Going to the gym as a beginner can lead to a lot of stress and anxiety for anyone, no matter the level of athleticism, gender, eating habits, or a number of other factors. The University of Maine New Balance Student Recreation Center (the Rec Center as it’s dubbed by the students) is a great tool available to all of those attending the University of Maine as well as the surrounding community for building healthier habits, be it through the exercise equipment, drop-in classes, intramural games or more! Through this article, I’m going to discuss the different parts of the Rec Center that you can use and also offer some tips for those of you who are starting out and are new to the gym scene.
For starters, the Rec Center is located right next to the Hilltop Dining Hall on Hilltop Road, and it has a parking lot for guests, as well as a red lot for students that live on campus. When you arrive in the building, you want to make sure you bring your Maine Card and that you have signed the Rec Center Waiver through MaineStreet! They use your card to verify that you are a student since community members have to pay and students already have access to the gym as it is wrapped into tuition cost at the beginning of each semester. There are many parts of the gym to navigate and it may seem big and scary at first, but trust me, it’s not as scary as it looks and I’m here to break it down for you!
The biggest part of the gym is the area with the courts. There are three courts which can be used for basketball, volleyball, badminton, and pickleball. Sometimes intramural teams use these courts for their games, but upon your initial arrival, you usually see friends and small groups having fun with some casual pick up games. After the wood floor courts, there is one enclosed court that can be used for indoor soccer, basketball, floor hockey, and for other sports that are similar. Additionally, there are rooms on the first floor that offer different work out classes at different levels of intensity – my personal favorite is the spin class! There are some free drop-in classes or alternatively, there are classes you can pay for, however, the price is within a reasonable range for any student and this is a great introduction to working out as you can choose which one would be a good one to start out with, – and the schedule is easily accessible on the rec website. On the first floor, there is also a leisure pool that goes up to 4.5 feet deep and with a length of twenty-five yard lap lanes alongside a shallow pool area, a hot tub, and a co-ed sauna – these are perfect ways to either relax or swim as a workout!
Next door, there is also an area with all the squat racks and benches for bench press and other workouts that are similar. I would recommend using this area to work on gaining muscle mass if you already know how to bench press or do deadlifts, etc. and if you don’t know how to use the equipment, feel free to bring a friend along or use the personal trainers that are offered at the gym. If you’re looking to start your workout, you’re most likely going to use the second floor a majority of the time. There is an area for cardio machines that contains a variety of equipment including, but not limited to, treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, stair climber machines, and row machines. This is the perfect area to slowly immerse yourself into the gym, get comfortable with the many types of equipment and it’s an excellent way to start if you aren’t sure what parts of your body you want to target and for what reason (weight loss, muscle mass, etc.).
Personally, my favorite area of the gym is the one specifically designed for free weights. It has dumbbells, plates, bars, medicine balls, yoga balls, and so many more items available for you to get the most out of your workout and allow for some personalization. It also has a room off to the side that has more privacy and is lined with mirrors and has mats on the floor, and even if all the mats are taken in that area, there are plenty of other mats in other areas on the second floor so don’t fret. In the free weight area, you see people doing all kinds of workouts, with weights or bodyweight, working out their arms, core, legs, etc., and whether they are working out alone or with friends, the possibilities are endless.
What a lot of students aren’t aware of is that there is a multipurpose room on the second floor that is also used for group drop-in classes. Next to it are the two squash courts, which is a great activity to pick up if you want to try something new. There is also a small circuit area near there that has a lot of different types of weight machines, such as a leg press machine. There is also a large indoor track that goes all the way around the top of the courts, so if you prefer to walk with friends or prefer running on a track versus the treadmills, this is a great part of the gym to utilize.
Starting out at the gym can be very scary and provoke some nervousness and fear. When I first started out at the gym, I only stuck to the treadmills, because it was easy and I wasn’t worried about coming up with a more intense and extensive workout regime. However, doing bodyweight workouts or weightlifting is very beneficial in toning your body and building your muscles. Truthfully, the first thing I recommend when you are looking to branch out from just traditional cardio is to go to the free drop-in classes. The Butt and Gut class was my first introduction into how to really work out different parts of your body and by attending, I was able to learn the different core and leg exercises I could do on my own.
If you don’t have time for that, there are plenty of apps to help you cultivate your own workout style and get you into it! I personally use apps such as HIIT Workouts, 7M Weight Loss, FitOn, and Workout Women because they all have really fun exercises that you can do either with or without weights. You can also look through the different exercises to create your own plans instead of the ones they offer allowing yourself to work up to using small weights and learning what you like to target and use the most. I suggest trying out different things (be it equipment, weights, and more) and switching up your routine from doing arms one day, legs the next, and core on a different day. Eventually, after you master that, you can look up how to target specific muscle groups, such as doing exercises that just target your quads or your triceps, for example.
The biggest thing to remember is that the Rec Center is a really unique and fun way to learn how to work out, and there is no pressure at all to become a fitness master because there are so many people in there who started out right where you are. Take some time to explore all it has to offer and learn what parts of the Rec Center you use the most, as you also work towards starting to eat healthier and drinking more water which is one of the biggest and easiest fitness tips for any beginner!!