Students Pay To Avoid MAC

Elan A. Greenwald

Some students looking to stay in shape prefer the spacious accomodations at Wellbridge Athletic Club, shown above, to the overcrowded facilities on campus.

The price of fitness is rising.

Just as the University agreed to shell out $20,000 dollars per House gym to improve facilities, more and more students are agreeing to pay upward of $100 dollars a month to keep their physiques in top form.

Fed up with the crowded and tired facilities and classes of the Malkin Athletic Center (MAC) and House gyms, several students have chosen to forgo their free memberships to Harvard fitness centers in favor of a pricier workout at private gyms, such as the Wellbridge Athletic Club near the Charles Hotel.

“It’s not the perfect gym,” said Fernanda W. Winthrop ’04, who has been a member of Wellbridge for over a year.

But even though Harvard students enjoy free access to the MAC, Wellbridge has managed to draw a substantial student population.

According to Wellbridge spokesperson Laura Mylan, about 20 to 30 percent of the gym’s 1,200 members are students.

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Julia N. Bonnheim ’06, who became a Wellbridge member after using a one-week free trial during reading period, said she regularly sees several Harvard students during her workouts.

“I see people that I recognize. There are several graduate students and lots of people wear various Harvard clothing,” she said.

Ronny Luhur, a first-year student at the Kennedy School of Government garbed in a Harvard sweatshirt and clutching a Coop shopping bag, fit Bonnheim’s description.

“I like it here,” he said after his workout at Wellbridge, explaining that he immediately joined Wellbridge in September after a disappointing tour of the MAC, which he said was overcrowded.

The two gyms have comparable numbers of cardio equipment, with Wellbridge featuring five more treadmills for a total of 15, and two more stair climbers than the MAC’s six. But the MAC attracts far more people than Wellbridge; the MAC sees roughly 7,000 to 10,000 visits a week—as many as 1,500 per day—and serves a much larger population than Wellbridge does.

Luhur said he simply prefers the Wellbridge workout environment.

“There’s a lot of light and a lot of space here,” he said, looking around at the glass walls and large windows of the facility. “It’s clean and there are nice bathrooms, so I come here.”

Meaghan S. Cain ’06, who joined Wellbridge with Bonnheim, said she enjoys the gym’s steam room, hot tub and sauna—all offerings absent at the MAC.

Though Cain would normally run outside to stay fit, she said the cold weather and the lines at the MAC motivated her to join Wellbridge.

Sean M. Lubens ’04, who has exercised at Wellbridge for four years, said he joined for the classes in spinning, which involve stationary bike fitness sessions and are not offered at the MAC.