The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Straining muscles and relaxing the mind at the gym

Sam Curry

To the untrained eye, the fitness center in the Bear Recreation Center may seem to be nothing more than a series of free weights, exercise machines and treadmills designed to keep Grinnellians physically fit in the rare times they aren’t exercising their minds. With a little perspective, however, the gym becomes filled with meaningful narratives about politics, inner peace and potent gains.

For some, the gym is a place of routine. Some spend their time cycling between free weights, others run on the treadmills and others stand in circles around weight racks, perpetually on the brink of action. Power lifting is one common, yet physically demanding, type of gym routine. This program consists of three main lifts that combine for a full body workout over the course of a week: bench pressing, deadlifting and squatting.

Sam Tinkham ’16, a pitcher for the men’s baseball team, performs these lifts as an essential part of his team’s workout regime. Although he recognizes that all three are important, the grind of doing all three every week does cause him to pick favorites.

“My favorite lifts are hang cleans and power cleans, [because] it’s a full body workout,” Tinkham said. “I’m pretty good at squats, but I don’t really like them that much.” 

Madeline Warnick ’16, also a power lifter, sees her exercise program as part workout regime and part political statement.

“It’s a political act to me because society tells women that we should be trying to shrink ourselves and be smaller and take up less space, and strength isn’t frequently emphasized,” Warnick said. “That’s a big thing for me, the emphasis on performance instead of aesthetics.”

Micah Iticovici ’16 also power lifts and says lifting isn’t supposed to be an ego-booster. Instead, weight lifting is all about diligently following a plan until you meet and exceed your goals.

“Going to the gym shouldn’t be an ego booster … It should be, you have a goal in mind and you’re working towards that, you’re not trying to impress anyone there,” Iticovici said.

One of the biggest challenges of working out in Grinnell is avoiding the rushes that make it impossible to get a lifting station and treadmill. Overcrowding can be particularly severe around dinner, when entire sports teams descend upon the fitness center. Warnick and Iticovici, however, don’t allow the crowd to affect their performance, and the potential distractions don’t bother them.

“I’m used to just going in and doing my own thing,” Warnick said. “Sometimes people come in and take over the area, and its like, ‘I have just as much of a right to be here as you do.’”

Tinkham, however, sees some benefit to sports teams mobbing the gym. Lifting with members of your team, or groups of friends in general, keeps lifters accountable and competitive, improving total team performance.

“You hold yourselves accountable because there’s a lot of [people] there. It turns into a competition because you want to lift more than the guy next to you,” Tinkham said.

The hottest issue currently affecting the gym, however, doesn’t have to do with weights at all. The fitness center has recently begun enforcing a long-existing policy that gym users must bring a second pair of shoes, other than the ones that have been worn outside, to wear while working out. This recent change in enforcement has led to some civil, though heated, disagreements between gym staff and students. The explanations for the recent changes involve the effects of the sand, salt and dirt on the durability, or lack thereof, of the cardio equipment.

“The treads on the treadmills are supposed to go a hundred thousand miles before they’re supposed to be repaired, and we’ve had to repair them at ten thousand, twenty thousand because they’re just getting torn up [by sand that gets inside of them],” said Jason Martinez, the Director of the Fitness Center.

Just as a pair ruby red slippers carried Dorothy home, the Bear’s fitness center is a great place to find fitness, relaxation and friendly competition, provided you remember a second pair of shoes.

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