Student kneeling on bench lifting a weight in their left hand

Lindsay Written by Lindsay (she/her), student

Although studying in university is important, participating in recreational activities is just as important for your wellbeing.

In university, you'll likely have some days that are jam-packed with lectures, labs, tutorials, study groups, and projects. However, you’ll almost always have at least two to three hours in a day that can be used for things besides studying.

Some students choose to participate in recreational activities before, between, or even after classes, or whenever they have some free time. If you’re unsure about how to use the athletics and recreation services at Waterloo or what services are offered, consider this your guide on how you can take advantage of the opportunities offered on campus!

Weight lifting racks in the Columbia Icefield gym

The Columbia Icefield features three gyms, a baseball diamond, an arena, a fitness center, a studio for fitness classes, five playing fields and a new field house.


Most of Waterloo's athletic activities are offered in two buildings (although there are gyms in some residences). The first facility is Columbia Icefield (CIF) located at the north end of campus and home to a number of gyms as well as other fitness amenities. It has three gyms, a baseball diamond, an arena, a fitness center, and a studio for fitness classes.

Also located at Columbia Icefield is Warrior Field, a multisport turf field that houses some of our varsity teams (like football and rugby) There's also the Field House which is 65,000 square feet dedicated for intramural games, drop-in recreation, sports clubs, and varsity sports team practices.

The other athletics facility is located right in the heart of campus. The Physical Activities Complex (PAC) has a regulation size basketball court, which makes it the home of our varsity basketball and volleyball teams. The PAC also has a swimming pool, squash courts, studio spaces, and an exercise area called the Warrior Zone.

The Warrior Zone is a great place to workout, especially if you’re trying to squeeze it in between classes. Studio spaces also hold fun fitness classes such as yoga, cycling, and Zumba for the days when you want to switch up your routine. Plus, the PAC expansion has tripled fitness space for students — and added a two-story (British vs American) climbing wall!


Students rock climbing in the new PAC expansion

Waterloo's rock climbing wall and bouldering wall in the new PAC expansion.

For the love of the game

Maybe you’re not feeling the whole competitive side of being a varsity athlete, but still want to play the game you love. Well, I have the perfect solution. There are many intramural sports you can play, such as basketball, flag football, soccer, hockey, and even dodgeball!

It's a lot of fun forming an intramural team with friends from your classes and having a great time relieving the stress from the day.

Kaitlyn, student

Intramural sports are organized leagues that have teams within the school that play each other. You can also choose which league to play in based on difficulty level — casual, semi-competitive, and competitive.

If organized sports aren't your thing, don't worry. Just like everything on campus, there's a club for that and most importantly a place for you!

A varsity basketball game.

Waterloo has more than 30 varsity teams that compete against other universities.

Are you the cream of the crop? Join a varsity team.

If you feel like you’ve got what it takes to represent the University of Waterloo, you should definitely consider joining one of our varsity teams! We have more than 30 teams that proudly bleed black and gold. Waterloo provides a wide variety of sports for both men and women that range from basketball, to football and swimming, to Nordic skiing.

And if you're worried it's too late, fear not! A common myth about varsity sports is that the only way you can be a part of a team is if you’re recruited. That’s definitely not the case!

Going into university, I always knew that I wanted to play a competitive sport, but didn't know exactly how to get involved. After hearing about tryouts for the varsity squash team during my first week of classes, I knew I still had a chance.

Sarah, Student

This goes to show that if you train hard and are passionate about your sport, there’s the possibility that you could make your way onto a varsity team!

Not into sports? No problem!

Aside from varsity sports and intramural leagues, there are also athletic clubs. The way these clubs function depends on what the club is focused on. For example, the UW Muay Thai Club offers classes throughout the week based on students' abilities. 

Their class format is similar to the Dragon Boat Club, where they also have different teams based on their skill level. Once assigned to a specific team, they train a couple times per week and have group workouts together. 

In addition to these, there’s the UW Dance Company, Outers Club, karate, Jiu-Jitsu, and so many more. If you have a hobby and want to join a group of people who share it, a club is the perfect solution.

And, if you have a hobby that doesn’t yet have a club on campus, you can create one!


Students in a fitness class in the Physical Activities Complex

Students participating in one of our many fitness classes.

Take a class that won’t count for grades

If you want to get a great workout, meet new people, and have fun, fitness classes are an excellent option. To take these classes, you purchase a shoe tag that will then serve as your gateway to all the fun fitness classes.

Classes include cardio, strength, and flexibility; yoga and Pilates; as well as aquatics. All classes are taught by certified instructors to ensure that you’re correctly performing exercises while having fun. 

Shoe tag classes require a one-time fee per term that can be paid online or in the Athletics office. If you don't want to pay, consider going during the final exam period when classes are usually free. It’s a great way to take advantage of free fitness classes while de-stressing during exams. Another great bonus to this is that it can help you decide if you’d like to purchase a shoe tag for the following term. Consider it a “free trial” for fitness classes.

When I was in first year, I tried out lots of different fitness classes with my friends that I had not participated in before. I tried Zumba, conditioning, and cirque yoga. It was a great way to stay active with my friends!

Using your resources

If you’re new to the fitness-sphere, a lot of what I mentioned can be overwhelming and you might not know where to start. That’s totally okay! Luckily, we have some great resources for you.

If you’re new to working out, we have some phenomenal students who are also certified personal trainers that work at both Columbia Icefield and the Physical Activities Complex.

Personal trainers can introduce you to basic exercises that can help you fulfill your fitness goals.

If you have questions regarding classes, clubs, and/or facilities, we have helpful staff members at both CIF and PAC. They can answer questions about any of the services offered by Athletics and Recreation.

Once you're a student here, get the Waterloo Warriors Recreation app (available both on the App Store and the Play Store). It’s a great way to get information on open recreation drop-in schedules, facility hours, varsity game schedules, clubs, fitness class schedules, and personal training.


Still a little unsure?

If this guide hasn’t answered all of your questions or you still want to learn more, visit the Athletics and Recreation website or check out our athletics and recreation video.


Related articles