Letter: Vote yes on the referendum for more gym space

I have been a student on the UBC Vancouver campus for six years and life has become busier, more exciting and more precisely scheduled as the years have passed. In my first year, I took five courses and participated in no extracurricular activities, and I made use of my BirdCoop gym membership approximately twice.

In the summer after first year, as I struggled to find a job to fill my days, I turned to exercise as a way to pass the time. Exercising became my way of managing stress, improving my overall health and increasing my energy and confidence. Ever since that summer, I have been taking advantage of the financially and geographically accessible BirdCoop Fitness Centre while watching the growing student population attempt to squeeze inside.

You know that overwhelming feeling of fury that bubbles up inside you when you’re trying to walk through a crowd of slow-moving people? Imagine having that feeling when the space you’re in is designed for moving your body and you still can’t find a way through the crowds. As nobly as it have served, the fitness facilities on campus can no longer offer the community what they need — space where you can go to intentionally use your body to relieve stress, increase strength, improve overall health and smash your own personal goals.

As a busy student with multiple jobs and extracurricular commitments that follow irregular hours, it is important for me to have an accessible space on campus that allows me to burn energy and take time for myself when my schedule allows it. Right now, it might take me 30 minutes before I can acquire a locker for my things. This is followed by an hour and a half in the fitness centre where more than half of my time could be spent simply waiting to use equipment. That doesn’t work when I only have an hour between class and my work shift.

I used to be able to time my BirdCoop visits with lulls in gym activity, but now any time is a busy time. I — as well as nearly 60,000 other students — cannot make time for our physical health without sacrificing a little bit of our mental health in crowded rooms and lineups.

A new fitness facility on campus would feel like a personal gift from the university to me because exercise has become such an important way for me to find balance. The majority of my time at UBC has been spent in roles where I support communities and connect people with resources to help them thrive. I believe that fitness facilities that people can actually fit inside would allow many individuals to thrive by offering ways to more effectively manage their stress, take control of their physical well-being and connect with a space on campus that feels like it was made with them in mind. Doesn’t that sound nice?

We can be a part of making this dream a reality on our campus.

I know that I will be doing my part to make it happen — in fact, I already have. As soon as I heard that UBC was willing to finally address this pressing need on our campus, there was no question in my mind that I would be supporting it. By voting “yes” in this year's referendum, you could make generations of students healthier and happier by giving those that want it the space to move with purpose. It is a gift that I view as immeasurably important.

Kaitlyn Tissington-Turner is a sixth-year arts student.