By: Michelle Ferguson

Michelle Ferguson
Michelle Ferguson

Back in January, I made my way from the Times office down to the Fitness Zone. I was planning to use the elliptical for half an hour to work on my cardio. I play on the uOttawa Quidditch team and had two upcoming tournaments to train for, but with school kicking my derrière (pardon my French) I was unable to make most of the scheduled practices.

As a University of Ottawa graduate I figured that a gym membership at the Fitness Zone was covered through my tuition fees. That’s the way it worked at the university, so I assumed it was the same here.

I had even been skipping our gym sessions at the U of O, thinking I could save some coin by working out here instead —despite playing for the quidditch team I no longer have access to their facilities. So imagine my dismay when I showed up to the front desk of the Fitness Zone, student card in hand, and was given one of two options: purchase a $130 semester pass or fork over 10 bucks for a one-time entry.

At first I was outraged — hence wanting to write this column. But the more I looked into the issue, the more I started to realize that the decision to keep the cost of the Fitness Zone separate from tuition fees is a smart one.

I went through all the usual arguments: Why shouldn’t a gym membership be rolled into our tuition fees? Other schools do it so why don’t we? Plus, exercising is part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle. In fact, working out is proven to help reduce stress and with so many demanding programs you’d think the college would try to encourage students to make their way down to the gym by making the process more convenient for them. Plus, I bet the Fitness Zone would actually receive more money this way. Win-win right?

Not really.

Charging students for a gym membership is actually economically and socially responsible. And it shows the extreme dedication of the Student Association to improving the student experience at Algonquin.

Let’s take a look at the numbers.

This year full-time undergraduate students at Carleton University paid $156.14 in athletic fees. This allowed students to access the gymnasium and the Fieldhouse during open recreation times, as well as take advantage of the indoor track, squash courts, cardio room, fitness centre and pool. Intramurals and fitness classes were extra.

At the University of Ottawa students were charged a whopping $208.48 to access many of the same features, with the main differences lying in the fact that the U of O doesn’t own a track or a field house and that students can attend fitness classes for free (with the exception of dance and martial arts).

That doesn’t seem so bad, right? Those sports fees actually come with a lot of perks. But the question is just how many students actually take advantage of them? Because all 40, 000 of them are getting dinged regardless.

To me, Algonquin’s approach is much more sensible. Sure, an eight-month membership is a little more expensive when compared to both universities, but the process is so much more democratic. Only the students who want to access the facilities are charged the fee.

Not to mention that compared to private institutions our student rate is actually one of cheapest around town — especially for a class A facility. And it comes with all the Zumba, yoga or boot camp you can muster!

“If we had all the money from all the students we would have a great facility, but I don’t think I would change it,” said Wayne Boucher, fitness and wellness coordinator.

The Fitness Zone is cleaner, less crowded and generally has a better atmosphere. You don’t have posses of dudes pretending to lift weights while they stare at you on the treadmill through the mirror or gaggles of girls who indulge them by strapping on bikinis to work on their glutes. The people who go to the Fitness Zone are there to use the gym.

And that’s priceless.