Woman exercising with weights

“CATALYST” magazine spoke with the URecFit and Wellness director about reopening this past summer and the greatest lessons learned from the pandemic.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced many operations at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) to shut down in March 2020, University Recreation, Fitness and Wellness (URecFit and Wellness) closed its physical doors and moved many of its services online, offering its members virtual classes and other programs. During this time, URecFit and Wellness took numerous steps to adapt, including joining the Recreation Movement, which allowed students and employees to access online workout classes from more than 45 colleges and universities across the country. URecFit and Wellness partially reopened in June 2021 for current students and recent graduates and welcomed back most of its members in July.

URecFit and Wellness has reopened. What did you have to do to make that happen, and what was it like to welcome clients back to the gym?

We did a lot of research, stayed current with what our peers were doing, and submitted numerous reopening plans. But when it came to reopening our doors and being able to keep them open, we needed to stay flexible, communicate, and work together. We enjoy what we do, care about each other as well as care about other people. We love interacting with students, faculty, and staff so we were ecstatic to be reopening in June. 

Prior to reopening this past June, the facility was completely reconfigured with the hopes of a fall 2020 or early 2021 reopening. My team relocated tons of equipment to allow for physical distancing. Yes, I said tons of equipment. We knew reopening was going to be challenging. Numerous facilities, especially commercial facilities, had already reopened and lifted many of their restrictions, while we were reopening with several restrictions still in place. We were also reopening with no student staff, who are the backbone of our operations. It’s been somewhat of an exhausting 4½ months. But we have hired a lot of student staff, expanded hours, and reopened the pool. 

We are happy to see more students, faculty, and staff coming back to use the facility. Sweating, playing, competing, laughing, and working together can happen virtually and be meaningful, but being back on campus and open again has brought back that sense of camaraderie and community. That is what we all have been hoping and working toward.

Read more of our interview at CATALYST magazine.

You can read the Fall 2021 issue of CATALYST magazine, which highlights research on veterans with PTSD training service dogs; a celebration of our new Community Engagement Center; outreach by the School of Social Work’s Positive Schools Center; Diane Forbes Berthoud, PhD, MA, UMB’s first chief equity, diversity, and inclusion officer and vice president; our students returning to in-person learning; and much, much more at https://catalystmag.umaryland.edu/.

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