September 10, 2021 | SPORTS | By Zeke Lloyd | Photo by Anil Jergens
“You work hard and you need to play hard,” said Chris Starr, Director of Recreation and the Fitness Center at Colorado College. “You guys are going hard, hard in some of these classes for hours a day, for consecutive days. 18 days. You need an outlet.”
Starr is right. That extended period of stillness can make the legs jitter, the hands twitch, and give the mind a desire to get up and move.
Fortunately, there is an outlet on campus. The Adam F. Press Fitness Center was designed to provide students not only with an opportunity exercise, but also with a variety of ways for them to physically engage with their bodies.
The 30,000 square foot space does contain a floor of 55 cardiovascular workout machines and a level directly beneath with a wide range of strength and lifting equipment, but that only scratches the surface of what the Fitness Center has to offer.
There are other opportunities that can be found in the 3,500 square foot climbing gym and the full-size basketball court. The facility also features ping pong tables, a foosball table, and billiards. The Fitness Center, which is open to all students, operates from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sunday to Friday (with reduced hours on Saturday).
Only a decade ago, students at CC did not have access to such elaborate facilities. “I have been working at the gym since it opened nine years ago,” said Starr, who is now going into her eighth year as the Director of Recreation and Fitness Center. “We did a full renovation of El Pomar, and we added the Fitness Center on the north end and then we added the main administrative area on south.”
Major changes were not limited to added equipment and gym space, though. Starr said they had two important requests for the architects: “We have to turn this to the Front Range, and then bring in natural light.” The designers’ success in fulfilling these requests is difficult to dispute. Treadmills and stationary bikes sit behind windows with panoramic views of Pikes Peak. “From the day we opened the doors, the students have come,” Starr said.
But only eight years later, the doors were shut. Like so many institutions that fundamentally rely on a heavy concentration of people, The Adam F. Press Fitness Center fell victim to the pandemic’s cruel closures.
Treadmills stood motionless, rowing machines sat unpulled, and the climbing gym remained empty. The facilities that were cherished by two generations of CC students were locked away by April of 2020.
The gym did reopen when students came back to campus in fall of 2020, but in a limited capacity. “For a year and half, our answer to everything was ‘no’,” Starr said.
Fall 2021 is a new beginning. In reflecting on the summer planning for the coming term, Starr said, “it was nice to be able to have some ‘yeses’: ‘Yes, we’re open. Yes, we’re going to do intramurals. Yes, we’re going to have club sports. Yes, we’re going to do some things.”
The gym no longer requires reservations and is allowing greater occupancy. There is already increased attendance from last year. The administration hopes that this interest will snowball and the Fitness Center might soon return to its pre-pandemic attendance numbers.
Even with a reduced fear of viral exposure, the gym can be intimidating to some students. Going alone can be stressful, equipment might appear difficult to use, and individuals might worry about judgement from their peers.
An employee of the gym, Džafer Čamdžič ’22, shared his insights on making visits to the gym more comfortable. His first tip: try going with a friend.
“When you go with a friend it feels more like a social activity. You’re not actively hanging out with someone, but you’re passively hanging out with someone,” Čamdžič said.
He also discussed the approachability of other gym-goers. While he does not recommend an attempt to get a person’s phone number, he mentioned their general amiability: “I think people, for the most part, are friendly. Even if they seem intimidating, I think they’re willing to share their passion [of exercise].”
But the gym is not comprised exclusively of people who exercise at the gym, but also of students who choose to work there. “For the most part, everyone is very friendly and open to all kinds of questions,” said Čamdžič. “My favorite thing about working at the gym is the people who work there. They just know how to hire people who click well.”
Now entering his fourth year of employment there, Čamdžič said he has enjoyed spending much of his time at the Fitness Center.
This is exactly that kind of environment that Starr works to cultivate. It is a place for students to both engage with and share a passion for moving their bodies.
So, when asked about her plans for the Fitness Center in the coming years, she turned the question around on the community: “My role here is to facilitate the student body’s desires and visions.”