Picture a group of sweaty bodies gyrating in time to blaring music, grouped so tightly together they are unable to move freely.
No, this isn’t part of Los Angeles’ unregulated, underground club scene – it’s your average Tuesday afternoon workout class at the overcrowded and underdeveloped John Wooden Center.
UCLA Recreation’s facilities are no longer large enough to accommodate the student population. It’s obvious Wooden and UCLA’s other recreation facilities need to be expanded. But in the meantime, there should be caps enforced on the general exercise classes to ensure safety in the face of crushing demand for studio space.
Administrators in the department, like Wendy Windsor, director of UCLA Recreation, and Elisa Terry, director of the FITWELL Program, believe UCLA is operating at least 12,000 square feet below the recommended size for total weights and fitness areas, citing a study by the “Peer Institutions and National Architectural Research” group.
Terry added that schools of similar size typically have triple the amount of strength and conditioning workout facilities. Despite leading the nation in NCAA championship wins, UCLA lags behind in the recreational fitness department like a poser who skipped leg day.
“We’re just bursting at the seams. (Wooden) is a fantastic facility, but it’s too small, and it’s showing its age. It was designed for a campus of the 1980s and you can tell,” Terry said.
Fashionistas will tell you the ’80s are all the rage now, with oversized denim jackets, mirrored sunglasses and cuffed jeans making big comebacks in 2017. What’s not on trend though is overcrowding, which is what Wooden seems to be offering nowadays. Just ask anyone who works out there.
“There are some classes where you’re doing an exercise that requires a fuller range of motion and you end up whacking someone in the face. I know, because I’ve been whacked in the face – it’s not fun,” said Gabrielle Smotrich, a first-year undeclared student.
While experiences like this may strike the reader as outlandish, they were the norm among students interviewed.
I myself have felt the agony of an overcrowded gym on many occasions. I attend group exercise classes at Wooden five times a week. For the most part, this is an amazing way to have fun while exercising, and it’s often the highlight of my day. That said, I have also been trampled in a zumba class. On countless occasions, I have made the long trek down from the Hill only to be turned away from spin class because there weren’t enough bikes. I have watched in dumbfounded horror as grown women body-block people who try to cut the line to enter a workout class.
These aren’t just funny, uncomfortable anecdotes, they’re genuine safety issues. These stories demonstrate the ways overcrowding is endangering students.
As the age-old saying goes, size matters. It is clear that UCLA needs to build more recreation facilities, but construction is a painfully slow process. In the interim, the focus should be on using current recreation space more efficiently.
Serious safety concerns like those mentioned above would no longer be issues if a reservation process were implemented, as the process of reserving a spot ahead of time would more clearly establish limits on class size.
Implementing an online sign-up on the UCLA Recreation page would reduce the number of people turned away from classes and improve safety by better enforcing a hard limit on the number of participants in a class. People would select the class they wanted at the time it is offered. The class schedule is already online and UCLA Recreation has already determined limits on class sizes. All that is left to do is to take this information – and Wooden itself – into the 21st century.
Some argue lack of space at UCLA’s recreational facilities is unavoidable given the size of the student population, but that’s even more reason to rectify these crowding issues. The money spent by students on fitness passes is wasted as a result of current disorganization, since students are currently unable to get into classes or access workout equipment. The negative impact this has – and will continue to have – on the well-being of the student population is wholly preventable were UCLA Recreation to engage a more pragmatic and optimized approach.
For many students, college is the first time they have access to an accessible and affordable gym. If UCLA wants to prioritize the health and happiness of its students, it should make sure students have room to move and space to embrace a healthier lifestyle.