Sweating it out at the Wellness Center

Every student is familiar with the scene: raggedy wet towels, a mysterious yellowish, green liquid in cleaning bottles, and a slew of treadmills, ellipticals, and stairmasters all packed full of sweaty students. Yes, you have now crossed the threshold into the UM Wellness Center fitness room, where one cannot scurry past the student employee sitting guard without a towel.

The employee I pass by with my iPod blaring is mouthing words and points to the sign, “No entry without a towel.” I pull out my pastel pink washcloth that I’ve had since freshman year and I shake it in his face like an ID, just as he waves me on and goes back to his conversation.

In theory, the Wellness Center has instituted this sanitary rule of “a towel at all times” to keep the facility and machines in tip-top shape and clean from germs and gallons of sweat. But I can’t find one way this is really helping.

Yeah, I’ll admit it: I’ve worked out on a machine without my towel but no one ever died. Don’t worry, I cleaned off my post-workout hand sweat with a murky cleaning solution labeled as “Virex,” which according to Google, is normally used in hospitals to eliminate germs and contaminating pathogens. This is a comforting thought, but the product that is advertised on janitorial websites has a much different appearance that even closely resembles the bottles at the gym. The liquid bottles resting in their cubby holes should contain a bright blue syrupy liquid but instead hold nothing more than a tinted-yellow watery substance. Is the solution too diluted to even be effective? Are budget cuts too extreme to accommodate cleaning fluid?

Right next to the Virex bottle sits its counterpart: a soaking wet green towel to wipe down the machines. These towels, which are wet with other people’s perspiration, cannot further disgust me and now, I’m cringing as I use it to clean my own stairmaster. With the towel, I’m adding more grime and envisioning the bacteria multiplying.

Finally, my favorite part of the Wellness Center is the employees who sit at a desk chatting on walkie-talkies. With all the machines and equipment, one would think they’d be busy cleaning dirt and the seven year-grime off the ellipticals but instead, they look comfortable sitting atop the desk in the middle of the weight room.

With my irritation at a peak, I take my complaint straight to the “Hey Norm” comment box and give Norman Parsons, the Director of Wellness and Recreation, a piece of my mind. Parsons replied to me via email: “The staff have scheduled cleaning times and the machines should never be ‘disgusting,’ or even dirty for that matter.”

Parsons should take a closer look at what’s really getting accomplished on the fitness floor. This isn’t the South Side of Chicago or even Middle America for that matter; this is a rather affluent community. UM students, alumni, and other potential members are leaving UM for its chic alternative: the Equinox at Merrick Park. It’s pricey-$110 a month for membership-but get with it Norm. If you expect to keep up with your competition, you have to realize your members have options.

Amy Sofka is a junior majoring in journalism and creative writing. She may be contacted at a.sofka@umiami.edu.