Is the gym due for an upgrade?


Jack Lucania, Staff Writer

Outdated, basic, and underwhelming are three words that are often used to describe the Lake Forest High School fitness center, which might explain why with an enrollment of over 1,500 students, outside of sports and classes, only 5-10 students use this space regularly, according to the Instructional Director of the Wellness Department Mike Mizwicki. 

“Only newbies go there; it’s all freshmen now,” senior Robert Montanez said. He said his peers often have a stigma surrounding the students who regularly use the LFHS gym rather than a commercial gym.

Senior and Varsity athlete Kevin Taylor agreed. “[Upperclassmen] go to commercial gyms or gyms with better equipment or more options and space, or they see their friends going there, and they wanna go with them,” he said. “Personally, I just don’t see the point of paying [for a commercial gym membership] when I can do most of the stuff here.”

On average, Kevin said he uses the gym three or four times a week and only has minor issues with equipment and the space in general, but for some students, it isn’t even an option.

“It’s just never open when I want to go,” said senior Wael Halabi. “I always have sports or homework to do after school, and I only work out at nine or later.” 

This became a frequent pattern amongst students, and many advocated for the gym hours to be extended. Since many students are committed to extracurriculars that begin immediately after school, many students miss out on the 3:30-5 p.m. window to use the gym after school.

“When COVID hit, we couldn’t have this,”  Mizwicki said. What was previously a full gym after school every day dropped to maybe four or five students. “Ever since then, people haven’t been to the gym regularly, and only recently have I been starting to see it slowly amp back up.”

As a major advocate of physical fitness, a major thing he wishes more people took advantage of is utilizing the gym during free periods during the school day. 

“80 minutes is a long time for study hall. If you’re done after 40 minutes, you’re beyond welcome to come and lift and learn and use the space. Let people know it’s a space that’s open all the time and is for people to learn about fitness,” he said.

However, students still find the gym to struggle to live up to expectations. “I believe that Lifetime(A popular commercial gym) has a better gym,” said junior Hardik Singhal.  “The resources put into Lake Forest aren’t bad. There’s just a lot of room for improvement for the gym.”

Singhal said the gym needs more machines, specifically leg and shoulder machines which are currently absent. Complaints such as this were frequent, revealing this is a common problem and could be another reason why students would prefer an alternative gym.

Senior Jack Lucania and Sophomore Tim Dan taking advantage of the regularly empty gym.

When it comes to an upgrade, though, Mzwicki sees issues that go beyond the weight room. When the topic of separate East and West campuses was brought up, he said, “When they put everyone back in one space, look, this is everything we got. They have an open weight room over there(West campus), and open fields, and they have double the size, double everything. We can’t bus kids back and forth all day. Other high schools don’t have to deal with that.”

Even with these gripes, he continued to display gratitude toward donations. “The foundation here is fabulous for us, they’re always helping us out, and right now, we hope to get a couple of those leg machines we don’t have.”

The last major renovation of the gym was in 2008 when a grant allowed the school to turn the unused basement into the fitness center we know today. Director of Student Services, John Maher, has been staffing the weight room for 15 years. He thinks the current state of the gym is adequate, saying, “When I was younger, I enjoyed the free weights. Now that I’m older, I still get to enjoy the machines and bikes we have here.” 

East campus gym as of January 2023.

“There are always new studies coming out and new trends developing in fitness. It’s always a race to catch up. Wait a minute, we don’t just squat?” Mzwicki said when speaking against claims of outdated or missing equipment. “Building a weight room like this, that’s hundreds of thousands of dollars.” 

No matter the gym, it’s a good thing that many students have developed a passion for fitness, but perhaps the LFHS gym will need some minor adjustments before it’s restored to its former glory.

“This is something I really believe in,” said Mzwicki. “I don’t think there’s anything better for you than the gym.”