The Illinois State University Recreational Fitness Center on campus is the place to go to exercise and for students to incorporate physical activity into their days.
Whether through strength training, cardio, rock-climbing, swimming, or other means, the center also offers training courses, group fitness sessions and personal training. Some services are now offered via Zoom and in-person due to the pandemic, such as fitness classes.
Yet, the pandemic has had an impact on more than just fitness classes. Access to the campus gym has required reservations this semester for students to be able to work out. Students must choose a day and time in advance for hour-long workout sessions.
Individuals can sign COVID-19 Assumption of Risk forms in order to guarantee their reserved spots. The fitness center still allows walk-ins for working out or using the pool depending on if these areas have reached capacity or sold out.
However, group fitness classes require advanced reservations. Despite these changes to access, the Fitness Center has not experienced significant changes in student traffic in comparison to previous semesters.
Campus Recreation Facilities Coordinator Riley Spenningsby noted traffic the facility sees day-to-day.
“We have seen consistent traffic within our facility throughout the entire semester. The biggest change this year from years past is that the flow of traffic is typically all at once and that is at the start of the workout reservation,” Spenningsby said.
Spenningsby said the requirements for reserving workout spots due to the pandemic has not impacted the number of students coming in as much as it has the timing at which students workout. This is also due to the limited hours of the facility.
“We see a majority of our participation at the beginning of the week from Monday through Wednesday. Our numbers have been down this semester considering our limited capacity and shortened facility hours, but it still has been great seeing members in the building from the beginning of the day till the end,” Spenningsby said.
Senior English education major Junior Sanchez was a former employee at the Rec Center. He said he would typically attend often for activities, but the pandemic has been a hurdle.
“Prior to the current pandemic, I would visit the Rec Mondays and Tuesdays for their open Rec soccer. Due to limitations, that is no longer offered," Sanchez said. “I have been attending the Rec less and less due to the fact that I need to make a reservation before every visit for a one-hour time period. I have noticed a decline in attendance within my friends and acquaintances. Visiting is not the same accessible experience anymore."
Spenningsby further provided the conditions of the atmosphere within the facility and what the precautionary operation looks like.
“We are allowing one-hour workout reservations with a 30-minute cleaning in between each workout. About 10 minutes leading up to the next work out reservation, we will see patrons start to line up in our facility on the place markers that are designated to ensure physical distancing," Spenningsby said. “Prior to the workout reservation starting, our team members go through the line checking patrons in and issuing a symptom screening prior to allowing individuals into the facility."
With the state of Illinois now heading into the Tier Three mitigation Friday, the Recreational Center will be accommodating by modifying accessibility in line with the new mandate.
“We are constantly working with Illinois to ensure we are following all required regulations and guidelines. Starting Friday, all patrons entering must wear a face mask at all times while in the facility and working out," Spenningsby said. "These mandates require that we only allow 25% of our maximum capacity into the facility. Additionally, all locker rooms will be shut down and group fitness classes will be moved virtually.”
Spenningsby also provided the new hours that will take effect for the remainder of the semester beginning Monday, Nov. 23.
Despite the setbacks that mandates and the pandemic pose, the fitness center plans to stay consistent with state guidelines while also providing creative ways for students to continue to utilize their resources, especially for students who are not comfortable being within the facility.
“It is important that we keep engaging with all of our ISU community in whatever way possible to ensure we are still promoting a healthy lifestyle and providing opportunities for those who cannot be physically present at our facility,” Spenningsby said.
The fitness center continues to equip students with the tool necessary to persistently engage in exercise and movement during the pandemic. As far as capacity goes, workout reservations accommodate 125 members.
“There are some days where we have had all 125 spots filled, but we can typically expect to have around 80% of our spots filled," Spenningsby said.
The pool can have up to four individuals per time slot. Strength-based, group fitness classes take 15 people, mind and body classes take 43 people and cycling takes 24 people.
The facility has also been taking reservations for the available climbing wall with a capacity of five. These services have not been short of students.
“During a busy time, we have right around 120 in our facility at a time. Considering all these factors, we average a little under 5,000 participations per week," Spenningsby said.
Spenningsby wants students to know that there are opportunities to make use of the recreational center as the semester ends and online formatting continues.
“As many students will be leaving the ISU area in the next few days, we still want to be engaged with you. Join in on a virtual group fitness class taking place or take one of the pre-recorded classes that are found on the Illinois State Campus Recreation YouTube page," Spenningsby said.