The 7 Coolest College Gyms

While some ardent exercisers claim that all you need to work out are some sneakers and the road, we’d like to politely disagree. If the world is our oyster, then the gym is our playground—so the more equipment, activities and extras, the better! These seven colleges have the most up-to-date, creative and technologically advanced facilities in the nation, from roving personal trainer squads (UCLA) to literally Olympic-worthy pools (Georgia Tech). We need sneakers and the road, all right… so we can run to each and every one of these schools and try out the athletic resources for ourselves!

1. The University of Colorado Boulder (Boulder, Colorado)

We’re pretty sure the amazing fitness facilities at the University of Colorado Boulder would transform even the most loyal-to-her-couch collegiette into a weight-lifting lover. The school’s main gym is 300,000 square feet, making it almost five and a half times as big as the White House. And the recreation selection is definitely presidential: How do six basketball courts, five fitness studios, three tennis courts, four pools, four racquetball courts, a climbing wall (Boulder students need their bouldering opportunities, obviously), an ice arena and a turf gym sound?

For those who want a unique workout, there’s a 42-foot-tall high ropes course with customized challenges for each person or group’s individual goals and needs. Building character while we build our muscles—it doesn’t get any cooler than that.

We’re also super impressed by (and jealous of) their Wellness Suite, which offers personalized training, massage therapy, screenings by physical therapists and complimentary nutrition consultations. Looks like CU has got that whole holistic health thing covered.

2. Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, Georgia)

Georgia Tech’s gym is Olympic status. In fact, it was created to be the aquatic venue for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta! After the games wrapped up, the swimming and diving facility was incorporated into what’s now called the Campus Recreation Center.

Considering the rec center’s illustrious past, we’re not surprised that the amenities are top-notch. There’s a competition pool and a leisure pool; The latter comes with a huge water slide, an area with a faux current, a spa, a hot tub and a patio with lounge furniture. We think even Michael Phelps would be impressed.

But if your fitness regimen is more “warrior princess” than “mermaid princess,” there’s a 15,000-square-foot workout area with cardio equipment, weight machines, free weights and a satellite fitness area that overlooks Atlanta’s gorgeous skyline.

Don’t like working out alone? Georgia Tech’s group classes are seriously amazing: The selection includes dancing (belly dancing, Bollywood style, ballet and more), martial arts (jujutsu, Hapkido, kickboxing, Krav Maga) and even R.I.P.P.E.D. Xtreme, which showcases a different trendy workout every week!

To replenish themselves, students can dine at the H20 Café, which offers smoothies, sandwiches, snacks and coffee.

Sooo… when can we drop by for a pool party?

3. The University of Missouri (Columbia, Missouri)

Mizzou provides its students with classic equipment like elliptical trainers, bikes, weight-lifting machines and free weights—but that’s just the beginning. The MizzouRec Fitness Showcase is a one-of-a-kind space filled with “pre-production test pieces from their showcase partners”—i.e., all of the latest and greatest fitness inventions, like the Star Trac TreadClimber!

The rec center also includes Downtown Brewer, which has “the feel of downtown Columbia” plus the “the convenience of specialized fitness, leisure and healthy lifestyle programs.” Among other amenities, Downtown Brewer offers the Tiger Lair, which is a cycling studio with black lights, a life-size jungle wall mural and an insanely awesome projection system; and zouLIFE, a spa with services that include skin care, nail care and massages.

To give students even more ways to unwind, there’s the Tiger Grotto, which features a palm-tree-ringed pool with a high-powered vortex that uses currents to whip its riders around, a lazy river, a waterfall, a hot tub, a sauna and a steam room.

It’s no surprise that Mizzou was on Fitbie’s list of the 20 Fittest Colleges in America —if we had access to this gym, we’d probably never leave.

4. The University of Texas at Austin (Austin, Texas)

At UT Austin, collegiettes participate in every sport imaginable. Those interested in channeling their inner Katniss can notch their bows and arrows at the archery range, while fencers can take advantage of the fencing rooms. There are also spaces for martial arts, dance, badminton, billiards, squash, racquetball, table tennis, regular tennis, Wallyball, handball, volleyball, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, rugby, Quidditch, waterskiing, ice hockey, wrestling, ultimate Frisbee, softball and climbing. With that kind of lineup, we’re pretty sure even the most selective student could find something to make him or her sweat.

The school’s rec center also has a variety of group exercise classes, from Aqua Cardio Sculpt to Tabata Interval Training. There’s also the option of signing up for small group customizable workouts led by a personal trainer. According to the rec center site, programs include preparing for a 10K run, strength training for women and more.

We’re definitely not surprised that 98 percent of UT Austin students would recommend RecSports. In fact, we want to ask that 2 percent: What more do you want?!

5. Northeastern University (Boston, Massachusetts)

Northeastern boasts the world’s oldest ice hockey arena: Matthews Arena, which was the original home of the Celtics, the Boston Bruins and the Beanpot. Pretty cool (literally!).

But even for the students who don’t know a Stanley Cup from a coffee cup, there are lots of ways to get fit at Northeastern. There are three separate rec centers that all offer something different. The Badger and Rosen SquashBusters Facility has eight state-of-the-art squash courts and 52 workout stations (with amazing views of Boston!), while the Cabot Center features an indoor track, a soccer field and a pool. However, our favorite is the Marino Center, which not only has tons of standard equipment, but also a three-lane suspended running track, a Treadwall that stimulates rock climbing and a beautiful central atrium with two cafés and a food market.

6. The University of California at Los Angeles (Los Angeles, California)

On UCLA’s campus, there’s a fitness facility around practically every corner—15 of them, to be exact. Add in the school’s six pools, and “the gym is too far away” ceases to be a viable excuse for not getting a workout in.

But for the students who want to enjoy some fresh air while they exercise, UCLA has incredible outdoor resources as well (what else would you expect from a school in Southern California?). We’d love to try them all: the Challenge Course (a team-building ropes course), kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, surfing and windsurfing.

Also super impressive is the FITWELL Program, which was designed to help students make healthy decisions about fitness, nutrition, stress management and overall health. Its services include the FITSquad, a traveling unit of fitness instructors; FITWELL Edu, which brings exercise education to your dorm-step; personal training; group classes in yoga, meditation and Pilates; and last but certainly not least, chair massages!

With so much to do both indoors and out, it’s no shocker that UCLA was the 2012 winner of Greatist’s 25 Healthiest Colleges in the U.S.

7. The University of North Dakota (Grand Forks, North Dakota)

At the University of North Dakota, learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom—it also happens at the gym! Students can make an appointment or just drop in for equipment orientations (how cardio and weight machines work and how they can be used for individual fitness goals), an intro to weight lifting, a strength test to determine how much weight to lift, a standard fitness level assessment and a skinfold BMI test. Did we mention all of those services are completely free?

UND also offers its students free ski rentals and access to local trails behind the Wellness Center.

Also during the winter months is Row-vember, an event that encourages students to row as many meters during the month of November as they can. (For the UND collegiettes who don’t love their SOs’ scruffy beards, perhaps suggest this as an alternative to Noshavember.)

Since “abs are made in the kitchen,” UND has made sure its students are also educated about healthy eating. Culinary Corner is a demo kitchen in the rec center with rotating chefs, each with his or her own specialty, from homemade pizza to sushi. No matter the recipe, it’s guaranteed to be “cheap, fast and healthy.”

While the students at these seven colleges are feeling the burn, we’re feeling the envy!


What about you, collegiettes—how do your school’s facilities stack up?