Boomerang Days: Gregory’s Pecs

Boomerang Days: Gregory's Pecs

A Longhorn does college all over again.

Thinking back to my college glory days 20 years ago, I find myself strangely eager to revisit that gloomy temple of fitness, that dark labyrinth of sport and body odor, that wonderfully misshapen athletic pleasure dungeon: Gregory Gymnasium.

But, as I am soon to discover, things have changed.

From the front, Gregory looks much the same as it has since its completion in 1930, but I walk inside to find a state-of-the-art exercise paradise with modern decor, a rock climbing wall that looks like an alien world from an original Star Trek episode, an outlandishly cool collection of equipment, and the glamorous Victory retail store with racks of spandex and sweat-absorbing fashion statements.

Turns out UT has refurbished, redesigned, and reimagined the whole place, an endeavor costing more than a quarter of a billion dollars, most of which went to disseminating the massive acidic cloud of accumulated Right Guard from the upper regions of the men’s locker room.

You have to admire the university’s Division of Recreational Sports. Gregory Gym is just one of eight facilities they operate. According to its website, the Division offers “over 500,000 square feet of indoor and 40 acres of outdoor activity space. Open approximately 800 hours each week.”

That’s right. The Division of Recreational Sports has managed to squeeze 800 hours into a 168-hour week. Not only an amazing feat of organizational dexterity but also a keen manipulation of quantum physics.

Just wandering around the new Gregory makes me feel fitter, healthier, less inclined to eat the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups hidden in my back pocket. 

I check out the “Texercise” classes now offered at Gregory Gym. I consider Aqua Cardio Sculpt, Music Video Dance Choreography, and, by my count, 112 kinds of yoga. The list of clubs, classes, and teams is daunting. Seems many a sport has been invented since my time at UT. One can now join the intramural Wallyball team or try their luck with the official Texas Quidditch club. (These aren’t jokes. These are facts.) Finally, I settle for Zumba Dance Toning. Because if you’ve ever seen me in a Speedo you know my Zumba is in serious need of some toning.

When I was a student we just didn’t have all these exotic sports. Well, there was that day we played three-man basketball with four people. That was nuts.

Just wandering around the new Gregory makes me feel fitter, healthier, less inclined to eat the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups hidden in my back pocket. I didn’t spend nearly enough time here as a student. (Nowhere close to the 800 hours a week available to me.) Truth is, back then, the main thing I did at UT gyms was read. That is, read the words embroidered on the shorts of the girl using the StairMaster in front of me. This was 20 years ago, the dawn of decorating one’s backside with pithy phrases. I will never forget a girl I knew only by the phrase “Too Much” stretched across her well-formed rump.

What a wonderfully vague and poetic phrase. Too Much. Was she telling me she was emotionally and intellectually too much for me to handle? Or crying out that the horrific existential tension of life itself was utterly too much for a compassionate soul to bear? Or the more obvious truth that I was staring at her rear bumper too much. And I was. If she had embroidered my astronomy textbook on her shorts, I’d be Neil DeGrasse Tyson by now.

I’m a little overwhelmed by the gym, so I stroll out back and find … the leisure pools. That’s plural. And they’re amazing. Shady trees, lounge chairs, the smell of coconut lotion—it’s like a burnt-orange Sandals beach resort.

In my day, campus sunbathing was basically relegated to a slope of grass across from Jester Dormitory affectionately known as Jester Beach. Being assigned a westward-facing dorm window with a view of Jester Beach meant you had been karmically profitable in a previous life.

But since 2005 Longhorns have had the luxury of the gorgeously designed and maintained Gregory Gym Aquatic Complex. I can’t resist. I slip into some skimpy trunks and strut into the sunshine. I feel the younger generation turn their heads as I saunter out to join them—the men stare with envy, the ladies with thinly veiled desire. Who can blame them? My bare chest gleams white like a recently exposed wood grub. Freckles stain my skin as if God has sneezed on me while drinking coffee. My mature pectorals sag as if gravity herself is attempting to seduce me.

Yes, yes, I am a thing of beauty. Now if I can just tone up my Zumba.

Illustration by Mario Zucca.


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