The Ambler Student Recreation Fitness Center observed about 50% traffic compared to the same number from a year ago after it reopened with social distancing limitations due to the coronavirus, said Director of KU Recreation Jason Krone. 

While the Rec Center reopened on Aug. 3, the staff began planning and reorganizing fitness areas over the summer. Most of the changes that the staff undertook were related to maximizing social distancing for gym users. 

Each piece of equipment or exercise space for fitness classes are spaced out to a minimum of 10 feet apart. For high intensity environments like fitness centers, the extra feet of distance is intended to provide an extra feeling of safety for those exercising. 

Jill Urkoski, assistant director of program management at the Rec Center, said while she was involved in designing the layouts of the equipment, the custodial staff moved the equipment outside of operating hours. 

Urkoski was not able to personally interact with staff to give instructions, so she created instructions and equipment-specific diagrams to ensure a smooth working process for the custodians. 

“We would have to type out very detail-oriented layouts,” Urkoski said. “I didn’t want them to do a lot of extra work.” 

In many cases, equipment had to be moved to completely new areas around the facility or outdoor locations. When relocating some equipment outside, some machines had to be taken apart and reassembled later in order to work around space constraints. 

The precautions they rolled out have gone above typical fitness industry standards, Krone said. In addition to asking all gym users to sanitize their workout areas, the Rec Center hired student workers whose jobs are dedicated to keeping exercise areas clean. Krone said they view these cleaning responsibilities as a team effort between the staff, custodians and KU community members. 

All patrons are required to wear a mask while exercising, which Krone said may contribute to less traffic. To make this complication more manageable, staff members recommend avoiding strenuous routines.  

“Exercising in a mask is not the easiest thing to do, but one of the things that we’re trying to emphasize with everybody coming and working out with a mask is that now might be a time to just maintain your fitness levels and not necessarily trying to gain,” Krone said. “And that’s okay.” 

Krone said he thought the people who frequent the Rec Center are doing a good job of complying with the mask mandate. While he does not have any specific restrictions they may be adding in the future, the staff is constantly re-evaluating ways to make the fitness center a fun yet safe place to exercise. 

Urkoski said they are planning on being more diligent about the social distancing compliance. While many people come to exercise with roommates or friends, they are still urged to maintain distance while working out. 

“[Exercise] is a vital part of students’ daily lives,” Krone said. “It helps obviously with physical fitness, but I think it also helps with mental wellbeing as well. It’s a chance to provide an opportunity for stress outlets.”