The Definitive Ranking of House Gyms: From Hemenway Jr. to Just Passable

By Eve S. Jones

An under-discussed upside of living in a House instead of the Yard (eww): having a gym attached to your building. Now that you don’t have to brave the cold to get some reps in, you might actually keep up with your New Year’s resolutions. But there’s no way to squeeze the MAC, in all its glory, into a 200-square-foot room, so you’ll have to accept some cut corners. And, sadly, not all House gyms are created equal…

My credentials for evaluating the House gyms are that, prior to writing this article, I’d worked out seven times since starting college and that I once lifted weights in Rabbit Run (the Leverett House gym) for 30 minutes and couldn’t walk for five days.

C Tier: Come On, Harvard, You Could Buy A Few More Machines

Coming in at the bottom of our list are the gyms in Leverett, Adams, and Eliot; all of these workout spaces are passable but lost points (in our super official scoring system which was definitely not limited to a vibe check) for being somewhat inaccessible and having very few machines. But they still sit in our good books for attempting to have an aesthetic.

Adams: I only visited the gym in Claverly Hall, so anyone personally invested in Adams’ gym profile should note that, due to the dispersed nature of Adams housing, there might be another workout space in your building. What I saw in Claverly, however, failed to meet my expectations, with only a few machines crammed into a relatively small room. I’m hopeful that the rest of Adams has more to offer because, while the space was fitted with floor-to-ceiling mirrors and had a good balance of machines, I was left feeling underwhelmed.

Eliot: Eliot Gym had the most cohesive interior design of any gym on this list, with blue waves and a red stripe emblazoned on the walls of the gym’s two rooms. The gym is pretty small and has only minimal equipment, but the greater travesty is that rather than having physical walls, the gym is separated from the hallway by a chain link fence…so you’re literally working out in a dungeon. I also wouldn’t plan on using the fancy rowing machines in the second part of the gym because it requires a physical key to enter that no one that I know of has been granted. Still, it might be for the best; with all the stairs in Eliot, residents of the Domus likely don’t need the workout.

Leverett: A cute name — Rabbit Run and bunnies, get it? — made me really, really want to love the Leverett House gym, but unfortunately, it’s rather tiny, especially relative to the number of students housed in Lev. Rabbit Run is composed of only two small rooms (each about the size of four singles?), plus a bathroom and a handy water bottle filling station. The child in me (read: the lazy part of me that will only exercise if it means I can watch Netflix) loved that there were TVs placed in the sightline from every machine, but the equipment was super old — to the point that I thought it was broken — and there’s no differentiation between space for aerobics and for weightlifting. Rabbit Run is located on the first floor of G tower, meaning that it doesn’t have the dungeon feel that many of the other gyms do, so while residents of either of the towers can access it without going outside, bunnies in McKinlock will have to trek across DeWolfe Street to work out.

B Tier: Better than the Last

Next up are the gyms in Mather, Winthrop, and Kirkland; nothing really stood out about them, but at the very least they were slightly more spacious than their lower-ranked peers.

Kirkland: Featuring a decent spread of equipment, Kirkland’s gym is one of the only gyms on campus that feels distinctive to its house, with decorations reflecting the Kirkland spirit. In theory, this choice of decor should imbue the space with enough good vibes to make your workout enjoyable rather than torturous, but the gym is directly connected to a common room, and I, for one, am not comfortable with being perceived while I attempt to lift five-pound weights. On the bright side, this means that non-Kirkland residents can experience the magic without having to pester a friend to swipe them in, but I’m not sure it’s worth it when the MAC is right there.

Mather: I really, really tried to like Mather’s gym, but again it struck me as rather small. However, anyone into timed exercises is likely to appreciate the large digital clock, and resident yogis are likely to enjoy the meditation room housed in the same complex. The d-hall is also super close by in case you’re struck by the post-workout munchies!

Winthrop: The Winthrop Gym is relatively small but manages to avoid feeling claustrophobic by allowing space between the machines. No worrying about bumping elbows with the person on the machine next to yours! I also loved the cubby set-up near the doorway and the cushions padding the floor. Throp Gym is proof that basement gyms don’t have to make you feel like you’re working out in an abyss.

A Tier: All You Really Need in a Gym

Quincy, Pfoho, and Lowell made their way into my good graces with generous spreads of equipment (or in Lowell’s case, having a squash court) but could use some updates.

Pforzheimer: By now, you’ve likely realized that the Quad gyms ranked higher, on average, than gyms found by the River, and Pfoho is no exception. While on the small side relative to the other Quad gyms, the Pfoho gym includes several mirrors to watch your gains grow in real-time and has an interesting two-room setup splitting weights and related equipment from the aerobics machines. Located in Pfoho’s basement, the gym is conveniently located for all residents not placed in overflow housing and is right next to the arcade and the laundry room. There’s just one downside: a mirror that occupies most of one wall in the weight room is made of two-way glass…so people can see in and you can’t see out.

Lowell: Lowell’s gym could have clocked in much, much lower on this list, but while lacking in equipment, the gym has its own kind of charm, featuring a cardboard cutout of the former mascot, the Blueman, and an upper level with a meditation area. There’s also a squash court (read: squash court that is used nearly exclusively as a basketball court) located right outside the main gym area, as well as a wall display of doorknobs that I thought was an artistic statement but that my gym buddy insisted was a climbing wall. The gym location is relatively remote — getting there was like walking through a maze — but I suppose it’s not too big an inconvenience when residents can hop on over to the MAC instead.

Quincy: Nearly the size of Currier Gym, Quincy Gym manages to accommodate a generous selection of equipment while still maintaining some open space. The areas of the gym populated by machines are a bit cramped, but not to the extent of impeding your workout routine. Still, I think some updates might be in order because, while someone went through the effort of placing motivational sayings on the walls, enough letters have worn away to make them unreadable without a second glance. However, this wear and tear might be a mark of actual use by residents, since Quincy was the only gym being used by multiple people when I visited.

S Tier: Someone Pinch Me, I Think I’m Dreaming

Dunster, Cabot, and Currier showed me that Harvard will willingly spend money on something other than the chairs in the Yard once in a blue moon.

Cabot: Cabot Gym has long been a site of legend, and the reputation is well deserved. The room is likely the largest in the house other than the dining hall and features an amazing selection of equipment, with plans to secure a Peloton in the works. The gym also includes a water bottle filling station (attached to a water fountain for those of you who tend to forget your water bottle) and bathrooms, making it the perfect workout haven.

Currier: The Quad continues to demolish the competition. The Currier workout space is generously sized and has a clearly delineated stretching area (a small detail but an amazing bonus). At the time I visited, much of the equipment was incorrectly stored, but there’s a diverse array of machines and a frankly astonishing set of weights at your disposal. Just one problem: whoever designed Currier’s gym was in cahoots with the Pfoho gym designer, because this gym also features the unfortunate inclusion of a two-way mirror.

Dunster: My response to walking through Dunster’s gym was “Oh. Em. Gee.” On repeat. With multiples of each type of machine, an impressive weight selection, and a squash court, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever drop by Dunster Gym and leave unsatisfied. One downside is that there is no door separating the aerobics area from the rest of Dunster’s basement, leaving you painfully exposed, but given that the space is delineated from the rest of the basement by a steep set of stairs, I’m willing to let it slide.

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