Despite campus being closed due to COVID-19, Ohio University’s fitness organizations, Campus Recreation and WellWorks, are committed to creating online content for members to remain healthy during the pandemic.
Campus Recreation serves an audience of students, faculty and staff while WellWorks has typically catered its audience to faculty, staff and Athens residents who are members. However, during these trying times, the two organizations decided it was imperative they collaborate to generate a virtual fitness format.
The classes, including some that are live and others that are pre-recorded, are posted to YouTube, Facebook and occasionally Zoom. The schedules can be found on both the Campus Recreation and WellWorks websites.
Tony Gregory, assistant director of well-being and fitness for Campus Recreation, said the transition to virtual was an immediate decision, directly following the facility closures. Gregory said the 2020 National Recreation Movement, hosted by the National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association, or NIRSA, helped to inspire the transition.
“NIRSA is running a recreation movement challenge with over 40 schools competing, and OU is one of them,” Gregory said. “Our group fitness schedule is not directly the movement challenge, but it’s a part of it for people to be active, connected and to take care of themselves while they’re at home.”
Due to the breadth of each of their audiences, Gregory knew it would be important to collaborate with WellWorks for digital content.
“When I found out about the movement challenge, I found out it was for students, faculty, staff and alumni,” Gregory said. “The second that I realized faculty and staff were able to participate in this as well, I immediately reached out to Steve Clusman to discuss a collaboration on a virtual group fitness schedule.”
Clusman, fitness coordinator at WellWorks, described the format of the videos, many of which can be found on the joint YouTube channel, OHIO Virtual Fitness.
“You can take live classes if you know exactly what classes are taking place, where you can just show up on the YouTube channel at the designated time and view it live,” Clusman said. “Or you can view the pre-recorded classes that are posted to our YouTube channel.”
Jordyn Irelan, a junior studying exercise physiology, is a group fitness instructor for fit flow yoga. Irelan has begun placing her class content online, something she had done sporadically prior to the pandemic.
“I have my 30-minute classes that are pre-recorded, and then on the joint YouTube account, we have our live classes as well that are full length,” Irelan said. “There are less classes than in person, but there’s still a great mix of HIIT, strength and yoga classes but just between WellWorks and Campus Rec now.”
Despite the pandemic being the start of the virtual fitness content, Clusman said WellWorks had previously intended to add digital elements to its organization, a benefit that allows its consumers to still feel connected to their physical classes.
“We knew this was something we needed and that customers would really like at this time,” Clusman said. “We noticed that people were missing the classes and the connection from them, so we were first going to do just basic YouTube videos, but we knew our customers wanted to see the instructors that they’ve already been connecting with.”
Irelan believes one of the positives of the virtual adjustment is the elimination of feelings of self-consciousness, an unfortunate factor that sometimes accompanies in-person fitness courses.
“In yoga classes especially, people tend to look around and compare themselves … No one should ever compare themselves, but it does happen,” Irelan said. “Now that we have our own space, I hope participants will not feel as inclined to compare ourselves to others.”
Aside from the benefit of confidence, Gregory mentioned the profound opportunity to work together with WellWorks during unprecedented times.
“For our department and WellWorks, it allows us to collaborate in a way we hadn’t before and really look at the greater picture,” Gregory said. “It’s a great opportunity for two departments to come together as one and recognize that we’re a university community at this time and serve a greater audience.”
Ultimately, Gregory emphasized that the significance of the virtual classes was to provide a sense of security to those dedicated members amid the pandemic and continuing to offer them undivided service.
“It could have been so easy for us to not run a virtual schedule, but I think us taking the time to have a schedule out there for the students to take care of themselves physically showcases that we care, and we don’t want our audiences to think we’ve forgotten about them,” Gregory said. “We want to continue to be a light during the time and help them to keep taking care of themselves.”