John Sexton / Gavel Media

How to Survive the Plex

The Boston College Connell Recreation Center, better known as the Plex, can be an intimidating place. Extraordinarily large and castle-like from the outside, clean, white, and new on the inside, a giant crucifix at the entrance, and most daunting of all: the floor system. Even though the four floors differ slightly in the kinds of equipment and machines that are on them, the gender and fitness goals of people on each floor are stark, so here is your friendly guide to navigating the Plex. 

The first floor is pretty simple. You walk in, the pool is on your right, you scan the QR code at the desk to get your eagle green check, and all that’s left is a few chairs, locker rooms, a water bottle filler that never seems to work, a basketball court to your left, and a group of people playing ping-pong. However, once you go up the stairs, the fun really begins. 

Up to the second floor, on your left you’ll see people playing basketball below you, a few people on stationary bikes or the stair master. As you turn to your right to walk towards the center of the floor, if you go there at the right time of day, you see the first evidence of gender segregation. Once you walk through half a dozen gym bros working their arms on the machines, on your left, there will be a few dozen girls and a handful of guys either running or walking a trendy incline workout. This row of treadmills looking out at the pool has been called “the closest thing BC has to a sorority,” and as a female frequenter of this treadmill row, I wholeheartedly agree. To the right of the treadmills, there is a group with about the same man-woman ratio doing body weight or hand weight workouts. In this area, if you’re lucky, you might even get to see someone snap a mirror selfie post-workout. 

Next is the third floor, and that’s where you really have to be careful. The most gender segregated floor of them all, the third floor is all machines or weight racks—it is also filled with dozens of stereotypical gym bros. Oozing with testosterone, the third floor frequenters are truly getting their grind on in their muscle tanks and gym shorts. If you don’t consider yourself a gym bro, I would recommend staying on the second floor or going straight to the fourth. However, if you are stronger than most and want to lift on the third floor, all the power to you! There is a small group who doesn’t fit the stereotypical third floor vibe, so you won’t be alone, you’re just braver than most.

Last is the grand, underrated fourth floor. The fourth floor has the cardio machines of the second floor and the machines and weights of the third, plus an indoor track, racquetball courts, turf, and a view of the volleyball, tennis, and basketball courts to entertain you during your workout. Additionally, the fourth floor is arguably the most gender and skill diverse, with people doing many different workouts. If you’re strong and patient enough to walk up the stairs to the fourth floor before your workout, I would highly recommend it.

The question remains, why are the floors so segregated? Is it a Boston College thing or a general gym culture thing? Girls lift and guys do cardio, but walking through the floors of the Plex, you wouldn’t think so. Working out in front of many people who you go to school with is daunting, no matter how many times you’ve done it. You want to look decent in front of dozens of your peers, but you’re sweaty and thinking about your workout, so it’s challenging. To compensate for that, many gym-goers seem to be attracted to working out near people who are like them. Additionally, for those with a more competitive mindset, for example some third floor gym bros, it’s part of the satisfaction of working out to be lifting more than the guy next to you. So what's the solution? It’s easy to say that you should feel comfortable working out how and wherever you’d like, but it’s more difficult in practice. For now, here is your friendly guide to the Plex, but in the future, all gym goers should focus on less judgment and gender segregation while working out. 

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