Kennel Conundrum

The Kennel banner hangs in the center of the three-story Heath and Recreation Center. Photo by Lauren Hough. 


This article started off as a place to air my grievances surrounding the weight-lifting portion of our Health and Recreation Center — lovingly referred to as “The Kennel.” You will quickly realize my opinion has been dramatically altered through the research and interviews conducted in an attempt to write this piece. 

I was a varsity athlete in high school, so I consider myself relatively “in shape” and genuinely enjoy working out — although I’ll admit I don’t do it nearly as often as I’d like. Moral of the story, I should feel confident in my ability at the gym. Four years of weight training as a varsity athlete left me with the skill and knowledge to properly lift weights in a number of ways, yet for some reason, I can’t bring myself to descend the stairs into The Kennel of our Health and Recreation Center. 

The name itself is intimidating, the loud clatter of weight being dropped makes me flinch, and most importantly, The Kennel can be looked down upon from every single story of the HRC — it’s a centralized pit of pre-workout induced terror. 

Or so I thought.

I’ve come to realize that my internalized fear of The Kennel is entirely unwarranted, but I can’t be the only student who is convinced that others will judge my form, the amount that I lift or the exercises I choose to do — it’s human instinct to be wary of others’ opinions. So instead of hating on The Kennel for being too scary, I want to give a few reasons why you should take the plunge and give it a try. 

If you too have been hesitant to abandon the safety of the main floor machines, think about these few things.

Butler is generally known for having really nice people. Aside from that, gyms have it in their best interest to foster supportive communities. Combined, these two stereotypes back up the general feedback that I gathered: most Kennel users stressed how supportive the atmosphere is.

Nate Morgan, a first-year accounting major, works out in The Kennel multiple times a week.

“I like being down there,” Morgan said. “I’ve met a lot of cool people that I see pretty much every day.”

So if judgment from others is holding you back, try to put aside those negative thoughts and embrace the overwhelmingly positive reputation that our Kennel users have. Who knows, you may just find yourself a new friend or lifting buddy.

That brings us to other ways to help overcome your fear of the unknown.

First and foremost, start small.

Grace Johnson, a senior psychology and sociology major, used to frequent The Kennel but hasn’t been there since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

“Right now, I wouldn’t feel comfortable going back down there until I built up machine-assisted workouts again,” Johnson said. 

If you’re new to lifting — or like Johnson, are getting back into the swing of things — starting on the main floor machines will help you develop confidence and strength before building up the courage to enter The Kennel. The dumbbells and cable machines available on the main floor are great stepping stones to weightlifting exercises. 

Another great tactic is to bring a buddy. If you have a friend who shares your interest in lifting — whether they know how to or not — tackling the new space together will help fight many of the stressors associated with new experiences. If you happen to know someone already acquainted with The Kennel, ask them to work out with you one day so you can familiarize yourself with the equipment that’s available. 

That being said, it will help if you and your lifting pal go in with a plan. If you don’t know how to already, research proper lifting techniques and write out a progressive workout plan to follow when you get there. Having a clear idea of what you’re doing and where you’re going next is going to alleviate a lot of fear.

A few other quick tips that might be small steps in the right direction:

  • Go during the quietest hours of the day. Later in the evenings or at meal times, the HRC tends to clear out. The less grunting, clattering and sweaty bodies there are to battle in The Kennel, the more appealing it will be.
  • Start now. At the beginning of the year, there are usually lots of new or returning lifters in the gym trying to acquaint themselves with equipment because of New Year’s resolutions. You won’t be alone, I promise.
  • Take a class. We all have to take the dreaded PWB credit, so try out PWB 129 — better known as strength and conditioning. This will give you a great introductory lesson on weightlifting techniques and get you more comfortable in a weight room setting.

I’m going to be honest with you, dear reader. I have yet to work up the courage to work out in The Kennel myself — hypocritical, I know. I’m getting there, but it’s a slow process that is currently sitting in my workout drafts for next month. Nevertheless, I encourage you to face your fears with me, and if my words are no solace, hit up my email if you need an equally-terrified workout partner.  


Related posts