Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

63° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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More students enrolling in SPAC classes, now free

Free gym classes are difficult to find.

This changed Fall Quarter when the Sports Pavilion and Aquatics Center made cardiovascular/strength classes free for Northwestern students.

The average size of a cardio/strength class has increased from about 10 participants last year to about 30 this year, said Dan Bulfin, NU’s director for fitness and recreation. The classes include total body workouts, strength, boot camp and cardio boxing classes.

“From what we can tell, students seem to be enjoying and taking advantage of the classes,” Bulfin said. “That’s why we’re here.”

Part of the motivation for making these classes free was to “infuse student interest” in SPAC classes, said Nancy Tierney, NU’s fitness and wellness director. However, costs become an obstacle for students, who are often the least likely to afford a pass. Taking away this barrier by eliminating the cost has led to a spike in student attendance.

“Our general philosophy has always been to find ways to subsidize programs and services for students,” said Bulfin, who tries to generate other forms of income so SPAC can offer more free programs to students.

For instance, the revenues from a personal training program that took place a few years ago are primarily helping to pay for the now-free classes, said Bulfin.

But not all of NU’s fitness classes have increased attendance.

While the number of participants in cardio/strength classes has gone up, mind/body classes that teach group yoga and Pilates have decreased, Tierney said.

NU is one of the only schools in the Big Ten that does not fund its programs through student activities fees, which is why it’s always had to offset its expenses by charging, Tierney said.

In order to attend any of the 19 mind/body classes held at the dance studio in Patten Gym, a NU student must buy a $99 pass each quarter; NU faculty and staff, $129; and public, $159.

“We’re still evaluating if students that were once purchasing passes to attend those classes are now shifting over to cardio/strength,” Tierney said. “Or if that’s the way the economy is, if people just aren’t spending as they used to on gym passes.”

The mind/body passes still have a charge attached to them in order to subsidize the cost of the cardio/strength classes, Tierney said.

“Labor costs for yoga and Pilates are higher, so we have to charge more for those,” Bulfin said. “Otherwise we wouldn’t be offering them.”

The number of non-students taking the cardio/strength classes has remained roughly the same because members must pay a fee for those classes, said Fern DeLima, SPAC’s group exercise coordinator.

“What we’re trying to do is make our group fitness programs seem more appealing to people who are not students,” said DeLima, who teaches a number of the cardio/strength classes at SPAC. “The point is that we continue to keep the student body coming to our classes and also reach out to other outlets of the community.”

The response to the changes in the cardio/strength classes has been positive.

“Having more people around makes classes more fun,” said Ann Lyman, who works at Northwestern University Health Service. “It’s more motivating with a big group.”

Music graduate student Nolan Pearson said he’s “taking full advantage” of SPAC by attending Core Strength classes and swimming every other day of the week.

“If I had to pay, I wouldn’t come,” Pearson said.

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More students enrolling in SPAC classes, now free