KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Workout pods. Reduced capacity. Outdoor classes. Western Michigan University’s Student Recreation Center—SRC—is implementing a number of safety measures to promote wellness and prevent the spread of COVID-19. The facility will open on Friday, Sept. 11.
SRC Operating Hours
- Monday through Friday: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- Saturday: 10 a.m to 3 p.m.
- Sunday: 2 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“We’ve been doing research, we’ve been talking with our colleagues about how they’re reopening and determining best practices,” says Amy Seth, director of University Recreation, who served on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s gym and fitness center workgroup, tasked with guiding the safe reopening of fitness facilities across the state. With the group’s input, the governor signed an executive order allowing gyms statewide to open their doors to patrons beginning Wednesday, Sept. 9, following strict guidelines related to capacity, sanitation and protective measures.
The SRC is returning to action in phases, beginning with outdoor and virtual fitness programming. Current students, faculty and staff can participate in those classes free of charge through the month of September. Paid SRC membership will be required to utilize indoor facilities. Students should check their account to ensure they have paid the $90 enrollment fee for the semester. If they have not, they can purchase a membership at the SRC.
University Recreation staff members have been testing outdoor cycling, yoga, Zumba and other fitness classes to work out logistics. They rolled out some of the first opportunities for in-person exercise during Fall Welcome—a socially distant fitness mashup event and "glow yoga."
Members can find out what programs the SRC is offering and browse class schedules by searching on ExperienceWMU. Because space is limited due to distancing requirements, and to give those who are not comfortable coming back in person an opportunity to participate, virtual classes will continue to be offered throughout fall semester—both live and on demand.
“Although these last six months have been a roller coaster for a programmer to navigate, it has shown me that we are adaptable, we are creative and that, if you put in the effort, the reception of support is overwhelming,” says Beth Northuis, assistant director of fitness and wellness programs.
Most students don’t have workout equipment at home, so the SRC is focusing on fine-tuning procedures to enable members to utilize the SRC’s indoor facilities. Returning members will notice a number of changes beginning with check-in, where a green badge must be displayed confirming they’ve completed and cleared the daily screening survey through Sindecuse Health Center’s patient portal. Face coverings also must be worn at all times—including while exercising—in accordance with the governor’s executive order. A more detailed list of changes and expectations is available on the SRC Reopening FAQs webpage.
Members will notice equipment is more spaced out and located in different areas throughout the SRC. There are also X’s and “pods”—squares taped off on the ground to create personal space for weightlifting—to demonstrate safe distancing. Hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray and towels are spread throughout the facility and expected to be used often. Certain activities, like the climbing wall, will remain closed until they are deemed safe to reopen.
In order to ensure enough space for physical distancing and to adhere to health and safety guidelines, a limited number of people will be allowed in each area at any given time. A new program linked to the SRC’s webpage will keep track of capacity limits in real time so that members can determine when space is available to work out. The information is also available by calling or visiting the front desk.
These changes are new for everyone—SRC staff included. Seth will be watching patterns and asking for communication when things aren’t working.
“We have a place where people can fill out a form that comes to me, and we can look at the changes that students are requesting,” she says. “Our new saying is, ‘Progress is more important than perfection.’ That’s where we need to be, we just need to be moving forward.”
While the SRC’s physical building was shuttered for several months by the pandemic, staff has been hard at work coming up with creative ways to keep the WMU community connected and active with a variety of virtual classes and activities.
“I think a lot of people were overwhelmed and needed that safe space to have some sort of consistency and normalcy. And I think those virtual online classes are really something that we found worked for a lot of people and gave them something to look forward to,” Northuis says. “We have leaned on one another, cried, laughed and supported each other through the ups and downs.”
Now, she says, being able to connect with everyone safely in person brings an added level of connection that everyone has been lacking. In addition to building physical, emotional and social well-being, the programming offered by the SRC is an important way for first-year students to find community.
“As human beings, we want to be connected. That is our human nature,” says Seth. “And when you arrive someplace new, that isolation can begin to feel bigger.”
“To feel connected and that sense of belonging here on campus,” says Northuis, “I think that’s going to be huge.”
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