This semester, Wayne State University fitness classes have been disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In-person fitness classes resumed during the week of Nov. 9, only to be canceled on Nov. 15 due to new COVID-19 restrictions from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services —cancelling all in-person college classes, including in-person group fitness classes.

Mort Harris Fitness and Recreation Center Associate Athletic Director Rob Latva said, in an email to The South End, the WSU Athletic Department would cooperate with state public health orders. 

"We take all guidance from the State of Michigan, the CDC, and Wayne State University COVID Response team. If additional guidelines/restrictions come governing fitness centers, we will adhere to whatever those restrictions will be," Latva said.

Due to the minimal number of COVID-19 cases stemming from fitness activities and WSU’s COVID-19 restrictions, in-person fitness classes didn’t pose a significant public health risk, Latva said.

"We believe with the space we have on our courts, limiting classes to nine participants and one instructor, and disinfecting any equipment before and after use will allow us to host these classes safely. As of right now, there have been minimum COVID cases stemming from fitness and recreational facilities," Latva said.

The state’s restrictions meant students were forced to transition from exercising on-campus to remotely from home, using digital platforms to connect.

Lauren O'Shee, a junior business management major, said she enjoyed her fitness infusion class, LAF 1030, before switching back to Zoom. Now, she has a distaste for her lectures.

"I hate doing Zoom for fitness class,” O’Shee said. “All my other classes are fine online but fitness class I prefer being in person. The restriction on what we can do and stuff we can do by ourselves is bad." 

Among the problems O’Shee has with remote learning, the biggest is finding the motivation to participate in lectures, she said.

"I have no motivation to do the workout. When I went there, I did. Or when I go to the gym, I do have the motivation,” O’Shee said. “But setting up in my living room, I just don't have as much motivation to do it. It's boring. Like, it's not as fun as in-person." 

Carole Gist, MHFRC wellness coordinator, said she strives to keep her students engaged and provide a positive learning experience in her virtual classes.

"A lot of times when I'm teaching live, I'll come up to the cameras like 'Don't you quit! I see you, keep it up! And the great thing is, over Zoom, if they have their camera on, I can see you and say 'Put those hips up!' or 'Put your butt down!' All I can do is try to do mentally or psychologically try to encourage you," Gist said.

Gist appreciates the increased flexibility the virtual learning format provides her students, she said.

"You can roll out of bed and brush your teeth, and put on the gym shoes. Now they can work out as comfortably as they want to. They can turn their camera off and they could be in their pajamas and still workout. The personalized freedom to do it is up to them," Gist said.

The virtual format makes it difficult for instructors to ensure students are completing their assigned tasks, as students self-report to instructors, O’Shee said.

"They show you the workout, you do one set, which takes eight minutes, and then it's like 'Alright, I'm trusting you to do the rest. We have to tell her (the instructor) what we do after we get off, so there's no accountability. Without enforcing that there's not as much accountability for it," O'Shee said.

The ability to improve students’ educational experience is limited in the virtual learning format, O’Shee said.

"There's really nothing more you can do other than either make videos, like workout group videos and send them out or have us all on Zoom. There's really nothing else," O'Shee said.

While navigating virtual learning can be difficult, continuing to push forward is vital, Gist said.

"When we get tired, we don't quit. We learn how to push past that fatigue level,” Gist said. “We learn how to talk positively, You live to work out again later or another day. But in that moment, you have a decision to make. When it gets hard, Do I quit or do I push on? What those who push on learn quickly is how to become mentally tough." 

In-person fitness classes are not expected to return until the state lifts restrictions, Gist said.


Irving Mejia-Hilario is sports editor for The South End. He can be reached at ismejia48@wayne.edu.

Photo provided by Lauren O'Shee.