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'Feels like class registration': Students compete for Wilson gym reservations

Buzz. Like many other gym-goers, Brendan Kelleher, a first-year, sets an alarm on his phone reminding him to reserve his one-hour slot at the Wilson Recreation Center. 

“I’ll get up in the morning and think about when I want to go to the gym two days from now, and I’ll set an alarm for one minute before that,” Kelleher said. “Sometimes I’ll miss the alarm, and I’ll be three minutes late, and all the spots are gone. It’s very tense.”

Wilson has been extremely popular among students: It’s the only indoor gym open on campus this semester, and spots are in high demand. Due to limited capacity to allow social distancing, students must reserve a one-hour slot, registration for which opens two days in advance and is open until 30 minutes after the start time. This semester, spots at Wilson have become even more competitive as Duke welcomed juniors and seniors back to campus. 

“It was much easier to get a spot at the gym last semester,” Kelleher said. “This semester, it’s gotten to the point where reserving a spot at Wilson feels like class registration.”

First-year Christina Yoh said she often checks the registration site only to find no spots are open.

"This can be pretty discouraging. As Duke students during COVID who need to get out of their rooms, it’s very helpful to have those gym spots open,” Yoh said. 

For students with hectic schedules, it’s difficult to plan a trip to the gym 48 hours in advance. 

“If you want to go to the gym on a whim, that’s not really an option,” Yoh said. 

This has also resulted in students canceling their reservations last-minute.

“There is an issue with people not showing up to their reserved times,” wrote Emily Skoczlas, assistant director of recreation facilities, in an email. “Over 90% of people that cannot make their commitment are kind enough to cancel their reservation. We recommend that students continue to check back regularly for openings.” 

The reservation system was designed in July 2020. Duke Recreation and Physical Education launched MyRec, a website allowing members to find classes and other opportunities, in January 2020, Skoczlas wrote. That feature became the basis for the registration system. 

There are many other ways for students to stay active.

“Our digital members can access online fitness classes (live via Zoom), our collection of over 150 recorded classes within our digital library, and join online events including online trivia and e-sports,” Skoczlas wrote. 

For many students, exercise is a much-needed break from online classes and long Zoom calls.  

“After the pandemic hit, it was really hard to get by without being able to go to the gym,” Kelleher said. “I know home workouts were a big thing, but it wasn’t really the same. I was really happy after they opened the gym last semester. Going to the gym is a good habit for me. It helps keep everything else in my life in order and encourages me to be healthy.”

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