Look, I get it. Southwest Recreation Center can be intimidating to the average gym-goer. The 140,000-square-foot facility looks like something out of a utopian sci-fi film. I’m here to make you feel comfortable in UF’s premiere workout environment. Let’s get started.
The indoor section of UF’s largest gym boasts six indoor basketball courts, five racquetball courts and a multipurpose gym for sports like indoor soccer. Students play pick-up basketball on the courts, which is a great way to get cardio in without feeling like you want to die inside.
Southwest Rec is available for all UF students who are enrolled in classes and paid the Activity and Service Fee. Christian Lopez, a 20-year-old international studies junior, worked out at Southwest for about five days a week this summer. Lopez said he mostly uses the weight room and basketball courts.
“I love doing strength training and hooping,” Lopez said. “Physical activity is super fun and good for your mental and physical health.”
The center offers much more than basketball. There’s a 15,000-square-foot cardio room that spans two levels. The first level features exercise machines like treadmills, elliptical machines and exercise bikes, as well as an open area with free weights, kettlebells and medicine balls. I enjoy this area, especially since they added squat racks and benches to it. It’s typically less crowded than the weight room, and there’s more room to do full exercise circuits. The downside is it can fill up quickly. There are only a few squat racks and a couple benches, so this is more of an area for body-weight exercises than anything else in my opinion.
Head upstairs, and you’ll find my favorite spot in the entire center. The upstairs cardio area features an indoor 1/9th mile track, more machines and free weights. Now, I am by no means a runner, so the track is not for me. However, this area is typically the quietest and is the best spot to do body-weight exercises. It also includes a rack of dumbbells and kettlebells, so there is plenty to work with in a calm area of the gym.
Back downstairs, the facility houses a large weight room that holds both free weight activities like squat racks and bench presses, as well as leg presses and chest presses. This is where you’ll find the true gym hardos (if you’ve been in a gym, you know the type), featuring fraternity formal tank tops, Gymshark leggings and plenty of preworkout to go around. While it does have the most equipment, the weight room can be intimidating to new gym members. I’d recommend going with a friend at first, then ease yourself into the weight room life.
Southwest offers the ability to workout out on your own or with others. It hosts classes taught by trained fitness professionals, like cycling, zumba, hip hop fitness and yoga classes.
The complex also features an outdoor section that includes beach volleyball and tennis courts, as well as fields for intramural sports.
Students can rent equipment from Southwest to use on the courts or fields, such as Frisbees, tennis rackets and footballs.
Despite all the amenities offered, RecSports still looks for ways to improve the facility. This past Spring, it had gym-goers fill out a survey for ways to better the center. Lopez wishes there were more squat racks and Olympic lifting areas inside of the weight room. Personally, I just want the ShakeSmart located inside Southwest to be open 24/7, but I’m a dreamer.
Put at the edge of UF’s campus near Lakeside Complex, students who live on campus normally take the bus or drive to Southwest Rec instead of walking. However, the size and amenities of Southwest are worth the extra commute. The biggest issue with the distance is parking. Students need a UF decal to park by Southwest until 3:30 p.m. Any decal can be used, though, making it accessible to off-campus residents with a Park-and-Ride decal.
Now, the most important part of any Southwest experience: timing. Working out at the wrong time can ruin your gym experience. Lopez recommends not going between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. I recommend finding a time in the morning to go. If that doesn’t work, either lunch time or late at night is the way to go. You can always check UF’s RecSports app — available on both iOS and android — for time updates. The app features cameras and head counts, showing how many people are in each section of the gym at a time.
Hopefully now, with the help of this guide, you can walk into Southwest Rec confidently.
Contact Michael Hull at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @Michael_Hull33.
Michael Hull is a third-year journalism major with a specialization in sports & media. He has a minor in business and leadership and is a struggling Jacksonville Jaguars fan.