The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Rec Center Hacks

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Sunset view from the UMass Rec Center

In case you haven’t heard by now, we have amazing food here.  Amazing, all-you-can-eat, "food baby" inducing food.  Luckily, we also have a three-story recreation center that makes treating yo'self okay, everyday. 

You can take a Zumba or spin class in one of the rec center’s studios, shoot hoops on one of the three basketball courts, or do some sprints on the indoor track. Equipment-wise, the rec center has everything from free weights to treadmills to weight machines. 

(Also, can we take a second to acknowledge how amazing that view from the cardio room is? Never gets old.)

Anyway, despite currently being a gym-lover in paradise, I honestly didn't figure out how to take full advantage of the rec center until this year. Here are six hacks that have helped me hop on that gains train:

1. BYO bands and sliders

This is definitely my favorite hack because it allows so much more creativity in my workouts! They can be used to make squats, ab routines, and stretching more challenging.  You can buy resistance bands (loop or regular, depending on how you want to use them) and sliders on Amazon for under $10! They’re lightweight, affordable, and effective. What’s not to love?

2. Use box jump boxes for elevated exercises 

Probably the only thing that the rec center doesn’t have is individual steppers.  These are often used for high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and elevated leg exercises. Luckily, there are several mats of different heights that can easily be stacked and arranged to substitute for steppers.  I usually grab two six-inch mats and lay them about a foot apart. This allows me to do step ups, raised squats, and more heart-lovin' HIIT.

3. Use the hand dryers in the bathroom for sweat marks

Speaking of heart-lovin' HIIT, a great way to get rid of the unfortunate sweat marks that come with intense exercise is to use the blow dryers in the bathroom! There are bathrooms on each floor of rec, all with multiple stalls, sinks, and a high-powered, miracle-working blow dryer. I’m not saying you won't look weird squatting under the dryer with your armpit exposed, but what’s better... looking silly in front of a few people? Or being self-conscious of being a walking puddle in front of the entire gym?

4. Utilize the upstairs lockers

This is a huge time-saver that I didn't discover until this year. There are lockers on all three floors! I used to think it was illegal to bring my backpack upstairs. Why? Not sure. But I never saw anyone else doing it, and I wasn't about to risk being banned from the rec center. Fortunately, there is no such thing as an "anti-bags upstairs" law in the rec center world.  If you are already in your gym clothes and ready to go, just walk right upstairs and store your belongings in a locker! You can either bring your own lock or rent one with your UCard on the first floor.

5. Look up Instagram or YouTube workouts and have a plan going in

If you're not familiar with Instagram, there’s a feature that allows you to save posts by other people and create folders with multiple posts. I like to look at Instagram fitness influencers for inspiration and create workout folders to keep me on track! Making these folders before going in saves me from having to look during my workout (and then getting distracted by random cat videos... and SnapChat... you get the point!). For leg and HIIT workouts, I love @whitneyysimmons and @meggangrubb!

6. Put on some hype music

Everyone at the gym has felt like a fish out of water at some point! Even the people who look like they know what they're doing probably don’t... so don't let gymtimidation hold you back!  I went from being a timid freshman, who spent all of my time in the cardio section, to spending most of my workouts in the weight room. How? I faked it 'til I made it! So crank some music that makes you feel confident, put your head down, and go get it.

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