After University President Morton Schapiro announced a completely virtual Fall Quarter for freshmen and sophomores in August, Northwestern Recreation closed to underclassmen as well.
Whether they chose to stay at home or snag a last-minute apartment, students were limited in their access to gym facilities and equipment. Most public gyms shuttered in wake of the pandemic and implemented restrictions on equipment use when they reopened. Students who chose to exercise at home did not necessarily have access to machines, equipment or a physical space.
However, with public gyms still a coronavirus hotspot, many students wondered how they would stay physically active on or off-campus.
For Weinberg sophomore Elena Jacoby, losing access to a public gym’s weight room meant adapting to at-home workouts. Because Jacoby chose to pursue an internship in New Mexico instead of returning to campus, she had to get creative with her new environment, incorporating runs, bike rides and body weight exercises around her class schedule.
“I find it good to plan little things to look forward to that aren’t your traditional exercises,” Jacoby said. “It makes me feel good to be alone and not have to think very hard. It’s my time of solace where I just go outside and spend 40 minutes doing something.”
Though Jacoby misses the weight room, she finds her new routine more efficient. The workouts happen “a lot easier at home,” she said, because they cut out walking time to the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion or an off-campus gym.
McCormick junior Ben Yost lives in an off-campus apartment. Last year, he went to Crown Sports Pavilion almost every day for weight-lifting. But once COVID-19 hit, he opted for a more lenient workout regimen. Focusing on more consistent, balanced workouts, he now meditates, runs and does body weight exercises at home instead of at the gym.
“After I realized the gym isn’t the only way to work out and be strong and be healthy, I realized running outside is better, especially in the midst of coronavirus,” he said. “I don’t really need (Crown Sports Pavilion), and it’s kind of a ghost town now anyways.”
NU Recreation reopened its facilities to students on Sept. 21, requiring face masks and reservations for access. Visitors must sanitize their hands “immediately upon entry” and maintain a six-foot distance from others, according to its website.
Patrons are also limited to one 50-minute reservation per space per day, and must stay in the specific fitness area they reserved.
SESP sophomore Julia Ammer also finds merit in at-home workouts. She recently bought a spin bike for her off-campus apartment and typically pairs a 30-minute ride with a YouTube abs or arms workout. Although she considered a gym membership, Ammer thinks that her decision is more “COVID-cautious” and responsible.
“I think it’s the responsibility of college students to respect the broader Evanston community, and there are a lot of older folks who live here,” she said. “We are guests, and it’s our job to be as cautious as possible.”