Photos by Macy Loy
Spring lies just around the frigid corner, and like the coming flowers, many Bearcats are considering their next bloom. Some believe deliverance lurks within the Sparks fitness complex. However, the frosts of self doubt and lack of understanding stifle many athletic buds before they can begin to open. Thus, I offer the following guide to alleviate some of the mystery and fear which surrounds the Lestle J. Sparks center. Through close reading and careful memorization of the guide, you will get off to a great start in your journey to become your best Bearcat self (if you think the gym will help).
Deep in the Sparks basement, on the edge of a labyrinth of locker rooms, adjacent to the pool, lies the Henkle Gym. The Henkle gym includes such amenities as: two state of the art basketball courts, a decrepit and defunct rock climbing wall, and an awkward view of treadmill runners through the high windows. The enchantingly brutalist exposed brick and concrete walls inspire strength and discipline in Henkle patrons. In the evening, Henkle often teems with basketball and volleyball players participating in pick-up games and organized intramural matches alike. Players range in skill level from beginner to pretty good. Everybody seems friendly, and likely to include new players. If you can’t find a group that matches your sports culture, it's worth trying again another night.
In the early mornings I imagine the overpowering vacancy of Henkle Gym will make you feel like a well trained animal in an elaborate enclosure. Bring your favorite enrichment objects, and burn off some of that infamous Willamette steam!
Sparks Fitness Center Downstairs:
The downstairs section of the sparks fitness center houses several squat racks, benches, free dumbbells, and a rotating rock wall. When I tried to climb on the rotating rock wall I immediately became afraid that I looked silly. Ultimately, the rotating rock wall demands more of the mind than the body, making it a unique object in the fitness center. Do you have the self confidence to meet its challenge?
The downstairs can be described as noticeably Jocko Willink-esque. Here you can find top-of-the-line motivational instagram accounts, and learn how to do a bodybuilder lat spread. Lions, sheep, or something like that. Keep it up, lions!
The main attraction of the downstairs is its coveted water fountain, an Elkay EZH2O which mirrors its upstairs counterpart in every way except for water temperature, in which the downstairs fountain holds a decisive edge in coldness. Drinking from the downstairs water fountain feels much like dancing through a light and snowy cloud, except that instead of dancing you are actually just drinking really cold water from an Elkay EZH2O water fountain at the sparks fitness center.
On one wall of the Sparks Pool room four banners read (in the following order): camaraderie, respect, unity, grit. I jumped in the pool at the deep end and swam to the very bottom (approximately ten feet though I didn’t ask) and saw that the words on the banners said nothing at all, and instead looked like brownish blobs. Such is the magical power of the Sparks pool water. While a Willamette student’s life overpours with abstract concepts and tricky words, in the pool all of these burdens slip out of your mind and into the comfortably heated depths. Once confined between the floating lane guides, my goals and dreams were reduced to a simple need to breathe and move. For the best therapeutic results, visit the pool in the middle of the day, as you are likely to find empty space. During my visit to the Sparks pool a lifeguard told me that the pool is: “Just a pool.” The Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu has been quoted through translation as saying: “Nothing on earth is so weak and yielding as water, but for breaking down the firm and strong it has no equal.” Visit the Sparks pool and decide who put it better!
Sparks Fitness Center Upstairs:
The upstairs section of the fitness center acts as the cultural center of the entire Sparks complex. The broad array of machines and weights attracts a large population of diverse exercise enthusiasts. For the less socially inclined lifter, avoid the upstairs in the early evening hours. For the even less socially inclined, enjoy the quiet and tranquil multi-purpose room. However, you must be prepared to make unintentional eye contact with a stranger through one of the MPR’s many mirrors. The greater fitness center also offers Sunday “Lift Up Hours,” where: “Time is devoted to centering marginalized students across the spectrums of gender and body types for an empowering experience in Sparks” (Willamette website). During the research phase of “A Guide to Sparks 2: Even Sparksier,” I had my doubts about whether a nosy white guy with a notepad would be a helpful addition to the Lift Up experience. Thus, unfortunately, I cannot offer much advice relating to Lift Up. However, based on the website, Lift Up seems like a great pathway to aid students on their quest to be Bearcat #1.
The Sparks Complex website claims that Sparks Field remains open during regular gym hours. However, a normal swipe card does not always allow access to the field during said hours, even if the field looks completely empty. Research into the elusive Sparks Field remains ongoing…
The sparks facility acts as a delightful space for sprouting intellectuals to remedy the health defects derived from our straying from early lifestyles. Because your human frame hungers for the trials of pre-industrialism, at Sparks you can feed it the faux-meat of the elliptical and treadmill!
In all seriousness, Sparks is a great resource, especially considering the gloom of our Pacific Northwestern winter. In a recent interview, Astoria native and habitual gym attendee Gerry Newenhof put it better than I ever could: “The gym is very nice.”