A version of this article appeared on The Rotunda
It’s pretty easy to get in such incredible physical shape when your school’s gym has been named one of the best in the country.
Recently, Longwood’s Health and Fitness Center was ranked as the eleventh best gym out of the twenty top contenders for small colleges in the United States. According to Great Value Colleges, the organization that released the report, the Health and Fitness Center “is proof that small colleges do not always have small gyms.” To support its award for Longwood’s Health and Fitness Center, Great Value Colleges cites the rock climbing wall, as well as the 74,683 square feet that the building covers, among other points of interest.
Gus Hemmer, the Associate Director for Campus Recreation at Longwood, explained more about how the contenders are rated. In addition to ranking student activity centers such as Longwood’s, the organization also ranks the best deals among the colleges, such as how much it costs per year to go to the school. He says that these scores are combined with other factors, such as the size of the school and the size of the fitness center, as well as the amenities. The center plans on hosting some exciting and new events in the future.
“One of the key reasons we got [this recognition] is, even though Longwood is considered a small school, the amount of services we offer, the diversity in the programs and services we offer, the different types and ways to get involved in recreation and in your own fitness. We got to keep that going, keep that selection going, so there’s something for everybody here.”
Hemmer has been working at Longwood University for seven years and he has been the associate director for four years after working his way up through the ranks.
“We have our Late Night at the Rec program, where we stay open a little bit later and we bring in all different kinds of activities, sometimes inflatables, sometimes laser tag, all different kinds of things. We have a fun time, it should be packed.” Late Night at the Rec will be on April 29, and is produced through a partnership with Lancer Productions.
However, the Health and Fitness Center was not always of such high quality.
“I got here the year after we opened,” Hemmer recounted. “The year before we opened, the workout facility was tiny. It was over at Iler, you had to share it with athletics, so you didn’t have much time to get in the weight room, not much time there at all.”
He says that the amount of equipment was “very limited, the amount of time available, very limited, the amount of programs you could run out of there, very limited.”
He chuckled as he remarked, “At the time, Longwood was in a bad ranking, the most unfit colleges. So we open(ed) this place, and eight years later, it’s completely changed.”
Hemmer stated, “eighty percent or more of the students, have some kind of contact with campus recreation, and that’s added to their personal wellness, their personal fitness, they’re choosing activities that are positive…It’s really changed the campus.”
“Students that come know that this is such a great deal to be included as part of your student fees; what you get for what you put into it is great, and it’s much better than what you get at certain other universities,” commented Hemmer.
He added that many universities you already know are too small as soon as they are built, since they are constantly packed as Longwood used to be.
“We have our busy hours,” admitted Hemmer, “but we still have room to grow, they built this Fitness Center thinking about the growth of the university.”
In terms of how he plans to expand the Fitness Center, he says that he is looking at programs outside the Fitness Center. Longwood already does this to some extent, he says, such as with yoga and a group fitness class at a satellite site, but he says that this will continue to grow. Fitness equipment is another way they hope to expand because the equipment is forever changing and improving.