Virtual Fitness Options for COVID-19 Closures

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As more schools take classes online, rec centers face the dilemma of whether or not to close their doors until further notice.

Last week, Alex Accetta shared a Google Doc that is a collaboration of the industry involving advice and measures taken to prevent the COVID-19 outbreak from spreading further. At the top of the document, you’ll find a list of rec center closures that continues to grow.

For example, Portland State closed March 15 until further notice. The College of New Jersey closed March 13 until April 5, 2020. Mercy College’s recreation center is closed until further notice. These are just a few, and the question is, what does one do to keep serving students when faced with closing the doors?

Rob Cornetta helped start that conversation. As the Club Sports manager at Mercy College, he can no longer serve students in person. So, he began looking at the virtual route.

It started with an email to Club Sports participants. The campus rec team shared tips on staying active while avoiding gyms, and they included some bodyweight workouts and yoga routines on YouTube. “We also shared some fitness apps our staff personally uses,” he said. “It was just something along the lines of, ‘We know this is less than ideal, but here are some easy ways to remain physically active and well.’”

From there, they have continued to explore virtual options. Cornetta said they are looking at group fitness apps that can create challenges for students to compete with one another. Plus, one of his team members, Mary Sherman, saw the opportunity to beef up the website on wellness and recreation resources. “I think the rapid changes have made us reevaluate rather quickly what we can offer to our students as an outlet for health, wellness, recreation and stress management,” he said. “For me, the biggest thing is letting the students know we are thinking about their well-being and we want to be a resource for them.”

While still very much in the early stages of figuring out those online resources, Cornetta shared on Friday a link to a few good YouTube videos and app suggestions with the NIRSA community.

Victoria Lopez-Herrera, the senior associate director at the University of Texas at San Antonio, offered a word of encouragement in the face of closures and virtual fitness offerings. “I would encourage colleagues to continue to remain open to new pathways for enriching personal well-being,” said Lopez-Herrera. “We are an innovative profession. As technology and science evolve, the environment we work in will change. We have an opportunity to think about the future of healthcare, the environment, science and artificial support systems, and their impact on our profession moving forward.”

She started a Google Sheet for campus rec professionals to fill in their apps, videos and online service resources they are using to serve students. You can find it here.

In terms of what to do, Cornetta said it’s ultimately about research and keeping an open mind. “I love seeing what other schools are doing and seeing how we can apply it to what we do,” he said. “Also, cross-collaboration between teams and departments is crucial for developing new and unique ideas for student engagement.”

Bonus Advice

Kirsten Schumacher, the assistant director of UREC Competitive Sports at Seattle University, shared a brainstorming list of potential programs to offer while unable to serve students in person:

IMs: ESports (online platforms); photo scavenger hunt; at home 5ks/triathlons; word/mind puzzles

Fitness: Suggested at home workout routines; live-streamed classes

Outdoor: Hike routes; bike routes; etc.

Heather Hartmann is the editor for Campus Rec Magazine. She can be reached at

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