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OPINION: Returning to the Student Recreational Sports Center during a COVID-19 pandemic



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Cardio equipment lines the room occupying what used to be the basketball area of the Student Recreational Sports Center Oct. 04. The SRSC has undergone changes in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Ethan Levy

After campus shut down in March, I spent nearly all of my time in my apartment. I’d attend Zoom lectures, watch old NFL games and occasionally order pizza. After all that time laying around, I feared I’d gained what some have dubbed the “quarantine 15”.

I used to carve out some of my free time to work out at the Student Recreational Sports Center. From cardio machines to swimming laps, it was a way for me to relax and stay in shape. 

When the SRSC reopened Aug.28, I was hesitant to resume working out. Being around people made me nervous and I didn’t feel ready to readjust. While weeks went by, I realized I missed working out too much and the pounds were adding up. 

A cloudy Tuesday felt like the perfect day for an indoor workout.

I arrived at 2 p.m, but I should’ve checked the website more closely before returning. As I approached the front door a staff member informed me the facility is closed from 2-4 p.m. for sanitation, keeping my anxiety at bay.

My worries felt justified when I arrived back at the SRSC, greeted by a line of students under a tent placed in front of the entrance waiting to be let in. This many people was the reason why I didn’t want to return to the SRSC. 

I contemplated giving up and leaving before a staff member started to let people in the building a few at a time. As other students shuffled through the door, I felt pressured to join them as one might feel in line for a roller coaster. I was scared but felt the need to stick to my decision now that there were people behind me.

Once I entered, signs stating the requirement of masks and workout options lined the walls as a staff member behind multiple glass panels greeted me as I scanned my Crimson Card.

Hallways and stairs are split in two with dividers, with signage informing me to stay on the right to socially distance. Nobody let others know when they turn, so it’s just like Bloomington traffic.

Downstairs, I made my way to the locker room after a staff member behind a desk handed me a single-day lock with tongs, which leaves me almost expecting it to be hot to the touch.

Aside from more reminders to socially distance, the locker room was mostly unchanged while I changed and stored my previously neglected workout bag. Normally, my first stop would be the basketball courts, and it still was, although this time there’s a major difference.

The basketball courts are filled with rows of cardio equipment and spaces to stretch, all placed six feet apart. My go-to machine is the elliptical, which always felt the easiest to use.

Signs posted around the courts made it abundantly clear masks were still required during workouts and students may need to adjust their routines to accommodate this. I didn’t notice any glaring differences when wearing a mask besides feeling my breath across my face when I exhaled, but then again, it’s not like I was completing a Schwarzenegger workout.

Only a few students were working out alongside me, none of which were particularly close by. My anxiety began to fade with every breath I took. 

Sanitization of equipment after use was a requirement before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the only difference now is a greater emphasis with signs with reminders lined the white walls. Tables with paper towels and disinfectant spray sat in the middle of every other row of equipment.

I carefully sanitized my elliptical when I finished. As I exit, I realized all doorways are now one-way to ensure social distancing. 

My next stop was the track above the courts. I preferred running there thanks to the benefits of air conditioning and more privacy than running around Bloomington, so you can imagine my disappointment when I discovered it was closed.

After the initial let down, I headed into the upstairs cardio gym across from the track. For largely the same reasons of ease, the stairclimber is my second favorite, so I resumed my workout as I ascended an endless flight of stairs.

There were more students in this area and the noise level was noticeably higher while they conversed with one another. My anxiety started to creep back in while I caught snippets of conversations before realizing everyone was socially distanced and SRSC staff were standing around with a watchful eye to ensure the rules are followed.

As I work on the stairclimber, I could feel my joints relax with every step I took. I glanced up to watch the Chicago White Sox’s postseason return before I climb down and wipe down the machine. 

Keeping to the right, I returned to the nearly deserted locker room to retrieve my belongings and change. As I exited the facility and felt fall in the air all I could think of is how I’ll choose to spend my next visit.

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