‘We have something for everyone, so stay active’

UREC decreases gym capacity, offers virtual group fitness classes

Aleena Hassan
Mercury Staff

Students can now return to recreation facilities on campus—but with a few caveats.

Tricia Losavio, the director of UREC, said that the Activity Center and Rec Center West are currently open, and over 250 students have used the facilities between Aug. 10 and Aug. 20.

“Students have to register for a time to work out online,” Losavio said. “We are currently — under state and CDC guidelines — operating at 50% capacity.”

The Activity Center has a new capacity of 33 students, and Rec Center West has a capacity of 12 students. Students must wear masks during their visit and answer standard questions before entering.

“We ask, ‘Have you been in contact with someone who has COVID? Have you traveled recently? Do you feel sick?’ Those types of questions,” Losavio said. “We check temperatures and have them swipe in with their ID, and we have one-way flow traffic inside.”

Outside of individual use, UREC facilities are also used by club sports organizations. This summer, all club sports had to fill out a return-to-campus proposal listing what facilities and equipment they would need to use for this semester. UREC is currently reviewing proposals and will notify the organizations with their decisions in the upcoming weeks.

For students who wish to stay active but don’t want to visit the facilities or participate in club sports, there is a virtual alternative. Coordinator of fitness Frances Branham is in charge of group fitness classes and personal training. Group fitness class passes ranged from $20 to $50 last semester but will be free for all students during fall 2020.

“We hold virtual livestreams through (Microsoft) Teams and also have in-person classes in the Activity Center should students so choose to come in person,” Branham said. “The classes typically run until finals, but these will run until the end of September, and then we will evaluate whether to extend the program.”

Group fitness classes have existed at UTD for five years, but they have never been conducted online until now. This semester, they are offering eight different types of classes, including yoga, dance and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Students who miss the live classes will be able to watch the recordings posted on the UREC website. The classes are taught by students like neuroscience and cognitive science senior Gina Nguyen, who has been doing kickboxing for three years and began teaching it last year.

“When it comes to athletics, I didn’t really get into fitness until I was in college. I started doing UREC classes and then I kept going and I kept going and I kept wanting to learn more so I ended up getting my group (fitness) certification,” Nguyen said. “I always think about fitness in two levels: your mental state and your physical state. Once you get into it and find an exercise that you like that is a fun activity for you, it becomes a little bit more like finding a mental balance instead of just focusing on the physical aspect.”

Nguyen’s kickboxing classes, like the majority of the other group fitness classes, will not require equipment. Nguyen said that in most cases, body weight will work fine in the place of equipment.

“With kickboxing, there’s a surprising amount that you can do offline. You can do shadowboxing, working on your form and building your balance,” Nguyen said. “Kickboxing is one of those sports where if you’re not that powerful or strong, you can get away with having good form and speed.”

UREC additionally offers one-on-one personal training, which is currently available online and in-person. Like group fitness instructors, all personal trainers are certified from a third-party and have regular check-ins with Branham.

Looking ahead, Branham said UREC hopes to build a library of on-demand fitness videos for students. Students who feel like their interest is not reflected in the UREC offerings are welcome to reach out to the staff.

“Our motto is, ‘we have something for everyone, so stay active,’” Losavio said. “If you have an idea for something you want to see, come see us. We want to remove all barriers from people’s fitness.”