Group exercise classes serve as alternative for gym

Cary Street Gym is using three venues for group exercise: the MAC, basketball courts and the group exercise studio. Photo by Alessandro Latour

Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor

Spaced out on a basketball court in Cary Street Gym are 12-foot squares, sectioned off by tape on the floor. The new-look court is now home to several group exercise classes as one of the gym’s three available workout areas. 

Jessica Norman, VCU Recreational Sports assistant director for fitness and wellness, said the squares were intentionally designed to provide twice as much space as the mandated six-foot requirement.

“We want to give people space to move, and we know people are moving different directions at different times,” Norman said. “We thought 12 feet would be good for that.”

After the gym reopened in August, group exercise classes resumed as well — this time with in-person and virtual formats. Norman said before the pandemic, if a class wasn’t meeting participation numbers, it would be canceled. Now, it moves online. 

“We have a really unique opportunity with a virtual space,” Norman said.

RecSports currently offers seven classes virtually: barre, core, high-intensity interval training, pilates, restorative and vinyasa yoga, and guided meditation. Guided meditation is taught in partnership with the Health Promotion and Well-Being Center. RecSports is adding two more classes, bodysculpt and power yoga, to its virtual lineup on Sept. 28.

Participants must register for group exercise classes taught in-person or live over Zoom. Norman said classes stopped accepting walk-ins to reduce the amount of people in the facility.

In-person classes have up to 28 participants, while online classes can have up to 300. 

Anthony Muscatello, RecSports assistant director for external relations, said Cary Street Gym averages 800 people per day during the semester. That’s down from almost 3,000 a day during the 2019 academic year. 

“Based on the requirements for physical distancing by the state of Virginia, VCU, and best practices in our industry, we cannot safely provide access to the same number of users we had seen prior to the pandemic,” Muscatello said in an email

The gym has a reservation system for free weights, but those in group exercise classes don’t need a reservation to enter. They can enter the gym 15 minutes before class starts and cannot enter after the start time passes. 

Most gym-goers with reservations tend to show up for their scheduled workouts, Muscatello said, with about 20% of reservations resulting in a no-show.

Group exercise classes are an alternative to working out inside the gym, especially for those that are not comfortable with entering the gym facility, Norman said. 

RecSports offers recorded fitness classes from last spring and summer on its YouTube channel. 

In addition to the videos, RecSports has a subscription to FLEX by Fitness on Demand –– a service that offers professionally produced fitness classes. There are 500 licenses RecSports can distribute to students, faculty and RecSports members. 

Interested parties can fill out a form for FLEX access. If there are no available licenses, the member will be added to a waitlist.

“There are some folks that aren’t willing to come back to a fitness facility for whatever reason,” Norman said. “If they’ve gotten into a rhythm and a workout routine at home, offering those virtual classes is great for them.”

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply