Students wait for a cable rowing machine to open at the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center. (Photos by Win Hammond/Carolina News and Reporter)

For many USC students, a solid lifting session should only take an hour to an hour and half.

But depending on when you go, time in the gym can double or triple.

The University of South Carolina this year admitted its biggest freshman class for the third year in a row. Along with the campus’ other resources and amenities, the schools’ two gyms are crowded.

The Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center, at the corner of Blossom and Assembly streets, is USC’s most popular facility.

The center sees about 3,500 visitors a day, including students, faculty, staff, alumni association members and retirees. The crowd is most dense from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, creating longer wait times.

The crowd is enough to make many visitors leave in the middle of their workout. Others feel they have to hurry. A lack of quality workout time is certainly an issue.

“I feel like I just get kind of worn out waiting, and I just don’t want to be there as much as I would if I could just do everything I needed to,” said freshman Jack Dowling.

Other students say the crush at Strom inhibits their focus and hurts the quality of their workout.

“I’m not necessarily rushing, but I can’t focus as much for me, at least compared to my hometown gym, where I can really lock in,” said Evan Lessard, a freshman pharmacy student.

The Solomon Blatt Physical Education Center, on Wheat Street, is another option for USC gym goers. It’s a less popular and older facility. But most of the time, crowds are more manageable than at Strom.

The times when Blatt is open for business are scattered compared to Strom.

Strom is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, with different hours for the weekend. But Blatt opens Monday through Thursday at 6 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and once more from from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Students think Blatt’s schedule is confusing and inconvenient since it also offers workout and academic classes.

“I can’t stand Blatt, but that’s just me personally,” said junior Sport and Entertainment Management student Quinn Williamson said. “Ten o’clock, there was a guy having a private weight room class with two guys – with three total people staying there, renting out the whole weight room from 10 to 11:30. ‘I was like, Jesus, what are we doing here?’”

There might not be an obvious solution, since at the start of the fall semester, USC saw 200 more people using its facilities each day.

Avoiding a crowd during a workout and staying at the gym for longer than needed can be unavoidable even with two gyms on campus, especially if the only time available in a person’s schedule is from 4 to 8 p.m.

Interim Director for Campus Recreation Brittoni Reynolds recommends changing the “gym etiquette” and pausing between sets to allow someone else to use the space or machine.

“If you do your set and then you have your three to five minute rest and then you do a set, and then you rest, and then you do a set – that takes quite a bit of time,” Reynolds said. “And so the key is to make a friend, let people work in. And don’t commandeer the machine for just yourself and your workout. And really, things would get done a lot quicker.”

Reynolds said that even though Strom’s weight room can feel crowded during the busiest times, the building never gets close to reaching its capacity.

But the university is working to accommodate more and more people eager to grow.

“What we’re just trying to do is figure out what is our plan for the future and how can we continue to grow our services, grow our footprint on campus to provide more opportunity to students to really allow them to have a premier student experience on campus,” Reynolds said. “But I think it’s exciting. I think it’s great that so many students want to come here and so many students want to be a Gamecock.”

A dozen students fill a row of treadmills on the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center’s third floor.

The Solomon Blatt Physical Education Center provides not just a weight room but classes, intramural fields and more.

Students wait for lights to change in front of the Strom center at the corner of Assembly and Blossom streets.