Fighting off the freshman fifteen doesn't mean your choices are limited to treadmills and weights. University fitness centres are filled with surprising, fun amenities to help you get in shape, develop healthy habits, and even de-stress before a big exam. Best of all, for many students it's all free or heavily discounted. Illustration by Sam Woolley.
Keep in mind, there are over 43 accredited universities in Australia, and no two schools are exactly alike. That means you probably won't find everything mentioned here at your school. That said, you'll never know until you go investigate yourself. Call your fitness centre's front desk, check their web site, look for billboards or postings at the fitness centre or better yet, ask someone who works in the admissions office. They know all. For many schools, the university fitness centre is "free" for students, but let's be honest: You're paying with your tuition dollars, whether you use it or not. So use it!
Join University Teams and Play Club Sports
University sports give you the opportunity to compete against fellow students in a wide variety of sports for fun. Most of the time they're organised through the university's fitness centre with signups going all school year, and it's often free for students (though some schools require you to pay for a fitness pass). The types of intramural sports vary at each university, but you can expect games like basketball, rugby, volleyball, soccer, handball, tennis, golf, softball, ultimate frisbee, and even dodgeball.
If you're interested in competing against students from other schools, look into joining a club sport team. These types of teams are generally more serious than intramural teams and usually require attending regular practice. It's like being on a division college sports team, but there are no scholarships or televised tournaments.
Rent Equipment for Your Own Sports and Activities
If your schedule is packed and you don't have time to join a club or play university games, most fitness centres will let you check out equipment for free so you can do your own thing. Get your friends together for a pickup game of basketball, borrow some rackets and play a few matches of racquetball, or check out some paddles to play some table tennis. Even if you don't have a group of friends, other students in the same position as you will be hanging around looking for pickup games. And you can always shoot hoops on your own, or rent a racquetball court and kick a soccer ball against the wall.
Take Your Workout to New Heights With Indoor Rock Walls
If you want to build some strength but you want something more dynamic than straight weight training, rock climbing might be for you. Universities all over the country have rock walls, and more keep adding them to their fitness centres. There's one at the University of Sydney in New South Wales. The University of Western Australia also has rock climbing facilities.
Hit the Pool for a Low-Impact, Powerful Workout When the Gym Is Busy
Almost every university fitness center has a swimming pool of some kind, and some even have Olympic-sized versions. If the gym is crazy busy and there are no open treadmills or lifting machines, Grant Hackton, a former college fitness trainer, suggests swimming can give you a full-body workout when you don't have time to wait. Swimming is also a great exercise format for people who have injuries, chronic joint or muscular conditions, and different body types where it might be hard to jump right into running or lifting.
Keep a swimsuit in your gym bag so you'll always be ready.
De-Stress in the Student Spa and Meditation Rooms
You can have a lot of fun when you're at university but it can also be the most stressful time in your life. If you need to unwind a little before a big final exam, see if your school's fitness center can hook you up. Some schools have saunas, hot tubs, and even massage centres that are free or severely discounted for students.
You can also do some brain maintenance in a dedicated meditation room.
Sign Up for Group Classes and Recreational Trips
When it comes to extracurricular activities, university fitness centres are a goldmine. Most facilities host group classes, offer personal training sessions, like the one at Macquarie University. Classes vary by school and time of year and many university fitness centres offer non-fitness related classes as well, like CPR training.
If you're craving adventure, many universities organise outdoor recreation trips through their fitness or wellness centres. Be sure you check with your fitness center so you know what trips or activities might be coming up soon.