Guide to the Gyms at Columbia & Barnard

After a long day of lectures and labs, do you ever feel like going on a walk? Or taking a nice stretch break? College is a great time to start working out because it has been scientifically proven to boost energy levels, happiness, and memory! Or perhaps working out is already a regular part of your daily routine but you feel intimidated by the imposing building full of college kids. Here is a guide to navigating the gyms at Columbia and Barnard!

Dodge Fitness Center

The Marcellus Hartley Dodge Fitness Center is a multilevel gym located on Columbia’s campus, adjacent from Havemeyer and past the Scholar’s Lion statue. The gym is underground so the entrance is located at the bottom of a flight of stairs at the “basement” level. 

In addition to being the hub and training space for collegiate athletes, all Columbia and Barnard students can access the gym by using their student ID. The gym features a natatorium, a large basketball gymnasium, an indoor track, two levels of weight rooms, and squash rooms. There are locker rooms for both men and women that are equipped with showers, saunas, and rentable lockers. 


  • Dodge is the largest gym facility and is stocked with a wide variety of equipment from machines to weights, jump ropes, and balls.

  • The hours of operation are much more flexible than Barnard’s gym, enabling one to visit during the early and late hours of the day. There has also been a recent proposal by the Columbia University Senate to extend these hours (results pending). 

  • There is a sense of anonymity when coming to Dodge. Because it is open to the entire undergraduate student body, graduate students, and alumni, you are not going to be frequently ~running~ into people you know. This may ease your insecurities about being recognized. 

  • There are more options and avenues to work out; you can do laps in the pool one day and walk around the track the next. 


  • Because there are so many students and alumni who rely on this facility, at times it can be extremely difficult to find open equipment. Signing up in advance is mandatory for the use of treadmills, ellipticals, and rowers. The rest of the equipment is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Mats for stretching are scarce, but a good hack to know is that there are also some on the lowest level of the Blue Gym!

  • Admittedly, this is not the cleanest facility. I highly, highly recommend bringing your own towel for sweat and stretching because Columbia does not provide them unless you are willing to pay an annual towel fund. Be advised that if you clean the mats properly you may see traces of sweat and hair which have accumulated from people rotating through these stations daily. Always try to be courteous and wipe down the mats after you stretch with the spray bottle and paper towels (because so many people don’t). 

  • Testosterone. One big reason why so many lovely ladies stay in the Barnard gym is because Dodge is overrun with sweaty, smelly boys who love to flex. Hear it from me: last week I was getting edged out by one such male on the track (don’t worry, I beat him). 

Barnard Fitness Center

The Barnard Fitness Center is a single-room gym in the basement of Barnard Hall. Equipped with treadmills, stationary bicycles, free weights, and mats, this place is the go-to for many Barnard athletes. Considerably smaller than Columbia’s gym, it alternates between periods of being super packed to almost empty. While you’re there, bop out to your favorite feminist-friendly tunes which are considerately blasted through the speaker system. You can find out more about the gym, including the hours of operation, on their website.


  • This is an extremely welcoming environment. Unlike the competitive energy fostered by Columbia’s ~swole boys~ at Dodge, the Barnard gym is a peaceful environment that boosts health, help, and happiness! 

  • FitBear free workout classes! Five days a week Barnard students can bring their ID to attend free classes ranging from Cardio Kickbox to Zumba to Sculpt to Yoga! The best part is that the instructors are fellow Barnard sisters! If you are really into fitness, you can even apply to lead a class!

  • Fans! Need I say more? While the air becomes stagnant and nasty in Dodge, the Barnard gym understands circulation needs!


  • The lighting is not super flattering. I’m sorry, but I sometimes don’t feel very accomplished while working out in Barnard’s gym because the lighting is very harsh and fluorescent. 

  • No one uses the sign up sheet. This can be annoying if you actually want to reserve one of the four treadmills or ellipticals. Because the gym is small, there are very few machines in general. Frequently, you have to just wait around until a machine becomes available because so few people know to write their names on the clipboard (and even those who do admittedly forget to or go over their time slot). 

  • The equipment is older than Dodge’s. Columbia’s treadmills feature a full-sized touch screen that can be synced to Netflix and YouTube or used to take an interactive trip through an array of destinations while you exercise. The Barnard treadmills are a bit outdated and only monitor heart rate, track distance, and calculate time.

  • Again, the gym is not super clean. Bring your Clorox wipes and a towel to lay on.  

Gym alternatives 

So maybe the indoor institution-run gyms are not your cup of tea. Here are some other ways to stay active: 

  • Morningside and Riverside Parks. We are conveniently flanked on either side of campus with beautiful parks! As fall begins to set in, why not take a nature break and check out the changing scenery with a walk?

  • Fitness classes. New York City is a hub of active people, which means lots of classes to try! From the rave-like workouts at Switch Playground to boxing matches at Shadowbox, there is something for everyone. If you like trying out different types of fitness, we recommend the ClassPass app, which allows you to try out many studios without creating a long-term membership. 

So what are you waiting for? Go try out these facilities (or alternatives) and see what feels the best for you. You can do it! Chances are, it’ll leave you feeling very accomplished!