It’s 8 a.m., Monday morning, your alarm goes off and with your first conscious thought, you realize you’re excited to go to the gym. Okay, maybe you’re not excited to hit the gym first thing in the morning, but the students at these colleges might be looking forward to their daily workout. That’s because the fitness centers at these universities are more incredible than you could possibly imagine.
In narrowing down the best of the best, we considered everything from the size and layout of the gym to the amenities and extras they offered. From Arizona to Maine, these are America’s best college gyms and recreational centers.
Now who wants to go back to college?
In a place that sees about 70 inches of snow annually, with January temperatures hovering around the 10 to 20-degree range, a great indoor fitness facility is crucial. Luckily for students at the University of Maine, the school invested $25 million and completed the stunningly beautiful New Balance Student Recreation Center in 2010. The 87,000-square-foot facility houses everything you would expect in a state-of-the-art facility—and much more. Floor to ceiling windows shine light on 140 pieces of cardio and weight lifting equipment, a rock climbing wall and an indoor aquatic complex, which houses a 20-person hot tub, a lap pool and a co-ed sauna. Students looking for outdoor adventure can rent cross-country skis and snowshoes from the rec center to explore the 15 miles of groomed trails in the adjacent DeMeritt Forest.
When it comes to recreational facilities, the University of Texas at Austin isn’t messing around. Nine facilities with a total of 500,000 square feet of indoor space offer students ample room to stretch out and get fit. The 250,000-square-foot Gregory Gym is one of the more popular fitness spots on campus as it has everything from the machines you’d expect to fringe offerings like wallyball courts. The sprawling Gregory Gym Aquatic Complex is home to five pools (two indoors and three outdoors), an outdoor spa that accommodates 20 and a deck and lounging space for students who want to work on their tan.
While the 108,000 square-foot rec center at the University of Arizona is certainly among the best in the nation, you won’t find the real treasure inside the LEED Platinum certified building. Arguably the best part of campus recreation here is the access to outdoor adventure. The center rents everything you need for adventures—from tents to backpacking stoves and even bikes—and even arranges trips. Highlights include backpacking in Yosemite National Park, canoeing the Colorado River and practicing yoga out in the wilderness.
The incredible fitness facilities at Ohio State University helped establish this school as one of the fittest in the nation for 2015 and when you look at both quality and quantity of amenities on campus, it’s not hard to see why. The 569,000-square-foot Recreation and Physical Activity Center (RPAC) is the crown jewel, boasting a sports shop, a golf station, two pools, an indoor track and a healthy café—in addition to a top-of-the-line fitness center. But that’s not all—the campus is home to four other facilities that offer amenities like climbing walls, an outdoor adventure resource center and Indoor and outdoor basketball courts.
Campus health and fitness revolves around the award-winning Student Recreation Center at Colorado State University. With three separate climbing areas (including one that comes out of a pool), an outstanding aquatic center and a main fitness area with giant windows that frame the Rocky Mountain foothills, it’s clear that Colorado State’s rec center is among the very best in the country. Add to that five fitness studios offering different classes and acres of outdoor land where students can find various courts, fields and an inline rink—Colorado’s gym is tough to beat.
High-end resort or college gym? It’s tough to differentiate when it comes to the incredible facilities at the University of Missouri. The giant gym was completed in 2005, at a price of nearly $40 million and the wild theme is a tribute to their mascot, the tiger. From the “Jungle Gym” to “Tiger Grotto” the facility houses a boxing gym, climbing and bouldering walls and an indoor “beach club”. The Grotto itself boasts waterfalls, a lazy river, an indoor beach, a diving well and a 50-meter pool.
Home to some of the best athletic facilities in the country, Georgia Institute of Technology was another school that landed on our list of the 50 fittest colleges. The facilities on campus—which include an Olympic-size pool that was actually built for the 1996 Summer Olympics—are fit for the best athletes in the country. On top of the cardio and strength training equipment, you’ll find a climbing wall and an indoor track offering views of the city skyline. Students who would rather get fit in the great outdoors can take classes or go on trips led by expert outdoor guides.
Students at the University of Cincinnati have a seemingly endless list of ways to stay fit at their Campus Recreation Center. Three different pools, a huge climbing wall, more than 200 pieces of strength training equipment and 111 cardio machines round out some of the more impressive features in this state-of-the-art facility.
Following a renovation in 2013, UM’s Recreation and Wellness Center gained 175,000 square feet and now sees more than 6,000 gym-goers in an average week. The upgraded facility features an indoor cycling studio and a climbing and bouldering wall, in addition to more traditional equipment. But this rec center isn’t just a gym, the building also houses a full-service cafeteria, a pro shop, an outdoor adventure rental center and a Wellness Resource Center.
The recently renovated Auburn University rec center easily earns a spot among the best on-campus fitness facilities in the nation. Beyond the ample amounts of cardio and strength training equipment, students at Auburn have access to a 1/3 mile indoor track that winds around the facility (and changes elevation), 50-foot-high rock-climbing towers, a 20-foot aqua climb wet wall and a hot tub that can seat 45 people at once. As if that’s not mind-blowing enough, the rec center also has a game room and a golf simulator—for those days you can’t make it out to the course.
The Wellness Center at the University of North Dakota has all of the fitness equipment and tools you would expect in a great facility—and then some (hello, rock wall)—but arguably the biggest contribution to student health comes in the form of the “Culinary Corner”. It’s a demonstration kitchen set on the first floor of the facility and it hosts both student and professional chefs who teach tips on healthy cooking and eating. Students can take in a cooking lesson and then head into a personal training session (all in the same building) to further their health and fitness goals.