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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: An honors thesis on my Student Rec Center experience

Basketball courts at the Student Recreation Center (SRC) are pictured on June 15, 2022. The SRC also features two multipurpose studios with hardwood floors and a large weight room with cardio and strength training equipment.

There are few men I take seriously.

My dad probably the most and then my boyfriend about half of the time. All of the other cases are just based on my initial flash judgments and then I go from there.

I had to start off with that so you’d know my personal biases. I try not to lean into them too much and take every male specimen with a grain of salt but let me tell you. 

It’s very hard to take men seriously in the Student Recreation Center.

I don’t want anybody to get their feelings hurt because, in reality, I’m a hardly-works-out-hiding-behind-my-computer opinion writer. To clear up any possible confusion: I greatly admire individuals with the motivation to go to the gym every day. 

The concept always seemed totally impossible for me as I’m severely exercise-avoidant. That was until my best friend became a personal trainer, and I realized I had difficulty lifting items my 13-year-old cousin could lift with ease. I signed up for eight sessions and prepared myself for a trip into the unknown.

It put me at ease that I had my own personal guide in this foreign environment. I didn’t even have to scan my OneCard when I entered the gym. I just kept my eyes trained (pun intended) on the back of my friend's campus rec-branded trainer shirt and followed her inside. 

Becoming a frequent gym-goer fed my superiority complex. Breezing through the turnstile only added to it.

I don’t know how many of you have been to or often attend the SRC, but promptly after entering, you're thrust right into the middle of the chaos. 

Thrusting was an intentional choice there, because there’s a lot of it. Thrusting weights, thrusting your muscles in people's faces, thrusting your phone in every direction to capture one’s hot bod at all angles. It’s what I’ve dubbed the “main floor,” and it’s almost like a circus. 

There are men in little to no clothing, people on machinery at odd angles and a steady chorus of grunts, clattering and even full guttural cries. I don’t often stay here long, but when I do spend a prolonged period of time there, it’s a feast for the eyes. Staring and giggling often interrupt my friend’s instruction and my own workout.

The upstairs is infinitely more relaxed, so we start there most days. It’s quieter, less performative and more accepting. At least, that’s what I’ve gathered. A gym bro might cross your path, but he knows his place. 

It’s calm. It’s soothing. It prepares you for the main floor, which you’ve already gotten a glimpse of but you haven't ventured into.

The women of the SRC are the true champions, my personal trainer best friend included. They move in silence. They are not performing. They are showing up in their fabulous workout sets (SRC fashion is a world of its own) and getting it done, sans thrusting. 

I told my friend she should open a women-only gym but in reality, it would leave me devoid of mid-workout entertainment.

The men of the SRC are a mixed bag. There are some unassuming fellows that I respect from afar, but there are others with cut shirts and thigh tats galore, adorned with chunky silver jewelry and quintessential Gen Z hair (messy but not too messy). 

These are the grunters and thrusters, but to be quite frank, my experience would not be the same without them. They have the starring role in the SRC show and I am just a measly member of the ensemble.

I finished my eight sessions in a few weeks and will be signing up for more. The SRC and its cast of characters have grown on me, and although I don’t think I’ll ever truly be a part of them, I get both entertainment and inspiration from their presence. 

I also find solace in the freedom to stare at yourself in the mirror as much as you want and no one thinks you’re being vain, but that’s just between you and me. 


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