Fitness center reopens with safety protocols in place

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Media: Beacon Archive

Unlike this pre-pandemic photo of the fitness center, students must wear masks in the facility at all times.

Months of preparation to combat the COVID-19 pandemic by the college’s fitness center staff culminated in the official reopening of the facility Tuesday morning.

The fitness center instituted new safety precautions, like one-way traffic on the staircase and elevator of 52 Summer St., plexiglass at the tap desks, and a new online system that requires students to reserve workout times in advance. 

Athletic Director Patricia Nicol said these safety measures made her feel comfortable with the idea of reopening the facility. 

“We are following all of the Massachusetts guidelines regarding fitness centers,” Nicol said in a phone interview with The Beacon. “The staff has been working diligently all summer to prepare for this, and we’re trying to give as much normalcy to the students as possible and within all safety precautions.”

In order to reserve a time to work out, students will have to access the college’s web page and book a date and time. Fitness center staff will use this booking technology to monitor traffic through the facility, and students can access the schedule to view how many of their peers will be working out at a given time. 

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The gym’s capacity will be capped at 25, Fitness Specialist Johnny Dunbar said. 

Bottles of sanitizer and wipes will be available to those using the equipment, so they can sterilize the machines as they work out. Dunbar said the fitness center, which is separated into two levels, will only allow students to work out on one of the floors in order to make contact tracing easier. Dunbar worked at the tap desk Tuesday, checking in all of the students who made reservations. 

The fitness center will be cleaned every day before it opens and after it closes and, depending on how busy it is, could also be closed for cleaning at times during the day, Dunbar said. The center’s staff all received testing before they returned to work. Nicol said the staff will have the opportunity to be tested weekly, and Dunbar said the staff members must screen for symptoms daily.

In addition to the in-person resources the fitness center will offer this semester, Dunbar said the staff will also offer virtual opportunities to receive fitness tips and advice. Dunbar hosted Zoom sessions over the summer to help students stay in shape during the extended time away from campus, and he plans to continue the video meetings through the fall. 

Dunbar also runs the Fitness Center’s Instagram page, where he posts at-home training routines. And he gave students opportunities to push themselves with 5k and half-marathon challenges earlier this summer. 

“Hopefully, because more people are on campus, we’ll probably get more people doing it,” Dunbar said in an interview with The Beacon. “Especially if they notice, ‘Oh, only 25 people can use the gym at one given time,’ they’ll start to ask more questions and utilize the other services that we have.”

Dunbar said the students who took advantage of the facility’s first day open did a good job of maintaining proper safety measures. 

“Everybody has been respectful of the space and all that too, cleaning up after themselves,” he said. “So far, so good. I give them a 100, an A+.”