A USask Rec student employee prepares the Fit Centre in the PAC for physically distanced re-opening, by labelling some fitness equipment unavailable for use. (Photo: Alyssa Wiebe)

Safely offering campus recreation opportunities

Recreation on campus has always been a positive component of the student experience at the University of Saskatchewan (USask).

Whether students are staying active in the Fit Centre, participating in Campus Rec activities, or taking advantage of lane swims in the pools, recreation has many positive benefits for our overall well-being.

In March, like most of campus, USask Rec was required to close the doors to the Physical Activity Complex (PAC) due to the global pandemic. The COVID-19 closures left many on and off campus community members without their regular facilities to remain physically active, with USask Rec offering home workout tips and regimens to help members remain active.

“At the onset of COVID-19, it was extremely challenging having our fitness opportunities taken away from us, whether the biggest loss was losing our workout buddy, fitness facility or just our regular routine, it created change,” said Gray Ferguson, Fitness Coordinator.

“We wanted to provide some specific exercise routines for our community to give some fresh exercise ideas and establish a new at-home routine so our patrons could still receive the same mental and physical benefits as working out at a fitness facility. We made the programs with minimal equipment or explained how to adapt regular household items to get a similar workout as being in the gym.”

As the pandemic continued, the university made the decision to deliver fall and winter programming remotely, with the majority of buildings on campus remaining closed. USask Rec continued to work on plans to offer virtual recreation programming and has now opened in-person outdoor fitness classes and campus recreation sports leagues, incorporating public health guidelines.

“Campus recreation programs have always helped create a sense of community and studies have shown it improves student success,” explained Cary Primeau, USask’s campus recreation co-ordinator. “By allowing students the opportunity for physical and mental well-being options, we are able to provide them of a sense of normalcy during a very uncertain time in their academic lives.”

The outdoor fitness classes have been well received, and the outdoor intramural leagues filled quickly, but as the days get shorter and temperatures continue to drop, the demand for indoor fitness and recreation has increased. USask Rec was approved to open the Fit Centre and indoor fitness classes in the PAC for USask student access on October 5, with strict COVID-19 precautions in place.

There are several reopening protocols in place for individuals accessing the PAC, to ensure health and safety. The capacity is limited to 25 individuals per hour in the Fit Centre, while fitness classes vary between 10-15 people. Students are limited to one hour of fitness access per day and must register to secure their spot online. Fitness machines and weights will also be limited to accommodate physical distancing protocols, while access to locker rooms, water fountains, towel service, and equipment rentals remain unavailable.

Masks are mandatory on campus, including accessing the PAC, but are not mandatory while exercising.

For those who are not comfortable coming back to campus for recreation, all members will be able to access online virtual fitness classes this fall. A daily schedule will be posted online, and members will be able to log into their accounts and register for each virtual fitness class, granting them access to a video link to take part.

“While providing in-person recreation is still very much at the heart of our recreation programming, USask Rec understands that virtual programming has also become an important avenue to reach our wide range of participants,” said Paul Rogal, director of USask Rec. “With many of our students not on campus, or even in the city, this new type of programming will become an integral part of what we do. While challenging to initiate, we are excited about the possibilities available through virtual programming.”

USask Rec is now offering virtual recreation programming for members who are not comfortable coming to campus.

Many facilities and areas of recreation remain closed on campus, but USask Rec continues to work on reopening plans for areas within the PAC. Although in-person access to limited recreation programming is only open to USask students at this time, capacity numbers will be monitored and evaluated in the event that public health guidelines allow the Fit Centre and fitness classes to accommodate more members in the fall semester.

For up-to date information regarding recreation on campus, visit: rec.usask.ca

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