The Student Recreation Center, the College of William and Mary’s primary facility for recreation, served an average of 1,125 visitors per day during the 2022-2023 academic year. Students, faculty and community members have access to a variety of amenities at the Rec Center, including exercise equipment, a 25-yard eight-lane pool, a climbing wall, fitness and wellness classes and a sauna.
With a limited amount of space and equipment available, crowds at the Rec can make for a less-than-desirable workout. The Flat Hat visualized visit patterns to the Rec to assess the best times to visit the facility while avoiding a crowd.
Use of the Rec varies dramatically from hour to hour. We extracted hourly data from the week of Sunday, Sept. 9, 2023. Weekday afternoons proved to be the busiest time during this period, with crowds picking up around 3 p.m. and staying busy until around 10 p.m. The most crowded hour of the week was Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., with a total of 265 people swiping into the Rec.
Sam Cooper ’25 frequently attends the Rec in the morning to avoid crowds.
“I just feel like when it’s more quiet and there’s just less capacity downstairs, I find that I’m a little bit more in my zone, just a little bit more relaxed,” Cooper said.
Adele Haake ’24 said she usually attends The Rec in the early afternoon. According to Haake, the weight room is especially crowded.
“My least favorite part of the Rec would have to be the weight room downstairs because it is crowded and can be very difficult to get a bench,” Haake said. “I wish there was more equipment to accommodate the number of people who use the facility.”
Greta Frederick Harteis ’25, who works as a Patron Service Attendant at the Rec, confirmed this trend.
“I would say anytime after maybe five o’clock is really really busy. Maybe nine-ish, that’s when most people come in. The downstairs weight room is really full. The cardio room fills up, which is upstairs, and there’s always classes going on, so Pilates or cycle classes,” Frederick Harteis said.
FitWell Classes are group exercise and wellness classes offered throughout the week where attendees can exercise together with the guidance of an instructor. Many of these classes, which are free to students, take place on weekday afternoons, which account for some of the crowds.
As for selecting which day to workout to avoid overcrowding, lower usage on weekends remained consistent throughout the 2022-2023 academic year. Saturday proved to be the least busy day with an average of 672 people using the Rec. Usage was also highest in the beginning of the week, and tended to decline as the week progressed.
Additionally, there was a noticeable decrease in traffic at the Rec as the 2023 spring semester progressed. The Rec saw the highest overall traffic in the winter, particularly in the first two weeks of the spring semester. The busiest single day was Jan. 30, 2023, when 2,122 people visited The Rec. Williamsburg’s cold and rainy winter weather may deter people from pursuing outdoor methods of exercise, and New Year’s resolutions may be an additional factor contributing to the high use at the beginning of the spring semester.
Last year, 57% of visitors to the Rec Center were male, while men comprise only 42% of the College’s total student population.
Physical activity is one of the College’s Eight Dimensions of Wellness. However, some students experience anxious feelings about visiting the Rec, particularly during busy times.
“Back before I came here, I wasn't really comfortable going to the gym,” Cooper said. “For the people who aren't comfortable, I think it's very important for people to know that there's such a mix of people that go to the Rec.”
Cooper also spoke about the mental health benefits of physical exercise at The Rec.
“There's this sign on the first floor where the machines are that says — it's forever ingrained in my brain — ‘Exercise is the best medicine,’ and I find that I really like that sign on the first floor,” Cooper said. “I think it's very special. It sums up my experience very well, that for me it's very mental and that those endorphins being released, it's a really good feeling. And it's really helped me mentally, especially when, say, I had an exam or something's going on, I just like to go to the Rec and kind of work, work, work that off through a workout.”
Frederick Harteis recommended FitWell classes as an option for people who might face anxiety about going to the Rec.
“Go with a friend, definitely,” Frederick Harteis said. “Someone who kind of knows the place a bit more than you do. I know I get anxious working out at the gym, so I have turned to the classes. I am a huge fan of signing up for the wellness classes.”