Don’t sweat the January PEC crowds

How to avoid the New year’s influx and still get a workout

This January, seperate yourself from the herd of New Year’s resolution exercisers by working out earlier or later than usual.
This January, seperate yourself from the herd of New Year’s resolution exercisers by working out earlier or later than usual.

The Student Body: A Guide to Dealing with January PEC Crowds

Has anyone else noticed the abnormally large amount of people visiting the PEC lately? Judging by the crowds, it seems many Queen’s students have made a New Year’s resolution to get in shape.

I talked to Melody Torcolacci who said that like other gyms, the PEC always sees an increase in use after New Years.

“There has always traditionally been an increase after New Years. This year doesn’t seem quite as bad in the weight rooms, but the use in the cardio areas have been quite heavy,” she said.

It’s great that so many people want to improve their fitness, but when there’s a two hour wait for the treadmill, you might feel like the only running you’ll get to do for the next little while is away from the crowds at the PEC. I’ve experienced the January PEC crowds for 4 years, and by now I’ve developed some helpful strategies that will allow you to work out in peace and to have good time while waiting for the crowds to dissipate—which is usually by mid-February.

Based on my own experience, the first piece of advice I can give you is to never go the PEC at 5:30 p.m. on weekdays. Torcolacci confirmed this—she said the PEC is always busiest between 4 and 6 p.m. Unfortunately, there are those times when class goes all day and the only chance to get to the PEC is after classes finish at 5:30. Seems everyone else has the same issue. Avoid this time slot if you can help it in any way, unless you want to wait 2 hours for that elliptical machine or stand in a crowd of hulking, sweaty muscleheads in the weight room.

I try to go before classes start, usually at about 7 a.m. If you can bear to wake up at this time, you will usually get a machine right away. After all, the early bird catches the worm.

If getting up at the crack of dawn isn’t your thing, other times that I have noticed to be slow are mid-morning and mid-afternoon. If you are lucky enough to have free time here, try to use it for a workout to spare yourself and those who have to work out after classes a lot of aggravation.

“You have to pick the in-between times,” Torcolacci recommended, adding that later in the evening is another good time to hit the gym.

I hate to be seen taking pleasure of global warming, but I have been taking advantage of this winter’s freakishly warm temperatures to avoid the craziness of the PEC. You can too by going for a run, bike or walk outside to get your cardio workout for the day. There are some great routes to follow around Kingston, and the PEC has information about these routes in the front entrance. You can even do your part to reduce climate change by biking or walking to do errands rather than driving if you own a car.

Another alternative to the PEC is mat exercises such as Pilates, Yoga, free weights and ball work at home. All you need is a mat and a few pieces of inexpensive equipment, and the hours you will save not walking around the mat room looking for a spot or having to pause every 5 seconds to let someone go by you in the PEC’s hallway of mats will be well worth it. If you want to do cardio at home, you could also do an aerobics video. I sometimes use a DVD to workout, and I find it is a nice change to my everyday routine. And if you prefer a live instructor, fitness classes at the PEC are another way to avoid cardio-machine waits. As long as you get a wristband a couple of hours before the class, you guarantee yourself a spot. I find classes to be quite fun, with their loud music and perky instructors, which is great if you are just getting started and need some motivation.

I asked Tocolacci for any advice she has to help students follow through on their New Year’s fitness resolutions.

“Be realistic, that’s the first thing. Record so that you have some sort of diary that you can see whether you’re following through and you can make adjustments,” she said. “Have somebody else who knows what you’re trying to do, so that you’re always being reinforced.”

Whatever type of exercise you decide to base your fitness resolutions on, know that there are alternatives to the PEC. If you get frustrated by long waits for cardio machines and overcrowding in the weight rooms and stretching areas, try one of these tips to keep your fitness routine on track until the PEC becomes a little more manageable later on in the term.

--With files from Meghan Sheffield


Grace McConnachie writes a twice-monthly health and wellness column. E-mail her with your questions or ideas at

Street Clothes

Name and Faculty: Mike Busser, ArtSci ’09

Where are you going right now? I’m going to microbiology class.

How would you describe your style? A lot of sweaters and jeans. I like to buy things that mean something to me. I like the slogans on my shirt to represent what I believe in. I like it to provoke a question or reveal a part of my personality rather than straight off the rack from Gap. I just got a sweater that’s pretty sweet and it says “healing comes to the broken places first” and it has a picture of a broken heart and it’s just talking about how we have to deal with our inner struggles before we try to externalize everything. My faith also is pretty big in my style. Like, I just buy things that I believe in. I believe in truth and beauty and love and I don’t like to buy shirts that are against that. A lot of media likes to buy into the “sex, drugs and rock and roll,” and I’m into more than that.

What kind of music do you listen to? That’s tough. Anything from Mute Math to African gospel to screamo bands like Underoath. Where do you shop? A lot online. I have a lot of One Truth clothing. Stuff from private board stores.

Who is your style icon? I don’t know that I really have one. I just wear whatever’s comfortable. But if I specifically had a style, I might go for Johnny Depp—he’s pretty eclectic.

—Meghan Sheffield

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