U Student Life Center Offers Online Fitness


University of Utah Student Quinn Case works out in his SLC apartment on May 29th, 2020. (Photo by Mark Draper | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Kayleigh Silverstein, Special Projects Managing Editor, News Writer



The Student Life Center on the University of Utah’s campus is a hub of activity. It provides students, faculty and staff alike with a variety of resources such as open gyms, equipment to use to work out and fitness classes — to name a few. Now that the U has been shut down for months due to quarantine, the Student Life Center decided to make a change to the way it provides its fitness classes.

Around mid-March, Campus Recreation Services decided to offer online classes that are free and available to anyone with the link. The classes can either be live streamed, where a participant can take the class through Zoom, or on demand, where a participant can watch recorded Zoom classes or circuits at any time they choose. 

“Right after spring break, engagement was very high. We had a lot of participants for every single class so then we started adding more variety, different types of formats, different times,” said April Pavelka, fitness program manager with Campus Recreation Services. 

Then, engagement started to decrease. With finals looming and summer coming closer, less people continued participating in the online classes. However, normally the Student Life Center would not even be offering classes in the three weeks after finals, so Pavelka was surprised that there was any engagement with online classes during that time period.

“I think it’s interesting that the virtual classes are still having as much participation, even though our students, faculty and staff wouldn’t normally have been coming into our facility to take these in person classes,” Pavelka said. 

Pavelka said that when the Student Life Center opens, it will not continue with the virtual classes, but will possibly keep a small library of videos that people can access at any time. 

Courtney Hook is a fitness instructor and trainer at the U, who is completing her master’s degree in athletic training. She teaches classes that normally involve using weights or cycling, which is not always possible to teach since each participant has only what is in their house.

“I just adapt to use either no weights or just bodyweight exercises. A couple times I’ve had people grab a towel and use resistance by pulling on the towel. We use resistance as kind of a version of weight. I’ve had to use a full thing of laundry detergent for weights,” Hook said.

Along with using towels and detergent, Hook said that she has had to adapt to not being able to see the people she is teaching.

“It doesn’t really feel like I’m talking to anybody. All their mics are muted so that there’s no interference with class, and then they have the option to have their camera either on or off. Most people generally don’t have them on, which I totally understand. It’s a weird perspective for me because I know they’re there but I can’t see or hear them,” Hook said. 

While it has been an interesting transition for her, Hook said there are some benefits to the online approach to fitness — especially when people are at home more than usual during quarantine.

“I think it’s maybe opened up fitness to a population of people who were a little bit too shy to otherwise try fitness, because you’re in the safety of your own home and you don’t have to have your camera on your mics not on. You get that accountability from the fitness class without having to be too visible,” Hook said. 

Hook also said that along with having more free time, people may be more inclined to take an online fitness class because they do not have the added pressure of others in the class and they do not have to worry about what they look like in addition to the actual workout. 

“I’ve heard from a couple people that they’ve tried [virtual] fitness classes that they might not have before. They feel more confident being a little bit more anonymous. And I also think that it is a great opportunity during this specific time when people don’t have jobs,” Hook said.


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