On being half-naked in front of undergrads

Aug 30 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

WELL! That title got your attention, did it not?

First, though, my apologies for recent delinquencies in posting. As I described in the last post, the early days in NJC were mostly uneventful, and then J and I departed for a much needed week at the beach, so there's been little to report. We're back, though, and it's time to get READY! To be a PROFESSOR!


One thing that's always been critical to me feeling happy and generally good is the ability to exercise on a regular basis. I have more energy, I feel better about myself, and I eat more healthily when I'm working out. All good things! I was quite fond of my gym in New York--really fond, actually. As in, that may not have been sweat I was wiping from my eyes after my last spin class. Ā Sadly, NJC doesn't have the same chain, so I've been shopping around a little.

Gym 1 was sort of bare bones, and a trainer made me do a plank with my hands on a medicine ball (VERY HARD) in the middle of the sidewalk before he would give me a free week trial pass. Isn't there enough public humiliation involved in gym-going already, without broadcasting to the entire city exactly how pathetically weak your core is? I'm pretty sure I was being filmed. The gym is relatively affordable and is walking distance to my apartment, but they have very few classes, which I imagine will be packed once the students get back in town.

Gym 2 was FANCY. Naturally, I loved it there. Everything is beautiful and shiny and they have Kiehl's products in the locker rooms, which is pretty much reason enough for me to sign away a significant portion of each month's paycheck for the privilege of doing crunches on their well-maintained workout mats. They have a ton of classes and it's downtown, so there should be fewer students there (if any).

The third option is, of course, the NJC gym, which is half a block from my lab and it's my understanding is very nice, although I wouldn't know first hand because they WON'T LET ME IN YET. The gym costs almost nothing to go to and is certainly convenient, but here's the big question: will it be weird?

Starting in spring semester, I will be teaching undergrads. If I go to their gym, I'll not only bump into them all sweaty and whatnot or embarrass myself in yoga when I topple sideways doing the warrior pose (this has happened!), but will see them in the locker room, where at least one or all of us will probably be naked! Ā I'll be frank, I have never been one of those modest girls who use the bathroom stalls to change. In fact, I resent them when I have to pee.

I'd like to hear your thoughts, dear readers. Do you or would you work out in a gym where you could run into your students? Students, do you see your profs at the gym? Everyone, is it weird? Like, bad weird? And perhaps more serious than a little awkwardness, is there a chance that seeing my students in a gym-like scenario could alter the way they see me as an authority figure?

Take my poll, and please do elaborate in the comments!


32 responses so far

  • Jason says:

    I worked out at the university gym for years. I work out in the mornings (in the 6:30-8:30 range), so it would tend to be mostly empty anyway... but in the peak months of the year when there were lots of people it wasn't a big deal.

  • Jason says:

    Oh, and it was righteously inexpensive and convenient.

  • Zen Faulkes says:

    I am at the university gym all the time. Because I live across the street, though, I always change into my workout gear before heading over, so clothing and lack thereof has never been an issue. And for whatever reason, very few people change in the gym.

    Sweaty? Big deal. I gave up on pride and dignity long ago. (Yes, I am a sick, sad man.)

  • Zen Faulkes says:

    Also, any other gym you go to is also likely to have students going to them.

  • pinus says:

    everywhere I have been faculty and students mix it up at the gym. no big deal. I mean...don't work out nude and you should be okay.

  • Since universities have gyms this is a normal phenomenon, I think. I remember once the first week of school I was on the elliptical machine at the school gym and I thought I recognized one of my brand new students on the machine next to me but we didn't really acknowledge each other. We were both watching the (unchangeable) MTV channel for universities on the tv in front of us both and they put up advice to students that they should make an effort to get to know their professors. She and I looked at each other and just laughed.

    This story is probably useless to you, but it always makes me smile for some reason.

  • Pharm Sci Grad says:

    I have profs I know who used our gym. No biggie. But the locker rooms were set up so you could be in a seperate space (four sets of lockers) than other people if it was that weird.

    Usually the undergrads don't shower/change at the gym though. They go back to their dorms or apartments, IME.

    Shiny gym sounds nice though, if out of the way...

  • Gerty-Z says:

    I go to the MRU gym for the cheap/convenient reason. I haven't started teaching yet (though I do have undergrads in my lab), but I don't think it will be a big deal. I did this as a grad student, too, even though I taught undergrads there.

    I change/shower if I am doing a swim workout, but swimmers are in general devoid of modesty issues. But most of the time I just run home after I am done. Until this moment it never occurred to me that the students would remember if they saw me at the gym. hmm.

  • El Picador says:

    No. Big. Deal. Just use standard gym manners and all will be well.

  • Martini says:

    I have always been at Universities where faculty and students mingle at the rec center. In fact, I played on a basketball team that had faculty, students and post-docs on it. We played in the undergrad C league and had a great time.

    As an undergrad, my math teacher was always climbing wall and it was a great way to get to know him outside of class.

    IMHO, the Univesity community is one of the many attractions of faculty.

  • Jason Snyder says:

    If it's at all weird consider it a part of giving them the university education experience, where they learn that we all have private parts and please move on. If they view you differently as an authority figure it's probably a good thing, no? You're human, you do the same things they do, maybe you'll get a chance to know some of them outside of the classroom and you can tell them what science is *really* like or just talk about the latest movie you saw. In either case it could translate into something positive back in the classroom (or maybe you'll find someone great who wants to work in the lab FOR FREE!).

  • When the students see how much you can bench press, you won't have any problems keeping them in line during your classes.

  • Sorry my jaw is still dropped by the knowledge that you don't get the first year off teaching.

  • Caroline says:

    I'm already self-conscious at the gym, so being at the gym with students would be awkward for me. However, one of my good professor friends takes a 7am spin class at the gym on campus, and she loves it. The baseball coach teaches the spin class, and if any of his players are ever late to practice, he'll make them wake up early and join in on the spin class, too.

  • OmicsScience says:

    I think you should not be affected by this. I will agree with most of the above comments. On the good side, you will bring the students closer to you, they will feel more comfortable with you in class.
    I used to coach and also play with the basketball teams and some of my players were in my class too.

  • marc says:

    Mind you, the way many of the students dress, both at the gym and otherwise, them being half-naked in front of you is more likely.

  • HennaHonu says:

    As an undergraduate, I worked out at the Univ. gym a few times a week. I saw multiple professors that I knew well. One of them was a club soccer coach that used the Univ fields. I never felt awkward around them at the gym and it was clear that faculty, staff, students, post docs, etc. were all welcome. It's worth the money saved! For all the overhead they will take from you, you should at least get gym access =]

  • GradChemist says:

    I never thought it was weird to see my profs at the gym when I was an undergrad. I also worked at the gym (front desk, court reservation, equipment checkout etc) and had some great conversations. I even learned one of my profs also played racquetball, and we had some fun matches. The women's locker room had several different locker areas as someone else mentioned, but there never was any weirdness that I experienced.

    As a grad student, I recently experienced something different. My campus (a much smaller branch of a large university) opened its own little gym since many of us did not want to trek through traffic to get to main campus gym. Its very small, as in two ellipticals, one treadmill, one set of circuit machines. I had been using it in the early morning and enjoyed having it to myself. Then grad advisor also decided to check it out. In the mornings as well. I spend enough time with grad advisor, that I did not also want to share my morning workout with him, just the two of us. And I'll admit, I'm a sweaty red faced mess when I work out, and the last thing I want to do is dicuss science. So in this case, it was more of me not enjoying my morning workout as much, then there being any weirdness. And I think this is mostly related to the size of the gym. I haven't been able to work out lately because of a injury, but I think I'll be sticking to running at home in the morning or trying to find a different time at the gym.

  • tideliar says:

    I reckon no probs. I know a couple of profs here who use the gym, as do a bunch of the staff, even some administrators. Oh yeah, the students are there for a few months of the year too šŸ™‚

    I don't use our gym for complex reasons, but one factor is availability of machines/equipment. The place I belong to now is only 5mins drive from work/home and I can virtually guarantee everything I need.

    And if anyone has a problem with nudity, they really shouldn't be in the fucking gym locker room in the first place should they.

  • new physics prof says:

    Just this morning I took the plunge and registered for a class and locker at my new university rec. center. When I was a postdoc at a large state university, I chose to have a locker in the student locker room rather than the fac/staff room for convenience reasons, and I never experienced any weirdness. Now that I will be teaching undergrads, I was a little more hesitant. Happily, even though the locker room at my new university is shared, there's a fac/staff corner, which seems like a nice compromise. In my experience, people who change at the gym usually don't care much about seeing anyone naked or being naked themselves. Even the ones who change in the bathroom (grrrr) are probably more worried about their own nakedness than anyone else's.

    However, the degree of weirdness is definitely geographically-dependent, and some universities I've spent time at did have a kind of strange why-is-there-an-older-person-in-my-locker-room vibe. There was one university in particular where I'm pretty sure I never saw any other non-undergrad in the locker room. It was weird. I always felt like I accidentally crashed some high school cheerleader sleepover. After a few months, I cancelled my membership and joined an off-campus gym, and all was well. Maybe it was just the beginning of the semester, when undergrad ladies go to the gym in packs, or maybe it was the time of day, but I was MUCH happier at the off-campus gym.

    Definitely check it out first.

    I also like to have access to a nice gym when I travel, so if the fancy-pants gym had locations in other parts of the country that I frequently visit, that would also be a significant factor.

  • DrLizzyMoore says:

    I have not joined my U's gym for just the reason of bumping into students and I don't really teach that much. That said, I am signing up next month. I can't get unlimited yoga classes for $35/mo anywhere else. But I will likely not shower, etc there, because I don't live that far away (ie short bike ride). Good luck!

  • Dr. O says:

    I go for runs here on campus (although there aren't many undergrads around), and I did when I was a grad student TA-ing at a big undergrad campus. I plan to do the same when I get somewhere else. I find that a lot of the gyms at big universities are big enough that you probably won't be overrun with your students. Also, if you go for a pretty early work-out (6:30 am-ish), your undergrads will likely still be in bed nursing their hangovers.

  • Susan says:

    I work at a small college (about 1000 students) and I know most of the students. I am lucky that there is a separate staff/faculty locker room. So the naked thing is not an issue. But I have had students ask me about homework assignments while on the treadmill and it is weird. I prefer a gym where I am more anonymous.

  • pyrope says:

    I have always been a huge fan of aerobics classes, which are sadly lacking at U-gym and all other gyms in U-ville. I have been stuck in my basement for the past year with Jillian Michael's DVDs (which are not as bad as they sound, but I miss the group dynamic).
    Since it's cheap, go to NJC gym for a month - you'll see it at its worse if you start in September. If anything about the experience makes you less likely to go, then go with fancy gym all the way! There will be enough things trying to stop you from getting your workout once the semester begins that naked undergrads should never even cross your mind (err...ever)

  • drugmonkey says:

    Aerobics classes are sooooo 80s. Get with the program Grandma! Spinplanklates heat yoga is the thing!

  • drugmonkey says:

    Btw, what is the attraction of "working out" over participating in more social group sporting activities?

    • Dr Becca says:

      Do you mean like, joining a softball team or something? Lots of reasons!

      a) Here in NJU land, such teamy things are likely seasonal, meaning I would have to seek out a new one each time the weather changes. They also probably don't meet every day, and because of their team nature, I'm forced into a schedule I might not always be able to stick to. A gym membership allows maximum flexibility time-wise, and the ability to go as frequently or infrequently as I like.

      b) I AM social at the gym! I almost exclusively go to group classes (as opposed to mindlessly working the treadmill), and people are very chatty there.

      c) A running club is out, as I've got a bad knee and can't run on the pavement. Also, I like to mix up cardio vs muscle strengthening, and I don't know of any group sporting activities that allow you to do that. If you do, I'm all ears!

      d) Sometimes I don't want to be social. In a class, I can zone out a little and just do what the instructor says without having to think too hard. Good way to clear my head.

  • chall says:

    Shiny gym sounds nice (so I'm shallow šŸ™‚ ) but I'd choose the gym located where you think you'll end up going the most. I've always been in the gym at uni as an undergrad as well as when I worked as a TA. Both instances was totally ok. Actually, I thought it was very fun as an undergrad to be in a sauna with one of the more impressive female profs and some other uni employees since it made a fun "boys club golf moment but for women" ^^

    ah well, all in all - the whole naked part has never even occurred to me but I'm a sinful Swede and we're traditionally not to fuzzy about it when it comes to working out and changing clothes - it's just your body šŸ˜‰

  • Ashley says:

    I've never seen one of my professors nude, but one of my professors saw me nude in the university pool's locker room. I couldn't have cared less! And I don't think that it mattered to her either? We're both women, I don't have anything that she doesn't have too.

    When I was in Middle School I saw one of my teachers nude in the locker room at the Y. Again, it was no big deal. There was nothing awkward about it for either of us. We spoke for a minute and then went about our business.

    I live in a small town. I don't know if that plays into the comfort level or not? However, I would almost think that it might be less awkward with students or teachers that do not know each other very well?

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