Looking back on fitness
Imagine. Take yourself back to the mid-1800s; walk up the Lawn toward the newly constructed Rotunda. Hearing voices, you peek through the porticoes, where you see aristocratic young men lined up for their exercises — in the equivalent of sweatpants, we can only assume. Perhaps it is raining, and they are grumbling because Mr. Jefferson ensured that everyone would exercise daily, rain or shine, by designing this covered space.
The curious tourist might wonder why there are now no such exercise classes taking place under the Rotunda. In 1893, Fayerweather Hall, the University’s current art building, opened as a gymnasium, housing an indoor swimming pool, bowling alleys and a track. Physical education traded its prime location for more modern amenities.
Fitness facilities at U.Va. have continued to improve. In 1924, the University honored its World War I casualties with the construction of Memorial Gymnasium. Slaughter (1978) and North Grounds (1986) recreational centers were followed by the 1996 addition of the Aquatic and Fitness Center, currently under expansion. From calisthenics under the porticoes to an Olympic-sized swimming pool and array of cardiovascular equipment, U.Va. fitness has come a long way.
A word to the wise: he may be an icon in American history, but the excuse “Mr. Jefferson said that my health is more important than my work” probably won’t fly with your professor or boss. Do your workout, and do your work.