Gym Reviews: Barnard vs. Dodge

by Susan Harling

Barnard pool, circa 1920

Initially, coming to live in New York City, I was really concerned about the gym situation. I was anticipating a really tiny, lame gym with maybe two working treadmills. I should have known better—we go to Barnard! Here’s a review of all the workout facilities we’ve got at our disposal.

Dodge is three floors of pretty extensive gym equipment. The top and the bottom floors are mostly cardio machines with a few basic weight machines and the middle floor is all weight machines. Personally, I love Dodge for cardio. They have a lot of different types of machines and unless you go during their busy hours (which, based on my observations, is any time after four thirty) you can usually find a free machine for an hour. Treadmills and spinbikes are free more often, but ellipticals can get a bit more crowded and someone usually comes up thirty minutes into your workout to take your machine.

As far as weights go, I’m not crazy about Dodge. The middle floor is always pretty crowded and you have to wait a lot, especially for benches or free weights. The top and bottom floors are good for weight training too, but with a more limited selection. I do a lot of exercises with 7.5 and 12.5 lb weights and I usually have trouble finding weights below 15lb.

The three floors of the Dodge Physical Fitness Center

Barnard Gym
This semester I signed up for Self-Paced Fitness, which requires that the majority of work-outs must be done in the Barnard Gym. After a few weeks, our quaint little gym has definitely grown on me! First of all, the convenience is pretty fantastic. You can go to the gym straight after class, which allows you to schedule in gym time pretty efficiently into your schedule. Although there are only a few machines, it’s rare to have to wait for a machine at the Barnard gym. I also think the Barnard gym is superior to Dodge in terms of weight-training as well—their selection and availability of free weights is much better. Of course, that could be a result of bias (I don’t know about you ladies, but I generally don’t do bicep curls with 70lb weights).

I’m also a advocate of doing exercises using my own body weight with things like weighted bars, the bosu, and fitness balls. Barnard has much more of that type of equipment readily available than Dodge. As far as cardio, however, the Barnard Gym isn’t great. There are only about 20 machines in there and when it gets busy at around noon, you have to limit your time to about 25 minutes. If you get in early, generally you can use an elliptical or a bike for an hour or so, but the treadmills are always busy.

Go Outside!

Map of Central Park

I am a huge proponent of getting at least one workout per week outside. My favorite option is running in Central Park on Saturday mornings. I generally choose Saturday mornings in Central Park, when it’s always full of people who want to get in their weekend exercise. There are marathoners, half-marathoners, triathletes, moms and dads with jogging strollers, elderly couples, young couples—all of New York seems to show up to run on Saturdays. Since I run by myself, I take the periphery course (which is 6.2 miles), instead of the less-crowded inner paths. I would really recommend it to anyone who wants a slight change of pace. It feels gorgeous outside this time of year and it’s so exciting to watch the leaves change!

Susan Harling is a first-year at Barnard and a staff writer for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Images courtesy of Barnard College Archives, Columbia, and NY Walkers Club.


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