I don’t even know where to begin with this one. As you’ve probably guessed from the title, we need to talk about gym memberships.
So, I just joined the Badminton club recently, and I don’t think I’ve ever had to swallow as much pain as when I handed over £140 for a gym membership (Not even including club membership or access to the actual gym!). To some, this might seem insignificant to have to walk away thinking about how many pizzas you could’ve bought with that money. But it’s probably one of my biggest issues with university. And yet there is no open discussion about it!
I always find myself grumbling about it with fellow students, but we all just pay it anyway, no questions asked. But I’d like to understand what my membership actually pays for and whether the SU/university even understand how difficult it is to find that kind of money.
For starters, I come from that lovely gap in the student loan’s brackets where I’m offered a rather small loan and my parents can’t fork out every time I go a bit more into my overdraft. It’s a delightful place to be. So joyous that I could barely even afford my first-year accommodation with my loan. To clarify, I was living in Nixon Court Blocks A-E, which isn’t exactly the life of luxury, and that was basically out of my price range (If anyone’s wondering, here is a link to my blog post about Nixon Court). So, if I couldn’t even afford my accommodation, could I really afford a gym membership?
I really wanted to join a sports society like Badminton or Snow sports, but with such a high fee, it wasn’t possible. I’ll admit, first year was a struggle at times. But it wasn’t just financially a struggle.
Honestly, it felt like I was excluded. All because I couldn’t afford a gym membership. And I don’t understand how such an open and diverse city as Leicester could have such an exclusive policy when it comes to sport?
I’ve spoken to quite a few students who had the exact same experience as me. Just couldn’t afford a gym membership in first year and are now joining sports clubs in second year. And something like a gym can be important for a lot of fresher’s, especially when leaving home.
So, I work as a Residential Advisor (RA) as well, and I’ve seen first-hand the psychological impact of the price of gym membership. When visiting students in their accommodation, a lot of them complain about the high price to myself and stress that they just want somewhere to exercise without losing so much of their loan (which many students rely on for basics like food). Exercise is so important, especially when your body is forced through many changes to its routine, like moving to university and becoming independent.
To some, it might even be the case where they could easily afford their gym at home and they had multiple choices if they wanted to switch gyms. But then they come to Leicester, move to Oadby Student Village, and are suddenly pushed to the only gym for some distance and can’t even afford it.
And what baffles me even more is the fact that many other universities can offer sports without forcing students to pay for gym membership! My sister previously worked within the sports department of her university union and the first time I told her I needed a membership for sport, she couldn’t even believe it!
Now, as much as I would love everyone to have free gym memberships, we all know that that just isn’t possible. However, I would like to think that the SU/university would reconsider their policy and put some money towards subsidising gym memberships. If you want sports to become more accessible and inclusive for everyone, I’d suggest starting with the freshers.