Freshman 101: Gym Memberships

Onward State has decided to reach out to incoming freshmen to enhance their experience at Penn State. We will be writing a series of posts which will provide advice to freshmen from students who were in their shoes not too long ago.  Whether you embrace or ignore the advice, just know that every freshman will have a unique and [hopefully] wonderful experience at Penn State.  We envy you.  This will be one of the best years of your life. Live it up.

Do you want to avoid putting on the dreaded Freshman 15? Join a gym. No, it isn’t free, because remember, you’re at Penn $tate University. When it comes to working out, however, at least you have options.

Penn State Fitness offers an on-campus gym membership that provides access to all four of the on-campus gym facilities. LionHeart, a fitness facility located downtown on Sowers Street, is also a viable option to consider. Here’s what you need to know before deciding where you want to work out this year.


This is obviously a major factor in determining where you choose to purchase a membership, especially during the brutal winter months.

Penn State Fitness has four gym locations on campus, with the IM Building and the Natatorium Fitness Loft located right next to East Halls. For those in South or Pollock, the White Building is less than five minutes away by foot. And, if you’re in West, the Rec Hall Fitness Center is right next door.

LionHeart is located downtown on Sowers Street, which is ironically home to McDonald’s, Are U Hungry?, Jimmy John’s, and Uncle Chen’s. It’s a 15 minute walk from East or West, but if you’re living in South or Pollock you’re probably only looking at five to ten minutes.


A Penn State Fitness membership is purchased by semester. For the upcoming school year, a semester membership is also $54 and a yearly pass is $103. A summer membership is $54 and runs through September 15.

At LionHeart, the monthly membership fee is $19. For an extra $11/month, you get access to the downtown facility as well as two others; The North Club (on Martin St.) and the Downtown Athletic Club II (on W. College Ave. and Atherton St.). Unless you live in West Halls, however, this doesn’t provide much added benefit for freshmen given the location of the other two facilities.


With a Penn State Fitness membership, you get unlimited fitness classes at the White Building and Rec Hall. The classes offered include washboard abs, Pilates, and yoga. Some of the other perks include access to recreational weight and cardio rooms on campus, use of the Tennis Center during student hours, and use of indoor pools.

The downtown LionHeart location offers Martial Arts classes for both men and women, but no fitness classes. The North Club location, however, does offer classes similar to those you’d get from Penn State Fitness.

LionHeart’s biggest advantage in this category is that unlimited tanning is included in the membership fee. Yes, girls (and a select few bros), you heard me right, you can tan all you want for no extra cost.


The on-campus gyms can get pretty crowded during peak hours, so you’ll probably have to work out in the morning or later at night if you want some space. When the on-campus gyms are packed, you’ll probably have to wait in line to get in and, when you do get in, a 20-minute limit is put on the cardio machines, which can be frustrating. You can use the Penn State Fitness website to monitor how many people are in each facility at any given time.

LionHeart rarely has lines, so you won’t have to worry about getting kicked off the treadmill before you’re finished.

Which one is best for me?

Both LionHeart and the on-campus gyms are great facilities, and where you choose to work out is really about your preference.

If your primary focus is lifting weights, I would recommend purchasing a Penn State Fitness membership. The equipment at Rec Hall and the White Building have everything you could possibly need and then some. If you choose to get a Penn State Fitness membership, check out Caity Rogowski’s review of the facilities and tips on working out.

If you tan at all or prefer cardio machines, consider LionHeart. After all, where else can you get unlimited tanning and no lines? Be aware, however, that you’ll be spending more time getting to and from the gym than if you work out on-campus.

Now that you’re informed, you have no excuse not to work off those pizza slices from the Big Onion and scoops of Coconut Chip ice cream from the Creamery. Get to work!

Check out the other Freshman 101 posts we’ve published recently!

Freshman 101: Helpful Links for PSU Students
Freshman 101: Tips for Partying at Penn State
Freshman 101: On-Campus Life

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