Let’s start with an assumed fact, and imagine that we live in a perfect, ideal world in which things work as they should and we don’t have to worry about anything. Let’s assume Imperial College is committed to tackling mental health issues.
Let’s say they are. I mean, they opened a counselling service, didn’t they? I’ve seen mental health campaigns around. Some allocation of resources is going into it, so it must be one of their priorities. Right? Right?
Let’s now go through a logical argument. It requires three assumptions as its main ingredients:
- Practicing sport helps to keep your mind healthy.
- Gyms are a standard, convenient way of practicing sport, especially for busy people.
- Imperial College is committed to tackling mental health issues.
Okay, we mix these assumptions in our brand new logical blender, and we get a nice, cold, creamy smoothie called the Ethos Energia gym. You look at your creation and are pretty confident it’s going to be amazing. I mean, you followed the recipe: if Imperial wants to help with students’ mental health, sport is one of many ways to do so, and gyms are the most standard way of practising sport, it surely follows that they should invest in having a world-class gym facility, with amazing personnel, state of the art equipment, and accessibility to any kind of student or staff member, regardless of age and gym experience.
“Ethos’ gym size is not encouraging more people to go to the gym regularly”
Except you attempt to try the smoothie and find out something is not right. It’s not really that the ingredients are wrong. It’s that there are too many people who want to drink it. You find yourself surrounded by 20 people asking to have a bit, and before you know it, you’ve ran out of smoothie before even trying it.
This is the problem with the gym at Ethos at the moment: it’s too small for the amount of people who’d want to use it. Anyone who has tried to go on a Monday at 5pm knows this for sure. You’ll find queues for treadmills and rowing machines. Groups of three or even four sharing a bench. Weightlifters squeezing into the minimal space needed to do a side lateral raise without hitting everyone with a 12kg weight.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying sharing a bench at the gym is bad (it’s actually often preferable). I just don’t think Ethos’s size is encouraging more people to go to the gym regularly. Put yourself into the shoes of someone who makes the resolution to start a gym habit. You go the first time, see the 90% occupancy notice, get changed, go in, and observe the panorama. You’ve vaguely heard interval training is good, so you make your way to the treadmills to have your first session. There are three people waiting. Maybe the first two or three times you are resilient and decide to wait, but if you’ve had a long day, you might just go back home without starting, completely discouraged by the insane number of people there.
“Ethos has a very large waiting area at the entrance. Why not expand into that area?”
So yes, it is absolutely outrageous that Imperial, with its supposed commitment to mental health issues, has such a small gym for the amount of students and staff there are. And the situation will only get worse as student numbers increase.
Thankfully, there are ways to tackle this issue head on. Ethos has a very large waiting area at the entrance, full of tables and chairs. Why not expand the gym into that area? There is enough space to move all the current treadmills, elliptical trainers, static bikes and rowing machines there. After that, there is still space to buy many more of all of them. And you’ll free up a lot of space upstairs to expand the weights area, buy more machines, and in general just have a much better gym.
Can we just transform the waiting area into an extension of the gym? Of course! Some staff members report that the space is not used a lot anyway. Sometimes large groups of kids do have to wait there, but I’m sure they can wait where the vending machines are. It’s only a bit of waiting. You don’t need to be treated like a king. The space where the vending machines are can definitely be turned into the waiting area.
And okay, if you’re one of those that is going to miss the ping-pong table, get a grip on yourself. It’s just a ping-pong table. Surely you can make this little sacrifice for us. Take it for the team. I am confident you can find somewhere else to fill your ping-pong urges (I hear Imperial has a very good table tennis club).
So yes, here I am, asking Alice Gast to expand the gym at Ethos. I trust you can do it. Show us you care about your students and staff.
If you agree with me, please sign the petition. I’m sure most Imperial students and staff agree that there is a problem, so let’s try to actually make an impact, even if you will graduate before this ever happens.