Known among alums as the greatest place on Earth, Happy Valley has everything us college kids could dream of: top-notch academics, epic tailgates, a notorious party scene, and a killer college town. It’s no wonder we Penn Staters have so much pride!
We Nittany Lions love to have a good time, but we get serious when it comes to our health, wellness, and #gainz! (We sort of need to be in order to survive 12-hour tailgates, a 46-hour dance marathon, and mile-long walks to class — we’re looking at you, Shortlidge). With three massive fitness centers on campus, tons of workout options downtown, and healthy eats on every corner, what more could you ask for?
Here’s your guide to all things health and wellness at Penn State so you can avoid the infamous freshman (sophomore, junior, or senior) 15.
If you’re an underclassman, you probably have a meal plan and too many meal points to know what to do with. West cookies. South soft serve. Late night. So many delicious but definitely-not-healthy eats on campus — where in the world are the healthy options?? That’s where we come in. We KNOW how good all you can eat pizza and pasta can be, but we promise there are healthy options at every turn — if you know where to look!
First stop, the commons. East, Pollock, South (Redifer), West (Waring Square), and North. Each has a combination of a buffet-style cafeteria and grab-and-go options. The Pollock buffet has some super healthy stations including Leaf, a salad bar that also serves gluten-free baked goods, and Envy, which has a fresh fruit and yogurt bar. And, because it’s the 21st century, there’s an app for that! The Campus Dining App is pretty freakin’ awesome. It has daily menus, dining hall hours, a map, nutritional values, a personal daily food log, news, and more.
Beyond the buffets, each dining hall as some killer grab-and-go places. If you’re around South Halls, you’ll definitely need to hit up Off the Ground. 8am gotcha down? Late night study sesh? This is your one-stop-shop for all your caffeine needs. Typically open from 7am – 12am (give or take an hour), they serve great coffee and tea, hot or iced, as well as fruit smoothies. While you’re there, grab some Edomae — serves fresh sushi that is incredibly good for a college dining hall. But beware: they have limited hours, so make sure you check the schedule beforehand. Late for class? Take the handoff from Urban Garden — made-to-order salads and a selection of four to five soups that change daily.
But say you’re cruising Curtin all day. Then you’ll want to stock up at Sisu Store on the ground floor of Waring Commons. It’s like a mini-convenience store, but healthier, and a great place to snag a grab-and-go salad, fruit, and organic products. And if you just so happen to get caught walking the dreaded Shortlidge, make the most of Blue Spoon market in North by getting a salad or wrap.
Fitt Tip: All campus dining facilities accept meal points, LionCash+, as well as debit/credit cards, but not American Express! (You’ll learn this the hard way).
Separate from the official residential dining commons, Penn State has a few unique destinations scattered around campus, where you can use meal points as well as LionCash+, Mastercard, and Visa. The unofficial center of campus, the HUB has a few particularly healthy options that make for a perfect lunch. Sushi fan? Give Hibachi San and their new poke bowls a try — you won’t be disappointed. Salad more your speed? Hit up Mixed Greens for made-to-order salads or Soup & Garden for a huge DIY salad bar with more toppings than you can count. Fitt Tip: To avoid the longest lines, go to the HUB while classes are in session and steer clear from 12-1pm.
But if you find yourself in the Business Building, Blue Chip Bistro is the spot to get hot coffee or light snacks to get you through Econ 101.
Dorm resident or apartment dweller, when you find yourself off campus, there are a few spots downtown that we think you’ve got to try. Hungry after a class in Willard, Sackett, or Hammond? Head down the Nittany Mall to College Ave. and dive into a famous Fiddlehead salad. Two blocks down, whether it’s to snag some steel-cut oats before a morning lecture or throw back a thirst-quenching smoothie after a sweaty workout, Irving’s is the place to go — we personally love the Going Green smoothie.
And make way, Canyon Wings — vegans and meat-eaters alike will love Cafe Verve, a new vegan cafe on Beaver Ave. that serves everything from matcha lattes to Buddha bowls.
For those of you who like to get your sweat on in between class, we’ve got BIG news for you. Starting this fall, PSU fitness memberships are FREE and include access to all three fitness centers on campus, most fitness classes, recreation areas (basketball, racquetball, indoor track, ping-pong, etc.), and the Natatorium. With so many options, we know you’ll want the inside scoop: so here’s our cheat sheet to Campus Fitness 101.
Whether you or not you live up in East Halls, the newly renovated IM Building is the prime place to work out. It boasts multiple open recreation areas, an indoor track, weight machines, free weights, and cardio equipment. Prefer a group setting? Stop by for a class like POWER REMIX! or Barre. Fitt Tip: snag a treadmill or elliptical next to the full-length windows for a great view of Beaver Stadium while you sweat it out. Nearby, The McCoy Natatorium near East Halls has indoor and outdoor pools that are open to students and the general public alike. When the weather’s nice, you can even catch a stand-up paddle board class in the outdoor pool.
Down in south campus, just a stone’s throw from the HUB, White Building has a full gym, lap pool, and a wide selection of classes like Calorie Killer, Indoor Cycling, and multiple styles of yoga. For our west campus warriors, Hepper Fitness Center in Rec Hall is the place to go.
Free spirit? Like to sweat on your own terms? Check out the officially unofficial outdoor gym: South Hall Stairs. In the center of South Halls, opposite the intersection of Beaver Ave. and College Ave, you’ll find both students and locals here at almost any hour of the day: running stair sprints, powering through a set of box jumps, or planking it out on the grass (and catching some rays).
On the other side of the fence College Avenue, there are plenty of local fitness studios to explore. Hit up Lionheart Fitness for a classic gym experience with perks like CrossFit and martial arts classes, personal training, and sauna-equipped locker rooms.
If functional training is your style, sign up for the two-week free trial at F45 State College — we think you’ll be hooked. Avid yogi? Just in need of a good stretch? Vinyasa over to Yoga Lab or Lila Yoga; both are right near Beaver Avenue and offer discounted student memberships.
A stickler for science? Fitology offers unique group fitness classes based on research done by Penn State professors like Dr. Jinger Gottschall, and you can get there via the HP or R Cata Bus routes. Also on the HP Cata Bus route is The PYP Studio, a group fitness center that offers yoga, aerial yoga, pilates, bar, and cycle classes.
And, probably most importantly, if you haven’t hiked Mt. Nittany before you graduate, did you even go to PSU?
It’s no wonder that Penn State fitness freaks come in all shapes and sizes — there are over seventy club sports teams on campus like Yoga, Powerlifting, Cycling, Cross Country, and Outing Club, open to everyone from amateurs to all-Americans. Looking for a more casual way to burn off some steam with your squad?
Channel your competitive spirits by forming an intramural team each semester to compete in sports like soccer, football, golf, squash… the list goes on and on!
Organized sports not your cup of tea? Check out other fitness-oriented organizations like CHAARG (Changing Health, Attitudes, Actions, to Recreate Girls), a national community of fitness-minded young women with over fifty chapters across the country.
Around town, State College has some can’t-miss fitness events from traditional runs to spartan style races. Happy Valley has 5k’s galore: the THON 5k (Oct. 15, 2017), Coaches v. Cancer 5k (April 2018), and The Paterno Family Beaver Stadium Run (April 2018) are as popular as they are philanthropic, raising money for the Four Diamonds fund, American Cancer Society, and Special Olympics Pennsylvania, respectively.
Do you prefer your races with a side of mud and mayhem? You’ll love the Extreme Stater (October 2017), an annual outdoor adventure race created by the Penn State Adventure Recreation and University Health Services departments. With obstacles like rock climbing, mental challenges, and agility tests, your team will be tested in every capacity.
We’ll keep you up to date on all things health, fitness and local food in Pittsburgh.