Ohio State announced Thursday that some campus recreational centers will reopen for the start of fall semester. | Credit: Lantern file photo.

As students return to class, it’s not only Ohio State’s academic department that is trying to create a sense of normalcy for students amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Ohio State’s Department of Recreational Sports has been working to create safe and viable options for students to maintain a healthy lifestyle that can easily be incorporated into busy schedules in places such as the RPAC and the Jesse Owens South Recreation Center for students to exercise, as well as online virtual options.

“I think now more than ever it’s important to keep that positive energy and nothing correlates more to good stimulation, good mental health. Anybody that struggles with depression, anxiety — any kind of movement or exercise could help reduce the risk of those symptoms,” Stephanne Musser, the assistant director of Fitness and Program services, said.

Recognizing the value exercise plays both in physical and mental health, Musser said the department’s focus has been on creating options that accommodate everyone.

On Monday, the RPAC extended its hours from 5:30 a.m. to midnight after having limited hours throughout the summer, Marci Shumaker, senior director of programs and administration in the Department of Recreational Sports, said. 

JO South opened their doors Monday for the first time this summer as well and is now open noon to midnight on weekdays, noon to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays. Following the first week, the hours will be extended from 6 a.m. to midnight on weekdays, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and noon to 10 p.m. on Sundays, according to the Office of Student Life’s recreational website.

The Outdoor Adventure Center opened on Monday as well, and is open Monday through Thursday from 2-11 p.m., Friday from noon to 10 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

While there are plans to open the North Recreation Center, Shumaker said it will probably be another week before it welcomes students.

There are capacity limits at each recreation center location. The RPAC’s capacity is well over 1,000 people and has yet to be reached since being opened, Shumaker said. The department has focused on repurposing locations to maximize space and allow for proper social distancing, creating a safe environment for individuals to work out in.

Previous weightlifting areas within the RPAC have been converted to cardio areas to allow for proper social distancing, Shumaker said. Some areas in the facilities are by reservation only. The lap pool and rock-climbing wall both require prior reservations. If individuals wish to make a reservation, they can visit the department’s webpage.  

Reservations can also be made online to register for personal training. Currently, the restrictions allow only 10 people to gather at a time. While there are no exceptions for fitness classes, it is possible for one-on-one personal training to take place, Musser said.

“You just have to abide by all the safety guidelines that the RPAC is currently using, so you have to wear a mask during the workout unless you’re doing very strenuous cardio. But it’s available, which is really, really exciting because you can social distance and you can wear a mask,” Musser said.

For those who aren’t comfortable with in-person training or workouts, there are online personal training programs and live fitness classes that are free and accessible to students.

The live online classes will be taught by the RPAC’s student personal trainers with over 50 options, ranging from yoga to weightlifting, Musser said. The live classes will immediately be archived and available for later use.

“So, if you take a class, and you’re like, ‘Oh my God, I loved that,’ that will be available for you for almost 300 days. It’ll be posted online, and you’ll be able to take that class as many times as you like,” Musser said.

In addition to live online classes, the department has also pre-posted various workout videos to YouTube, including 20-minute fitness challenges and 10-minute yoga flows.

The department also recognizes the loss of intramural sports such as basketball and volleyball and has created a free, online intramural league for students to join, Shumaker said. Students can sign up for the leagues via the department’s website. 

“We partnered with the esports arena, so we are offering virtual intramural sports for social gatherings so you can still get an intramural championship,” Shumaker said.

The virtual intramural sports leagues are made up of but not limited to sports games such as Madden and NBA2K, and they also have trivia leagues, Shumaker said. 

The direct fee for a rec sports membership was not applied to the statement of account for students that are only taking online classes. However, it is available to purchase online or in person at the RPAC for the student rate of $123.00 for the semester.