You might be familiar with stories about people waiting in line to get the newest Stanley tumbler, or spending hours stuck in Ticketmaster’s digital queue for Taylor Swift tickets. Comparatively, having to wait for a treadmill at the gym to free up might seem strange. Nevertheless, Zimmerman Fitness Center has been filled with students since this winter term began.
Ahmed Chaudhry ’27, who has worked at the main desk of Zimmerman Fitness Center for two months, suggested the recent crowds at the gym might be due to New Year’s resolutions to work out more frequently. The early sunsets, cold temperatures and icy sidewalks that come with winter term might also contribute to the overcrowding. Students used to exercising outside are forced to tweak their routines or find alternatives to stay safe in the variable weather conditions.
Nathan Hammerschmitt Le Gal ’27 has been an avid runner since high school and continues to run at Dartmouth. Despite the cold temperatures, he prefers to exercise outside if the sidewalks are clear.
“There's a little bit of a mindset shift during the winter,” he said, noting that worsened conditions can motivate him to train harder.
Hammerschmitt Le Gal noted that exercising outdoors also provides a meditational experience, as it provides him with an opportunity to experience a moment of quiet between back-to-back classes and extracurricular activities.
Sydney Savarese ’25, a member of the club triathlon team, echoed Hammerschmitt Le Gal’s willingness to train outside.
“Unless it’s below five degrees, I’m all for running outside,” Savarese said.
However, Savarese said to make up for a lack of motivation due to the conditions, she sometimes switches to cross-training outside rather than running.
“Doing things like cross country skiing and other winter activities that aren’t exactly triathlon are really fun, and it’s good cross training, but I’ll be happy when spring is here,” Savarese said.
Hammerschmitt Le Gal said that the social benefits from working out at a gym keep him from exercising solely outdoors.
“[You can] wave to people you know [at the gym],” he said. “You can have a connection or … a quick conversation.”
To ensure he can avoid the crowds when he goes to the gym, he often attends the Triathlon Team’s spin practices.
“The spin room is going to [have a spot for me] … versus just showing up and thinking, ‘What is open?’” Hammerschmitt Le Gal said.
Hammerschmitt Le Gal also pointed out how these types of workout classes can provide both motivation and a space to workout — key factors that might be lacking when students come to the gym.
Similarly, Chaudhry noted that another solution to avoiding the crowds at the gym is to utilize the facilities that many students don’t, such as the running track.
“[Zimmerman] has a running track … and I’m sure many people can make use of that,” Chaudhry said.
Savarese pointed out how winter conditions often force athletes to make compromises when working out, which have caused her goals to shift as a result.
“The goal is to focus a little bit more on strengthening and injury prevention and spending more time at the gym during the winter since it’s cold outside,” she said.
In terms of triathlon-focused training, the swimming and running components of triathlon training do not vary significantly from season to season, Savarese noted, though the cycling training does differ.
“I feel like everyone ideally prefers cycling outside with the caveat that outside is obviously more dangerous,” Savarese said.
To make up for the inability to cycle outside, Savarese and other members of the triathlon team use the virtual reality program Zwift to simulate the outdoor riding experience. Indoor bikes are connected to smart trainers that show athletes their wattage and cadence, and allow them to cycle with others in real-time.
While Hammerschmitt Le Gal and Savarese have clearly remained passionate about continuing their primary forms of exercise regardless of the weather, with modifications as needed, many students will likely continue to opt for the strength machines, free weights or cardio machines available at the gym, according to the Alumni Gym website.
However, Chaudhry pointed out that academic schedules might soon cause a decrease in crowds.
“With midterms coming up, I think the crowd is going to decrease,” he said. “As the term gets busier … workload increases. I think it’s natural that people will have a shift in their priorities.”
Although the temperatures in Hanover might seem to be getting colder by the day, routine exercise remains an important part of staying healthy at Dartmouth, both mentally and physically. So whether workouts involve layering up and jogging outdoors or taking classes at the gym, students have embraced adaptability and flexibility when it comes to their winter workouts.