As a campus recreation professional, your job is centered around teaching, training, exercising and generally just being around others. A sudden switch to the virtual world where meetings, socialization and exercises are all online can leave you, and the participants you’re interacting with, feeling the effects of virtual fatigue.
Mary Healey, the assistant director of Fitness and Wellness at Old Dominion University (ODU), said she, her team and students are all facing virtual fatigue, but have incorporated a few programs to combat it.
“It is important to each of us to find some time throughout our days to get outside, get away from the screen and feel a bit of normalcy,” said Healey. “None of us enjoy this much screen time, but the show must go on. We also know if we are struggling this much, our students must be feeling the same way. We are not alone in this and we want our students to know that.”
One of the programs ODU has incorporated is the ODU Recreation and Wellness Strava Club, where ODU affiliates use the Strava app to keep track of runs, walks, bike rides and other outdoor activities, all while staying connected and supporting each other.
“This encourages students, faculty and staff to get up and exercise outdoors,” said Healey. “Our club members will log their walk, run or bike routes and post to the app when finished. Once posted, other club members can see their routes, give them kudos and comment on their activity. It is a great way to stay connected, share routes and challenge one another.”
To specifically help with feeling connected and to alleviate virtual fatigue for faculty and staff, ODU also offers a walking group. For the group, participants are encouraged to download Zoom on their phone, use headphones and step away from their computer to get outside for however long they are willing to commit.
“In these groups, we share where we are all walking from and are able to show others in the group our walk route view,” described Healey. “We also wanted these to have a purpose, so myself and our campus dietitian, Tracy Conder, cover wellness and nutrition tips such as staying focused while working from home, how to stick with healthy eating routines when the fridge is right there calling your name and how to stick to a routine period.”
And lastly, like most Campus Rec teams, ODU offers daily fitness and wellness tips on their Instagram page for those who do not want to participate in a live Zoom class or look at a screen while they workout. Tips on how to practice social wellness while staying distant, reminders to check in on your emotional health and to put away your phones and screens, ideas on how to stay busy that don’t require any technology at all, such as redecorating your room or workspace, making stress balls and breathing exercises, are also offered through social media.
“Everything right now is virtual and through a phone or computer,” said Healey. “If we can help our students find ways to remain well without feeling attached to their technology, then we are happy.”