In a referendum that took place in March 2017, McMaster students voted to expand the Pulse fitness area and make membership part of the Student Activity Fee, eliminating the supplementary fee that users originally had to pay to receive a full year membership.
As a byproduct of the policy, more students have been taking advantage of the now-compulsory Pulse membership.
Compared to Sept. 2016, the David Braley Athletic Centre, which includes the Pulse, has seen a 13 per cent increase in overall traffic.
According to Laura Rietmuller, the fitness and wellness coordinator at the Pulse, membership has more than doubled since last year, and the Pulse has seen an increase in both student use and damaged equipment.
In the wake of the overcrowding problem at the Pulse, complaints from McMaster students have surfaced.
“You need to stay in line for everything. Every day, I wait at least ten minutes for a locker. A workout that should take you half an hour takes two hours,” said Shahed Salehi, a daily Pulse user and social sciences student.
“I only went to the Pulse once, but it was full to the brim, with much of the equipment occupied. As a result, I have yet to return,” Rishi Bansal, a first-year arts and science student, said.
“You need to stay in line for everything. Every day, I wait at least ten minutes for a locker. A workout that should take you half an hour takes two hours,”
As a result of the overcrowding, the Pulse has also experienced an increase in humidity. To remedy this, Garret Pratt, a first-year commerce student and Pulse user, suggests that the Pulse consider lifting its ban on tank tops.
“The Pulse tends to be so humid from all the bodies, it’s ridiculous. If you go in at night you can see all the windows coated with steam,” Pratt said.
When asked how the Pulse is accommodating for the spike in users, Rietmuller said that in late Oct. 2017, the gym will be turning the east auxiliary gymnasium into a “Pop-up Pulse.”
The gym, which will include cardio equipment, a women’s only area, free weights and free space for activity, will serve to divert traffic in the Pulse until the expansion is completed. Equipment for the east auxiliary gym has already been purchased.
In addition, the Pulse has increased both its hours of operation and the number of outdoor fitness classes it offers. The McMaster Students Union, Athletics and Recreation and Student Affairs have also been working to provide students with additional opportunities to exercise.
Rietmuller also notes that the gym is not students’ only avenue for physical activity.
“Go for a swim, try the outdoor fitness circuit and climbing wall, challenge a friend at squash, explore Hamilton’s natural beauty and trails, hit the indoor or outdoor track, check out intramural sport leagues,” Rietmuller said.
The Pulse will be offering students free racquet rentals for the first term and, as a product of the referendum, a 50 per cent discount on intramural tournaments. Pilates and yoga programs will also be 50 per cent off for students.
These initiatives, which appear to be aimed at increasing space in the Pulse, however, are only part of a band aid solution. The expansion construction project, which will result in a gym that is double the size of the existing one, is not scheduled to be completed until 2020.
As the nice weather subsides and increasingly more students take advantage of their membership, the Pulse will have to continue to do more to reduce its overcrowding problem.