Students and others in the community are seeking new, creative options for exercise as on-campus and local gyms and physical facilities close in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 12, BYU announced classes, including its fitness courses, would be moving completely online. Shortly after, BYU closed on-campus gyms, courts and pools and canceled all YFitness classes.
Provo Recreation Center also closed its doors to the public until March 29, canceling all sports programs and community classes.
“We are doing our best to come up with a fair and reasonable solution for our patrons as quick as possible,” reads an announcement on its website.
VASA remained open longer than most gyms but shut down all locations on March 17 until further notice, according to an email sent to all patrons. VASA announced it will freeze all member accounts and not bill members until it reopens.
“Many students work for gyms and rely on gyms for relief,” said Ellen Frederickson, a fitness instructor at Provo Recreation Center and BYU. Frederickson continues to teach her BYU SWELL classes remotely, sending students tasks they can complete at home.
Frederickson encourages her students to not only exercise but also do activities like making healthy meals, deep cleaning or reaching out to family and friends. She requires students to send selfies doing these activities.
“It’s important for us to get creative in how we look outside ourselves at this point in time,” she said.
Despite not being able to physically teach her various exercise classes, Frederickson continues to help the Provo Recreation Center film live virtual classes that are available to the public through Facebook. She also creates her own personal workout videos that she shares on her social media accounts.
Mckay Allred, a UVU student whose gym attendance was a keystone habit in his life, said social media has provided both encouragement and positivity along with good at-home routines.
Frederickson said she tries to use her social media for open communication and to stay in contact with people. “Social distancing does not have to be emotional (distancing).”
These online exercise sessions are providing options to those who now lack facilities and equipment. BYU Student Wellness is working with its instructors to upload workout videos on its website.
“My goal is that although we are not together, we can still be connected,” said BYU Student Wellness Administrator Jessica Burns. “We will be urging students to post themselves and their friends and family doing these workouts and tag us in those posts.”
Adrienne Whitworth would usually attend the gym five to six times a week and would teach frequent fitness courses at both BYU and the Provo Recreation Center. “I am using this time to just focus on being creative with what I can do with my body and everyday items around me.”
Whitworth has tried to stay active by going on walks in nature, creating workouts at local playgrounds, joining live workouts on Instagram and doing full-body workouts using the stairs at her home. “It is a workout for my mind to create a workout, then a workout for my body as I do it.”
BYU student Jeremy Rees said he understood the decision to close the gyms but was disappointed that outdoor on-campus facilities, like tennis courts, were closed. “Tennis is perfect for coronavirus; you keep 78 feet between you and the other person!”
Rees said he has purchased dumbbells and other at-home equipment and will focus more on cardio. “It’s definitely throwing my routines way off, but it still gets the job done of waking me up in the morning.”
People are looking inside and out for ways to stay fit and escape boredom and stress. Some people are going outside more for their exercise while others, like BYU senior Katherine Nuttall, look more inward, focusing on activities like meditation.
“With all the fear and stress this pandemic is causing, I feel that I don’t need to emphasize my gains as much as I need to focus on my mind and body,” she said.
Nuttall said she tries to talk with family and friends on the phone, watch comedians on YouTube and create fun videos for her social media accounts. “If I let myself obsess about all the unknowns, I would cry all day. Instead, I let myself worry for a bit and then I switch activities to allow myself to feel happy about something else.”
BYU junior Wyatt Houston said the gym closures were disappointing to him since the gym helped him stay emotionally and mentally healthy. He and his friends are finding ways to adapt to the changes.
“As with life, the gym is all about learning to adapt and progress with whatever gets handed to you,” he said.