Germ-Proofing the Gym: the PAC's new Protocols

The PAC’s main concern for the return of second & third-year students is the upstairs weightlifting area. It frequently reached its 20-person limit with just half the student body on campus.

The PAC's new COVID-19 health and safety regulations are frustrating students who frequent the facility. Elliott Jones

The Physical Activities Center (PAC) has faced controversy in the past weeks over new workout policies amidst the pandemic. While there are still opportunities for community members to take advantage of the facilities, many students have been surprised and disquieted by the significant decrease in access to certain areas of the PAC.

As a result of COVID-19 protocols, the PAC’s new hours are 7:00am-9:00pm on the weekdays, closed on Saturdays, and 12:00pm-7:00pm on Sundays, exclusively for students. While this seems like a normal gym schedule, students quickly learned that from 8:00am-5:00pm on Monday and Wednesday, and 8:00am-4:00pm Tuesday and Thursday, students who are not in a “Wellness Concepts” class, will only have access to the new Auxiliary Fitness Center in the former basketball gym, and not the upstairs weightlifting area. Although it is not in the original space, this new center has almost all the same aerobic equipment found in the other areas of the PAC. According to the Director of Campus Recreation Owen McFadden, “the [downstairs] gym itself can handle the return of second- and third-year students” based on how little the newly modified area has been used by students during the day.

The PAC’s main concern for the return of second and third-year students is the upstairs weightlifting area. According to McFadden, it frequently reached its 20-person limit with just half of the student body on campus. Returning students should anticipate a wait time to use the upstairs area, which is especially popular from 4:00pm-6:00pm on weekdays. McFadden also noted that a PAC employee is always monitoring the upstairs area to ensure that the 20-person limit is followed. Given the popularity of the upstairs area, students may need to change their usual workout schedule, or be more flexible with wait time.  

This decision to limit second floor access during the day has caused disappointment, given that, it is normal for Furman students to have several commitments in the afternoons and evenings, such as extracurriculars, labs, or study sessions. “I understand the need to have the facility cleaned and everyone distanced,” said freshman Kate Gildart, “but it’s difficult to find time in the day to actually go when I don’t have class or something else.”  

Mrs. Kelly Frazier, a lecturer and Faculty member in the Department of Health Sciences, also weighed in on the COVID-19 changes and helped explain why they had to be made. “I can completely empathize with [the] expressed concern [from the students],” As part of the Wellness Concepts curriculum, students are required to exercise during two classes each week. With the new COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, the PAC capacity has been limited and equipment has been rearranged. Given that Wellness Concepts is a required class, the decision to reserve areas of the PAC for Wellness students during the day was critical. According to Frazier, without these regulations, “it would be difficult for staff to maintain distancing guidelines.”

For those looking to change their usual workout schedule, there are several opportunities for students to move their routines elsewhere. According to Frazier, there is now a “partner[ship] with CHAARG to offer outdoor exercise training sessions…and FIT Rx trainers (HSC majors) …providing free individualized exercise training and health coaching.” The PAC is also hosting Zumba and yoga classes in the dance studios free of charge. And as always, all of the trails, city parks, and Paris Mountain State Park are accessible. “Interestingly, exercising outdoors in nature has been associated with improved physical and mental health—and it will likely reduce the spread of COVID to keep everyone safer” according to Frazier.

Since the summer, two safety committees have been working closely with the University and the PAC to plan how these health and safety procedures will be carried out in the coming months. With second- and third-year students returning to campus, student traffic in the PAC will significantly increase. Students are required to wear a mask and must also bring their own water bottle as water fountains remain unavailable. The touchpads at the entrance have also been taken off-line, so students will always need their Furman IDs to enter the PAC.

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