Lonely is a Gym Bro Without Love

Who goes to the gym on Valentine’s Day? One writer has a heart-to-heart with the gym rats and single students on our favorite Hallmark holiday.

by Kevin Guo | 2/22/23 2:15am

by Brooke Kries / The Dartmouth

Valentine’s Day is a funny holiday.

A time of companionship to some and a solemn reminder of complete solitude to others, what other day of the year can evoke such a diverse range of emotions? As with any holiday, Valentine’s Day causes, at least to some degree, a disruption in each of our lives — the candy hearts and carnations interrupt the habitual flow of one day to the next. 

The truth is, the idea of celebrating romantic relationships is really only applicable to those of us actually in one. But the Hallmark holiday is still pushed upon everyone in all spheres of life. From the many Valentine’s Day-themed a capella and dance performances and the countless organizations capitalizing on candy grams to fundraise, to the listserv emails disguised as flitzes, the influence of Valentine’s Day is impossible to escape. 

A week after the pinkest day of the year, I bring to you a report of Hanover’s most overlooked Valentine’s Day scene: Alumni Gym. Since 1910, the gym has been home to the heart of the Dartmouth fitness community. It boasts two swimming pools, multiple fencing lanes, basketball courts, a jogging track and, most notably, the Zimmerman Fitness Center. Featuring a cast of dedicated powerlifters crushing one-rep max PRs and old alumni chilling on the stationary bike, the Zimmerman Fitness Center is probably one of the most diverse destinations on campus. 

Bill Zheng ’26 started going to the gym in his senior year of high school through a strength and performance physical education program. 

“We had a strength room, a weightlifting room, and so we would go there every day to lift weights, and so that basically kick-started my journey,” Zheng explained. At Dartmouth, he continues his fitness journey as a member of the powerlifting team. 

While some, like Zheng, appear to be motivated purely by athletic excellence, others aren’t as inspiring in their intentions. HS ’26, who asked to be referred to by his initials so that his gym-going motives could remain private, is also a frequent gym goer.  Unlike Zheng, he started working out more recently — and for very different reasons.

“I started going to the gym after I got ghosted last term,” HS said. “I don’t think I would go [to the gym] nearly as much otherwise.” 

For him, the gym is a chance to focus on self-improvement in hopes of finding new relationships. 

Around Valentine’s Day, many may assume that more and more gym goers align their goals with HS rather than Zheng. After all, the reminder of solitude has the potential to inspire a sequence of serial self-improvement akin to the effect of a New Year’s Resolution.

According to HS, only those not in a relationship would go to the gym on Valentine’s Day. 

“I think they’re all probably single,” HS theorized. “If I had a girlfriend, I would spend my time with her instead of at the gym.”

Zheng voiced a different opinion. 

“I don’t think it'll be that different than normal,” he speculated. “The regular gym goers who have it in their schedule, like planning to go to the gym on Tuesday, they’ll probably still go to the gym.” 

However, Zheng did agree that Valentine’s Day may motivate new people to come to the gym and provided his support for their choice. 

“If any event, any day, any person can motivate you to live a healthier lifestyle, change for the better or set a new goal for yourself, I think that's very productive, regardless,” Zheng said. “So if those people are at the gym, I will support them and hope they continue their journey.”

Hearing these conflicting views, I decided to investigate. So, at 6 p.m. on Valentine’s Day, during a time when couples would theoretically be enjoying a night of celebration, I went to the gym to see who was there.

Sabik Jawad ’26 was at the gym for a quick workout after classes. 

“I don’t really place any significance on Valentine’s Day,” Jawad said. “I would’ve come anyway so it’s just another training day to me, I guess.”

Similarly, Danylo Borodchuk ’26 denied having any particular reason for hitting the gym on Valentine’s Day, when asked if February 14th provided any special motivation.

 “Other than the fact that I always [come to the gym on Tuesday], no, not really.” 

His explanation for why people go to the gym similarly centered around the idea of self-improvement. 

“You go to look better, and then you feel better about yourself,” Borodchuk said.

Although Zheng, Borodchuk and HS are all single, they remain undeterred by the influence of Valentine’s Day. Ultimately, it seems Alumni Gym is not a gathering place for lonely folks, but rather a rendezvous of a community of Dartmouth students all determined to better themselves, for themselves. 

“Weightlifting is another way for me to continue to stay fit, and use my body to, you know, be athletic, and do something with my body that I couldn't do before,” Zheng said. “It's a new goal, and goals are what drive me.”

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