? Do you go earlier or later? Wait in line or adapt your workout?

Navigating The Gym: College Edition

| College, Lifestyle | 9 Comments
About The Author


  • lauren paradis

    I have always found going in the early morning (4:30 AM) during the weekdays the easiest. Then I don’t have to worry about going at all throughout the day. On the weekends I will still go early (8:00 AM) and easily get back into my routine come Monday. It’s been the best thing I have ever made a habit. I feel great throughout the day and my stress of making it to the gym never hangs over me! I love the morning!!

    • Sarah

      Laura, my intern wrote the article! I’ve only been inside the rec center once to play tennis but was shocked at how gross it was for such a great school! lol.

      • Shannon

        I know right!
        My dorm has a small room in the basement with a treadmill, stair steppers, and a rowing machine. Thats where I usually end up, just because its not so hot, crowded, and I live super far from the rec center!

  • Nikki

    My school gym is a joke. There’s an “athletes only” building with fancy stuff (which I totally plan on sneaking into when I get some abs!) and then there’s a small room in a dorm with 3 elliptical machines (2 work) 4 treadmills (2-3 work at a time) a bike (that doesn’t work) and air conditioning….that doesn’t work 🙂

    That being said….that gym is usually deserted until about 4pm. So, it’s like having my own personal space for a couple hours!

  • simran

    hi sarah

    this is nothing to do with this post but i wondering if you could tell if vitamin water is healthy and will it help me lose weight ?

  • Eleana

    Hey, I just came across your great website! Thanks for all the tips and info.

    The college gym is exactly as you described it, even in another state (I’m in DC). I find that Fridays are usually empty though, because people find it as “taking time off” from exercising because of the weekend.

    But between 9-11 there is never a line for treadmills and the rest, so I try to have dinner until 7, then do some homework until 9-10 and then hit the gym. It’s the best formula for me.

  • Patrick

    With an ever-changing class, club and work schedule most students don’t have the ability to make going to the gym apart of their schedule. I would love to chat within any college student or university staff member about their university fitness facility. Please feel free to shoot me an email

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.