Gym enthusiasts discuss intimidating nature of local gyms, overall gym culture

The Provo VASA gym is located on 900 East. Students say VASA can be intimidating, especially for first-time members. (Emma Butler)

Provo gym patrons find VASA to be “significantly more intimidating” than other gyms in the area.

“It was the most intimidating thing of my life,” recent BYU graduate Hannah Staford said. “The first time I went, I stayed for like five minutes.”

There are several gym options in Provo and Orem, including VASA, EOS, Planet Fitness, the BYU Fitness Center and Provo Recreation Center. According to gym patrons, it is normal to see these facilities packed with college students, who make up a large percentage of the population in the area.

Staford tried out memberships at multiple gyms during her time as a student and said each option has pros and cons.

According to Staford, Planet Fitness helped ease her into the habit of going to the gym when she wanted to start lifting two years ago because it’s not crowded and has a relaxed atmosphere.

However, Staford felt self-conscious about the sheer volume of people at VASA and felt like she was not experienced enough to work out with them. She almost always had to wait in line to use gym equipment and felt rushed because there were people waiting for her to finish. 

Evita Royer, a BYU student studying microbiology, said having a gym membership is common among college students because it provides a break from busy school and work schedules. Young people also usually try to stay fit and form healthy habits, she said.

Emry Wallwork, who studied special education at BYU, attended VASA for several months before switching to EOS. Wallwork said there are many people who go to VASA in groups to hang out, sometimes for hours at a time. VASA has a more social environment than other gyms, and there is a certain stereotype associated with it, she said.

“There definitely is a culture of people whose whole lives revolve around fitness and aesthetics … I have seen that at VASA for sure,” she said.

Wallwork said she does not view that as a negative thing but sees how it can be intimidating for newcomers. 

Roger Smith is a University of Utah graduate from Southern California who frequents various VASA gyms in Utah, including the Provo and Orem locations.

Going to VASA can be intimidating, especially for first-time members, he said. In reality, people are rarely watching or judging others, according to Smith. 

“Don’t worry about what other people think … you’re thinking about what other people think of you way more than they are,” Smith said. “Everyone had to start somewhere.”

According to Wallwork, everyone is at the gym to better themselves.

“No one cares about what you’re doing … they’re focused on their own fitness goals,” she said. 

Wallwork said in addition to being more crowded, the machines at the Orem VASA were older, and there were only a few nice ones she liked to use. When the new EOS gym opened in Orem, she switched her membership over because she had a great experience going to EOS at home in California. Wallwork said the equipment at EOS is newer and the staff maintains it well.

Advertising student Camille Jacobsen attends the Provo Recreation Center and said it has other activities along with exercise equipment, including a pool, indoor track, basketball and pickleball courts.

BYU offers a free on-campus student fitness center, as well as a faculty and staff weight room and a women’s weight room. YFitness classes are also available to students for free with a facilities wristband.

Avery Hack, from South Jordan Utah, attended the campus gym during the school year. She said it was convenient for her and other freshmen who did not have cars to drive to other gyms.

However, she said the facility is small for the number of students it serves. At busy times, she has had to wait up to 30 minutes to enter the limited-capacity gym. If she had a car, she would pay for a membership to a gym off-campus, Hack said.

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