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Resolution-makers flood gyms

Mary Kate Malone | Friday, January 21, 2005

It is 4 p.m. at Rolf’s Sports Recreation Center, and the building is buzzing with activity.

On a cold January afternoon, it seems nearly half the student body has descended upon the cardio room, filling sign-up sheets for hours in advance.

“January and February are always our busiest time of the year,” said Sally Derengoski, Director of Athletics at RecSports. “Since nearly half of the people that come into the building head into the fitness room, it gets extremely crowded during peak hours.”

The influx Notre Dame’s workout facilities experience this time of year is typical across the entire nation. New Year’s resolutions to lose weight or exercise more rank as the most popular in the country, according to a Marist College Institute for Public Opinion study.

At Rolf’s Sports Recreation Center, employees have launched “Challenge U Spring Break” in which students choose a destination and attempt to reach it by logging in the amount of miles needed to get there. Once they have reached their goal, they are eligible for prizes and ready for their spring vacations.

“We are so excited about this because this is why we’re here, to get people to come to the gym,” Derengoski said.

And if last year’s numbers are any indication, incentives like this coupled with students battling the winter bulge will bring in Rolf’s highest attendance of the year.

For the 2003-04 school year, January was the busiest month at Rolf’s. An average of 1,505 people came per day, despite Christmas break stretching until the 12th of the month. Compare that number with the month before, when average daily attendance was 915.

For regular gym-goers like freshman Cathy Steinmetz, the crowds have turned a brief break from homework into a multiple-hour ordeal.

“It’s annoying when you take the time out of your day to walk all the way over to Rolf’s only to spend twice as long waiting for a machine,” Steinmetz said.

On the other side of campus, the Rockne Memorial is also experiencing larger-than-usual crowds. Still, attendance at the older gym does not match that of Rolf’s.

“Rolf’s gets quite a bit more activity than the Rock,” Derengoski said.

But to students on South Quad who rely on it for their daily workouts, the crowds at the Rockne Memorial have been frustrating. According to sophomore Julie Libardi, some students have been breaking rules in order to avoid the long waits.

“Some girls will come in here early in the morning and sign up for a machine that night,” Libardi said. “Since there isn’t anyone monitoring, they get away with it.”

The key to avoiding crowds is being aware of the best time to go to the gym.

“Even on our busiest days,” Derengoski said, “we still have times when the cardio room is not crowded.”

According to graphs released by RecSports, Monday, Wednesday and Friday are the busiest days at the gym, with attendance peaking between 3:30 and 7 p.m. Weekends also have a low number of users. Saturday between 12 and 2 p.m. records the lowest number of guests in the whole week.

To cope with the overflow, RecSports officials have been working overtime. Salt and snow brought in from the outdoors gather on the treadmills, forcing workers to spend more time than usual on housekeeping chores.

“We’ve been having to continuously keep scrubbing treadmills to get the salt and grime off. People don’t understand all the stuff their shoes bring in here,” RecSports worker Kaela Leonard said.

Considering Notre Dame’s gyms are full to capacity in recent weeks, some have wondered about possibly expanding its athletic facilities.

“I really think they need more machines,” said Sara Cerreta, a frequent visitor to Rolf’s.

But Derengoski said even though expansion is part of the master plan, it is not feasible to build a facility that will always have enough machines for everyone.

“We cannot build a facility to meet the demand at the peak hour of the most popular day,” she said. “It’s just not practical.”

The crowds will not last forever. After Spring Break last year daily attendance dropped dramatically. Although 1,187 people came to the gym every day in March, only 868 came each day in April.

RecSports suggests the best way to cope with the crowded gyms is to make use of workout machines located outside the workout room to avoid waiting for machines. They also encourage students to use the track instead of the treadmill and to go to the Rock rather than Rolf’s, which is typically less crowded.