Gym culture often emphasizes weight loss as its ultimate goal, but with the revitalization of McMaster’s new gym, The Pulse, is body positivity possible? 

Work out trends, diet fads and gym advertisements usually all portray the same message. The message being that fitness and health look a certain way. In many cases, the message is that one’s body needs to change. 

To many people, public fitness areas reinforce this idea. Gyms can oftentimes become a place that causes people to compare themselves to others. Those who don’t fit society’s version of a healthy body may be left to feel uncomfortable in these situations. 

McMaster’s new building of The Pulse, a gym on campus, has brought in a wide array of new students. The new gym offers new spaces, new workout classes, and new equipment

Many students have been enjoying the newly improved gym, including 3rd year student Amanda Round. She uses The Pulse on a regular basis. 

“The physical benefits go without saying, but I like going with friends, it really helps with my mental health,” said Round. 

The physical benefits and the social benefits of a university gym can be great motivators to pursue fitness. But this can be overshadowed due to lack of body positivity amongst the fitness community, as well as uncomfortable feelings by students. 

This problem can be identified by many gym goers, including 4th year Biochemistry Justin Alvarado. Justin is also a part of The Pulse’s staff, but he identifies that the marketing for gyms can be very non inclusive.  

“As a whole, I don’t think the fitness industry is inclusive enough to all body sizes. While many gyms have improved the environment they create to become more inclusive, I believe more marketing is needed to cater to all body types and sizes,” said Alvarado. 

“As a whole, I don’t think the fitness industry is inclusive enough to all body sizes. While many gyms have improved the environment they create to become more inclusive, I believe more marketing is needed to cater to all body types and sizes.”

Justin Alvarado, Pulse Staff

The idea that the gym is a place to move your body, and not just a place to lose weight or train to look a certain way may be more helpful in making the gym more inclusive. Though it seems that through time the fitness industry may be changing this idea. 

“I have noticed a shift in fitness and gym media that doesn’t really touch upon body size and weight loss but instead highlights general benefits of the gym such as general physical and mental benefits as well as community,” said Alvarado. 

With this in mind, it seems as though McMaster has also taken steps in the direction of working to make the gym more inclusive. There are now numerous workout classes, which may help students to become more comfortable in the gym and with working out.  

There is also an improved women’s only section, which can help female identifying students in feeling more comfortable using the gym. As gyms tend to be male dominated, these spaces can help these students in having a better attitude when attending the gym. 

“I really like that they have a women’s section as well. I think that really helps get more women to the gym, especially those that don’t feel comfortable working out in a co-ed environment due to personal or cultural reasons,” said Round. 

The Pulse has also dropped its old dress code. This can also be helpful in ideas of body positivity, as wearing what is most comfortable can help people in feeling confident in the gym. 

“I think it's really important that people work out in what they’re comfortable with and what makes them feel empowered whether that's a sports bra or being covered head to toe,” said Round. 

Overall, it seems as though McMaster has taken strides in making The Pulse inclusive of all students. Though in order to make change in raising ideas of positivity, it seems it is up to students and the fitness industry to shift the mindset that fitness is a one size fits all mold.

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In a referendum that took place in March 2017, McMaster students voted to expand the Pulse fitness area and make membership part of the Student Activity Fee, eliminating the supplementary fee that users originally had to pay to receive a full year membership.

As a byproduct of the policy, more students have been taking advantage of the now-compulsory Pulse membership.

Compared to Sept. 2016, the David Braley Athletic Centre, which includes the Pulse, has seen a 13 per cent increase in overall traffic.

According to Laura Rietmuller, the fitness and wellness coordinator at the Pulse, membership has more than doubled since last year, and the Pulse has seen an increase in both student use and damaged equipment.

In the wake of the overcrowding problem at the Pulse, complaints from McMaster students have surfaced.

“You need to stay in line for everything. Every day, I wait at least ten minutes for a locker. A workout that should take you half an hour takes two hours,” said Shahed Salehi, a daily Pulse user and social sciences student.

“I only went to the Pulse once, but it was full to the brim, with much of the equipment occupied. As a result, I have yet to return,” Rishi Bansal, a first-year arts and science student, said.

"You need to stay in line for everything. Every day, I wait at least ten minutes for a locker. A workout that should take you half an hour takes two hours,"

Shahed Salehi,
Social Sciences

As a result of the overcrowding, the Pulse has also experienced an increase in humidity. To remedy this, Garret Pratt, a first-year commerce student and Pulse user, suggests that the Pulse consider lifting its ban on tank tops.

“The Pulse tends to be so humid from all the bodies, it’s ridiculous. If you go in at night you can see all the windows coated with steam,” Pratt said.

When asked how the Pulse is accommodating for the spike in users, Rietmuller said that in late Oct. 2017, the gym will be turning the east auxiliary gymnasium into a “Pop-up Pulse.”

The gym, which will include cardio equipment, a women’s only area, free weights and free space for activity, will serve to divert traffic in the Pulse until the expansion is completed. Equipment for the east auxiliary gym has already been purchased.

In addition, the Pulse has increased both its hours of operation and the number of outdoor fitness classes it offers. The McMaster Students Union, Athletics and Recreation and Student Affairs have also been working to provide students with additional opportunities to exercise.

Rietmuller also notes that the gym is not students’ only avenue for physical activity.

“Go for a swim, try the outdoor fitness circuit and climbing wall, challenge a friend at squash, explore Hamilton’s natural beauty and trails, hit the indoor or outdoor track, check out intramural sport leagues,” Rietmuller said.

The Pulse will be offering students free racquet rentals for the first term and, as a product of the referendum, a 50 per cent discount on intramural tournaments. Pilates and yoga programs will also be 50 per cent off for students.

These initiatives, which appear to be aimed at increasing space in the Pulse, however, are only part of a band aid solution. The expansion construction project, which will result in a gym that is double the size of the existing one, is not scheduled to be completed until 2020.

As the nice weather subsides and increasingly more students take advantage of their membership, the Pulse will have to continue to do more to reduce its overcrowding problem.

I have a question for the 2016-2017 McMaster Students Union Board of Directors: how much time did any of them spend in the Pulse?

Shockingly, adding a gym fee to everyone’s student fees means that more people are actually going to go to the gym. The spacing problems associated with this would be evident to anyone who has ever walked past the Pulse sign-in desk.

The Pulse is always packed at 6 a.m. when I go. It is packed at 11:30 a.m. when our Arts & Culture Editor goes. It is packed at 6 p.m. when our Photo Reporter goes. No matter when you try to squeeze in a workout, you’re squeezed in with more bodies than you thought could occupy the treadmills, deadlift platforms or studio.

I could spend my word count rehashing the gripes of anyone who has spent time at the Pulse this year, but it’s really just the most current example of a larger issue on campus.

There is a trend among cohorts of the board that they undertake a large project they will likely not see to completion. We saw it in the 2014-2015 academic year when Teddy Saull’s “Perspectives on Peace” gesture was launched in March 2015 only to seemingly fizzle out after his term.

We saw it when the 2015-2016 board, spearheaded by Ehima Osazuwa, advocated for the implementation of all-genders washrooms. This has only begun to come together as of this fall, which is over a year since he left office.

And we saw it with the 2016-2017 board, who pushed for the Student Activity Building without having to consider the growing pains-style consequences of that referendum’s details.

Burnout is an easy feeling to understand, and this is especially true for university students. I can understand why, after a tiring year, the board would desire to leave a legacy at the institution they’ve worked hard to change. But to students, this can be interpreted as pursuing vanity projects on their dime.

As someone who has struggled with elements of the gym for a long time, I appreciate the previous board’s intention to make the Pulse a more inclusive environment. But the increased crowds no matter what time you go, unless you’re one of the few who make use of their extended weeknight hours, does nothing to quell those negative feelings.

The slight animosity towards those impeding on your personal space at the gym is a horrible feeling, especially when it’s probable that they are working out before dawn to avoid crowds, just like you. Given that first years will not see the opening of the Student Activity Building until the latter part of their third year, promising increased space three years from now is of little comfort to most of the student body.

The quick-fix pop-up Pulse, set to open in one of the auxiliary gyms after the fall reading week, may make me eat my words. Frankly, I doubt it. Even if it is successful in diverting some traffic, it will stand that last year’s board never worked out how you’re going to work out for the foreseeable future.

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By: Yifan Yang

If you’ve been to the Pulse, then you already know about the no sleeves rule. According to the terms and conditions of the Athletics & Recreation website, “a full shirt with sleeves must be worn. Halter tops, tank tops, shirts bearing midriff or torn shirts are not permitted.” This rule has sparked a lot of controversy, and many people seem to be confused and frustrated when they first learn of it — myself included.

This prompted me to research how the policy came to be. Starting in the early 2000s, the Pulse implemented the no sleeves rule as a response to a growing body of evidence on factors affecting emotions such as anxiety during exercise.

littleIn 1989, Wake Forest University developed “The Measurement of Social Physique Anxiety,” a scale measuring “the degree to which people become anxious when others observe or evaluate their physiques.” The authors found that revealing clothing negatively affected the exerciser’s sense of security. These findings were supported by various studies following it, including ones led by McMaster’s very own Kathleen Martin Ginis, a professor and principal investigator in the Department of Kinesiology. The conclusion based on scientific, reproducible evidence is that people are more secure and more likely to exercise if those around them are dressed in a less revealing way.

Now, this raises the question of what the Pulse’s goal is with respect to their users. Is the goal to cater to already avid gym-goers, or is it to increase accessibility for those who may be new to the gym or intimidated by the environment?

In a previous interview with the Silhouette, Prof. Martin Ginis said,“McMaster has a very lofty goal for getting high levels of participation and attendance at DBAC… they’re not just interested in getting the usual gym rats there… they want people to start [and continue] being physically active.”

Personally, the sea of machines I don’t know how to use and everyone else there seeming to know exactly what they’re doing is intimidating enough. Given the evidence in support of limiting revealing clothing to reducing exercise anxiety, I commend the Pulse for using evidence to inform policy that removes one layer of the barriers that prevent Mac students from active lifestyles.

When I first heard about this policy, I thought that it was completely ridiculous. I did not appreciate feeling that there was an infringement on my freedom to dress how I want to. And yes, I still agree that sometimes, a pit-stained cotton tee is just not what most want to sport after an intense workout. However, I’ve come to understand that this minor inconvenience is a small price to pay for the goal it hopes to achieve. We should remind ourselves that this dress code is rooted in evidence-based policy-making and works towards making McMaster facilities more accessible for those who may feel self-conscious or apprehensive towards the gym. The greater goal is for the McMaster community at large to take strides together towards healthier and more active lifestyles.

By: Melanie Yin

This year, I got a Pulse membership. I’ve been very pleased with my decision thus far, but one part has been worrisome: the no sleeves rule.

The requirement that students wear a full shirt with sleeves at all times has been in place, puzzling students, since the early 2000s. The reasoning behind the policy is that people who are new to the gym feel insecure and intimidated when they see how fit and muscular other people are. As someone who is very new to gyms, I certainly understand feeling like someone is going to call me out as an imposter who does not belong in an environment where people understand how to work bench presses.

big However, I have to say that I can tell that everyone around me is way more ripped than I am, even when they are wearing sleeves. That extra bit of fabric does nothing to hide the fact that the bodies of other people are much more toned and well-muscled than my own. I also wonder about the arbitrary decision to enforce dress codes on one small portion of our bodies, but not others. How are long sleeves so different from long pant legs? The premise of the argument in favour of the dress code is confusing. Regardless, I still feel self-conscious and awkward and out-of-place.

Furthermore, the athletics manager who made the no sleeves decision back in the early 2000s clearly did not consider the fact that it is difficult for women to find exercise clothes that are not tank tops. As a result, instead of wearing exercise clothes that wick your sweat away, I am left in the unfortunate position of wearing cotton tees with sleeves that develop pit stains. No one wants to see pit stains. This is something that discourages me, and potentially other students, from enjoying workouts.

Instead, why not let McMaster see my shoulders? I’ve demonstrated the lack of effectiveness of the no sleeves rule in reducing anxieties. If we’re aiming to actually reduce anxieties around working out, why not have specific hours for “gym noobs” like myself? We could meet other gym noobs and crack jokes about how shocked our parents were when we decided to get memberships. Maybe we’d meet up beforehand and enter the gym together with other noobs during regular hours.

There are many policies that would actually aid in reducing anxiety and increase the confidence of people new to working out, but the no sleeves rule is not one of them. Let us have more comfortable, less embarrassingly sweaty workouts. Not everybody will choose to wear tank tops, but give us the choice.

Students returning to campus this fall should be delighted to hear of the refreshing renovations done inside the Pulse Fitness Centre earlier this month.

The campus fitness centre has a history of switching between many locations, before settling in David Braley Athletic Center for the past decade. To commemorate the 10-year anniversary in its new home, the Pulse has gone through a significant remodelling of the interior, with the purpose of replacing older equipment and optimizing the floor layout.

While many students were enjoying the quieter summer days, the Pulse was hectic with major changes and renovations.

“We closed for one whole week and it was in part to replace all of our strength equipment, ” explained Laura Rietmuller, Fitness Coordinator at the Pulse. Based on what was built into the original plans when the Pulse first opened in September 2006, the equipment underwent a major replenishment.

This is easily apparent for anyone entering the renovated facility, with new McMaster-branded dumbbells, more squat racks, punching bags, Battleropes and much more.

Debbie Marinoff Shupe, Manager of Recreation Services, emphasizes this milestone. “We have updated cardio equipment in the past and other things we needed, but nothing this major since we have opened. It is the largest renovation since its opening.”

The layout of the Pulse has also undergone a noticeable reorganization.

“We have thinned out some of the equipment so there’s more space for people to use, and for more functional training. Based on where the current fitness industry is going, we wish to promote the use of your body weight, and the use of small items and accessories rather than the use of large machines which isolate particular muscle groups,” noted Rietmuller.

The rationale for this is based on emulating everyday activities.

“It is a healthier approach to activity as opposed to getting on a machine and isolating everything. We want to show that there are a lot of fun things to do at the Pulse, rather than just getting on ‘torture’ machines,” said Marioff Shupe jokingly.

And while these upgrades to the Pulse seem great for now, there are promises of an expansion at a much greater scale for the upcoming future. Plans to expand have been largely discussed in recent years, considering that the Pulse’s capacity, initially designed for 14,000, has risen to service more than 25,000 people.

“There certainly has been some work done with an architect, and the master plan is scheduled to be released within the next couple of weeks. We have been working alongside the MSU and SRA in planning what a referendum would look like,” noted Marinoff Shupe.

Although final details are unclear, it is safe to say that students can expect a bigger and better Pulse.

“We would look to doubling in size based on preliminary drawings,” said Rietmuller.

A recent post on the Spotted At Mac Facebook page stated the need for a women-only gym because a participant at the Pulse felt that she was being reduced to eye-candy. This concern is warranted, certainly, for it details an issue of discomfort. If a person does not feel the environment is conducive to working out, then something must change. Does this imply the gym itself requires restructuring? Perhaps. Does this mean all should work out in isolation, though? Absolutely not.

Don’t let the gains confuse you. A gym is not a place of objectification, though objectification may very well occur within its walls. Instead it is a place where gender equality comes to thrive.

Some argue otherwise. They say that the Pulse is the problem. This is certainly hard to quantify off of one anecdotal account, harder yet by the inaccuracy of the claim. The Pulse, while minimal, has women's hours from 7:00-8:30 Mondays and Wednesdays, Tuesdays and Thursdays 4:30-6:00. In such a limited space, that is something, and maybe even more than that (particularly given that there are women-only intramural leagues such as basketball and women-only fitness centres in Westdale like Allure).

Others say that the system in question is not the gym itself but the larger societal construct of oppression and marginalization. The gym is just one instance where a woman’s body becomes a trophy worthy of eye-gawking. It is not the problem, only part of it.

This may be true, and if there is to be a change, then, it must not be restricted to the gym. Patriarchy must be sussed out everywhere.

Part of me believes a gym attempts to solve - or at least muddle - this in some way, though. The gym is an area where one’s physical capability can be demonstrated and built upon. The goal applies equally. As a result, men become eye-candy just as much as woman may be, a consideration that is especially true with a variety of sexual orientations. Men can look at men. Women can look at women. And so on.

It may be that the patriarchy demeans all as objects, yet this is in tension with a gym being based on the community that can result from physical activities together. Take the football team working out with its players. Or members of a spin class that develop a friendship after Circuit City. Or a group of people from the mind and meditation session that go for beers after reaching some inner peace. There is a sense of belonging shared, and restricting these possibilities through arbitrary concessions is to deny what brings us to the gym in the first place: to grow, to celebrate, and to become better together.

Of course, what must also be remembered is that gender is fluid. Not all will identify as strictly female or strictly male. What of the trans-gendered? What of those biologically androgynous? And those who identify as nothing at all? Where would these multitudes of people go in this women-only gym?

Some may say trying to answer these questions is just an infinite amount of pandering to an infinite number of categories. This is not the case, however. It is not us, those who are steadfast in their identification, to decide if one’s gender compartmentalization is relevant. We do not face their struggles nor do we understand their successes all the same.

Even if it is just seems like liberal nonsense to some, then it is nonsense that allows for a simple solution: the inability to separate strictly on gender. If there is no such thing, then there is nothing to separate on. This, too, leads to further questions about trans-gendered changerooms, an outcome some may be even less comfortable with.

So, what's left? Exactly what was begun with: we must open the gym to all for all. Such an idea is what we’re striving for in the first place: gender equality. And in a gym, this is where the idea can be built upon one weight at a time. Doing else wise is creating a burden too few can lift.

If you’re new to the McMaster community, there are a lot of things to learn. Mac has its own set of standards and rules—some of which may seem more unusual than others.

Among these unusual norms is a rule at the Pulse, the fitness and cardio facility at Mac’s David Braley Athletic Centre. While this portion of the gym asks some fairly standard qualities, among them proper footwear and general courtesy, it also makes another thing clear—no sleeves, no service.

The Athletics and Recreation website states “A full shirt with sleeves must be worn. Halter tops, tank tops or half shirts are not permitted,” adding “sleeveless unitards must be covered by a T-shirt.”

The rule has been in place at Mac since the early 2000s, even before the existence of DBAC. It makes McMaster stand out among other universities. Queen’s, Western and U of T, for example, have no comparable rules.

But what makes it especially unique is how it came to be.

Kathleen Marin Ginis, a professor in health and exercise psychology at Mac’s Department of Kinesiology, explained that the decision to implement the Pulse’s rule was purely evidence-based.

“I would suggest that the use of evidence to inform such a policy is wonderful and a unique thing that they’re doing at the Pulse,” she said.

The athletic centre’s management at the time looked at a body of research and made the decision to change the clothing rules at the gym.

Pulse staff cited a number of studies that suggested people experienced anxiety based on their perceived appearance and the appearance of others exercising around them.

A 1989 study out of Wake Forest University, for example, established a free trial of cialis “social physique anxiety scale,” to assess the degree to which people were uneasy when they felt others were evaluating their bodies. Findings suggested that certain elements of a workout environment—among them, clothing—affected people’s sense of insecurity.

Further research, some of it done in Marin Ginis’ own lab at McMaster, confirmed the study’s findings, suggesting that people were more comfortable and thus more likely to work out if people around them were dressed in a less revealing way.

“The results tend to be consistent,” she said. “When you’re talking about new exercisers—it freaks them out.”

And this is exactly the problem DBAC is hoping to combat.

“McMaster has a very lofty goal for getting high levels of participation in athletics and attendance at the DBAC and is something I know athletics takes very seriously,” said Marin Ginis.

“They’re not just interested in getting the usual gym rats there…they want people to start being active, and to continue being physically active… if it can be as simple as telling people not to wear tank tops in the gym, then why wouldn’t we do that?”

While it’s not a foolproof measure, and the gym staff are not meant to be “wardrobe watchdogs,” staff suggest that the outcomes are worthwhile, and that it results in a more welcoming workout environment.


Amanda Watkins
LifeStyle Editor


Offered on: Monday 3:30-4:20, Tuesday 4:30-5:20, Wednesday 6:30-7:30, Thursday 12:05-12:55, Sunday 4:30- 5:20

Burn rating: 2/5

You will have fun when you go to Zumba. Your instructor will probably warn you not to look at your reflection in the mirror, and that is because it will make you feel viagra canadian meds like a fool. But don’t worry, everyone else looks crazy too!

An intensive cardio dance session based around classic Spanish styles, you will go through several routines led by the instructor that feature dance moves coupled with stretches, jumps and standard exercises (think jumping jacks and squats). With all this movement, Zumba will have you sweating profusely by the end of the session. Not as direct in strength training as other classes, it will still have you on your feet while burning calories and building muscle.


Step It Up!

Offered on: Thursday 5:30-6:20

Burn Rating: 3/5

If you’ve never done a step class before, be warned that this does feature some fancy footwork that may not be familiar or easy for beginners. But, after a few sessions, you should be a stepping pro with thighs of steel.

As a beginner (and a person below average height), I’ll set my risers with a single level. The more risers you have, the harder the workout will be. But with a series of twists, turns and jumps, keeping it closer to the ground may be your best option.

The workout increases in pace to a point where I needed to leave early my first time taking the class. But with a bit of practice and consistent water sipping, your lower body should be plenty ready for the road ahead.


“GTL”- Glutes, Torso, Legs

Offered on: Monday 12:05-12:55

Burn Rating: 4/5

This class comes with a lot of accessories. For the exercises and stretches involved you will use a step and risers, hand weights, an exercise mat and an exercise ball. Targeting your core and lower body, the first few exercises do a good job at easing you into the workout ahead. And then the squats start. You will definitely feel the burn, and possibly, you may actually feel your ass as a separate entity of your body.

A really great and effective workout, it offers both a strength training and cardio workout. The fifty minute session includes, jump and squat activities on the step and risers, balance and core exercises on the ball, hamstring and core exercises on the mat, and squat and lunge activities with the hand weights. A little bit of everything, your muscles will thank you for GTL.

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