Balancing Exercise with Entertainment at the New Balance Student Recreation Center

Rec CenterThe UMaine student body is an active one. We pride ourselves on it. The size and caliber of the Student Recreation Center, sponsored by New Balance, reflects this.

You know, we could have gone with the mainstream Nike sponsorship for the Rec Center. Dean Dana could’ve swung that deal with Gordon Gekko-like tranquility. But we chose New Balance–a classic brand based right here in New England. My grandfather wore New Balances with his sweatpants when he was in the kitchen pouring himself a scotch. At the other end of the coolness spectrum, Major League Baseball MVP’s Dustin Pedroia and Miguel Cabrera wear them. But while I have articles and articles worth of material about the beauties of New Balance, what I really want to talk about is the joys of people watching.

Like many, I am an observer of people. It’s difficult for me to take an exam in a 200 person lecture hall without analyzing the beard of the man to my right or the nose piercing of the girl to my left. But I’m no Regina George. I merely appreciate the uniqueness of the individual. Isn’t that part of the beauty of going to a big public university like UMaine? No two people are the same. There’s so much diversity and yet we all live together and study together and eat together and party together. It’s truly a beautiful thing. And there’s no better place to observe the diversity of the University of Maine student body than our own New Balance Student Recreation Center. (See, it all came around to where we started. It just took a while).

It’s almost as if the architects who designed the Rec Center had people watchers in mind. They probably were people watchers themselves. The elevated track is the perfect place to look down on the basketball players and into the weight rooms and racquetball courts. It’s a wide open design so most everywhere is visible from everywhere else.

I love watching the basketball players. It seems that no matter what hour of the day there are viciously competitive games going on. There are always a few guys who I see on the courts every time I’m there. You can tell they run the show. It’s “call your own fouls” but these guys hack and don’t say a peep. They’re the guys who take the deep three, air ball it, and then yell at the other guys to get back on D. Then there are the guys who can’t get themselves into a game. They sit and wait and when a new game comes around they aren’t assertive enough to establish themselves so they end up having to watch again. By the way, who is the longhaired, scruffy old man in a Sonics jersey? Who is that guy?? Does he teach here? My best guess would be that he’s the uncle of a professor’s second cousin and he somehow got a hold of his Maine Card. Whoever he is, I think we can all agree the man can run the pick and roll.

Another favorite are the big, meaty iron heads who spend three hours a day lifting between protein supplements, a staple of gyms across the country. But what other states don’t have is the fella who is lifting purely so he’ll be able to haul his prize moose out of the woods over Thanksgiving break. He’s sporting a cutoff camo shirt that still reeks of cow manure with some cargo pants and a pair of Timberlands. He doesn’t look like he even planned to go to the gym. It’s as if he was on his way to the local fields to bale hay when he ran into a gym-going friend and decided to join him. You can tell he’s there for a greater purpose. He’d rather be gutting some game but he’s off at the State U most likely studying to be a warden. He has no desire to play basketball because the only point system he cares about is in reference to the size of a moose’s rack.

Then there are the social gym goers who go to the gym, often times with a group, but never really work out. They’re more in it to talk to people and make jokes than actually exercise. I once was a part of this group. Then the Freshman 15 started to add up and I had no choice but to exert myself. Nobody has a better time than the social gym goers. Until that one friend calls you out and you force yourself to try and bench 200 to prove that you’ve been working out just as much as him.

And what about the wrestlers? Can anyone tell me why the former high school wrestlers feel the need to work out in their onesies? We get it, you were a four-year varsity wrestler for Brewer. Now for crying out loud can you please cover up those thighs?

As for the ab girls, they make the gym a depressing place. These are the ripped girls who put their headphones in, find a mat in the corner and just go to town on their midsection pretending that the whole tuba section, there to stay in shape for marching season, isn’t staring at them. Meanwhile, poor Pat from PIKE can’t even go five minutes on the treadmill because of all the beer swishing around in there.

The New Balance Student Recreation Center is a mandatory destination for every member of the UMaine community, even if you have no interest in fitness or recreation. Just walk the 1/10 mile track a few times and observe the colorful people UMaine has to offer. Who knows, you might get recruited for an intramural volleyball game. Or perhaps you’ll find your professor in the sauna – always a pleasant surprise. Nothing like discussing your Shakespeare analysis with Professor McCandless as sweat pours down your bodies. Simply put, the Rec Center provides endless hours of entertainment, and sometimes you might even get some exercise in the process.



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