New Student Fitness and Wellness Center

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Photograph taken by Annalea Krukowski 

After months of anticipation and anxious waiting, Radford students were finally able to use the new Student Fitness and Wellness Center, which opened officially at 9 a.m. on Dec. 1, 2014.

The opening coincided with the week of final examinations; however, this did not deter students from rushing to be one of the first to exercise in the state-of-the-art facility.  The new fitness center features over 115,000 square feet of activity space, three basketball courts, two racquetball courts, one multipurpose activity court (MAC), four group exercise studios, a cycling studio, an indoor track, a kitchen, a 25-seat classroom and dozens of brand new exercise machines, both for cardiovascular and strength training.

“This facility is a showpiece and a recruitment tool,” Dr. Barry Miller, the Director of the Department of Student Recreation and Wellness says of the $32 million facility. In addition to all of the fitness facilities and equipment, the building houses the newly created Department of Student Recreation and Wellness, which, according to Miller, employs over 200 students.

In regards to equipment, Miller estimates that the center contains nearly $1 million in new fitness equipment, which includes Woodway treadmills, Concept II rowers, Keiser bikes, Stairmaster steppers and Precur and Octane elliptical trainers, all of which are some of the best on the market. Many of the treadmills and elliptical trainers even boast a personal television screen.

The center also provides a permanent home for the peer health educators, who are undergraduate students that will conduct equipment orientations, classes on gym etiquette and eventually personal training, with a future goal to provide personal assessments and nutritional consultation to students. One notable innovation is ‘Wellness Wednesdays,” during which a different topic related to fitness and wellness will be themed throughout the center each week. The fitness class program has nearly tripled, largely due to the four group exercise studios.

RU Outdoors also found their permanent home in the center, which made storage of their large amount of equipment much easier and much more organized.

One aspect of the new fitness and wellness center that has caused some debate among students is its dress code, which requires that both men and women wear full-length t-shirts with non-modified sleeves, armpits or collars. So-called ‘crop tops’ and ‘halter tops’ are not permitted and athletic pants or shorts and shoes are required.

“I do not think that there should be a dress code in place,” said freshman Anna Villa. “The gym gets hot when working out. If anything, wearing a tank top would help cool the body down and prevent sweating, versus a long sleeved shirt that just causes discomfort.”

However, not all students are bothered by the new dress code.

“I support the dress code because it makes it more comfortable for people to go to the gym without feeling like other people are judging them,” said junior Emily Gerding. “People shouldn’t compare themselves to other people, everyone’s body is different.”

According to the fitness center’s website, the dress code was instituted not only to promote cleanliness in an environment where people perspire greatly, but to ensure that the center maintains a comfortable atmosphere for all students of all backgrounds. “RU Student Recreation and Wellness operates under a philosophy of creating a comfortable environment for all of its members. Healthy, active lifestyles come in a variety of shapes and sizes, not a specific image.”

According to Miller, the idea to institute the dress code was being discussed concurrently with the construction of the Student Fitness and Wellness Center and received input from the Student Government Association and University President Penelope Kyle. The dress code is unique to the new fitness center, and is not in effect in the Muse Hall Fitness Center.

The fitness and wellness center is attracting over 2,000 students each day, as measured by the scanning of student ID cards. While everything in the facility is not yet up and operational, there is no question that the center will remain a popular destination on campus for semesters to come.