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UMass Lowell will resume on-campus instruction, research and campus life for Fall 2020. View the plan for more info.

Virtual Fitness Classes Help Cooped-up River Hawks Stay Healthy

Campus Recreation Moves Programs Online So Student Instructors Can Keep UML Strong

Fitness instructor Julianne Russo teaches a class from home Photo by UML Campus Rec
Alum Julianne Russo, who has continued teaching Campus Rec fitness classes since graduating in 2018, leads a virtual workout from home.

By Ed Brennen

Graduate student Rebecca Olivieri usually teaches a group fitness class to around 20 students, faculty and staff every Thursday at noon at the Campus Recreation Center.

Leading the 45-minute interval training class is a nice way for the Milton native to apply what she learns in her Doctor of Physical Therapy program, while also connecting with others and making a little extra money as a student employee.

But that whole routine was recently upended, like everything else, when the university was forced to close the campus for the remainder of the semester due to the coronavirus.

Fortunately for Olivieri and her students, Campus Recreation has created a virtual fitness and wellness group on Facebook so members of the UML community can stay active together while riding out the shutdown at home.

“When you have 20 members of the community show up every week and you get to know each other, you don’t want to lose that group,” Olivieri says. “By staying connected via virtual classes, we can continue to be that strong, empowering and uplifting group.”

“I want the people who take my class to know that I’m still here and they’re not alone.” -Student instructor Sabrina Barros

Nearly 300 members of the UML community have joined the private Facebook group since it was created by Asst. Director of Fitness and Wellness Diana Dellogono on March 17.  

By providing a way for Campus Rec’s 17 fitness instructors to record exercise and yoga classes at home and share them online (some instructors are also streaming classes live on Instagram, where they are available for 24 hours), Dellogono says students can maintain a sense of normalcy.

“Just trying to stay in a somewhat normal routine in a time that feels so uncertain, and finding ways to move their bodies, is really great for people,” says Dellogono, who also shares meditation exercises, workout tips and mini-contests on the page.

One contest involved finding ways to use everyday items around the house in a workout. 
“A lot of people don’t have exercise equipment at home, so they have to get creative with what they have, like wearing a backpack full of heavy books while doing squats,” says Dellogono, who posted her own video demonstrating how to do tricep dips while bracing yourself on a coffee table.
Campus Recreation has also created a virtual competitive sports Facebook page where it’s posting “fun challenges, games and sports” for members to try at home – with winners receiving T-shirts in the mail. There’s also an online resources page stocked with videos, articles and apps to help people stay active, as well as free wellness coaching available to discuss topics such as stress management, diet and sleeping habits.

“While we can’t provide our traditional recreation facilities and programs at the moment, we are excited to introduce new ways for people to engage with us,” says Campus Recreation Director Peter Murray. “Our goal is to maintain our social connections while doing our part to be physically separated.” 

Campus Rec staff member Meghan Jordan demonstrates a coin flipping challengePhoto by UML Campus Rec
Campus Recreation Asst. Director Meghan Jordan demonstrates a coin-flipping challenge on the virtual competitive sports Facebook page.

Many of the online resources are available to alumni, as well.

Psychology alum Dezanae Boston-Bernier ’15, who now works as assistant director of University Crossing operations, says the Facebook group’s content – particularly the meditation posts – have helped when she’s feeling “stir-crazy” at home.

“The page has been perfect for someone like me who still needs guidance with working out,” says Boston-Bernier, who attended occasional group fitness classes at the Campus Rec Center before the shutdown. “It’s interesting because, in a way, I feel more of a community atmosphere now. I guess that’s because any consistent interaction feels great at a time like this.”

Like everyone, Dellogono looks forward to the day when the university can resume its two dozen weekly in-person Zumba, spin, yoga, barre and fuse classes, which draw more than 1,700 participants each month at the Campus Rec Center and Riverview Suites.

“I’ve been teaching upwards of 10 to 15 fitness classes a week, and having it ripped out from underneath you is an odd feeling,” Dellogono says. “I’ll be really excited when we’re able to be live and in person again, because it’s what I like to do most.”

Until then, her team is making the best of the situation by turning workouts into “workins.”

Sabrina Barros, a junior biology major from Hudson, was teaching a 45-minute kickboxing class on Tuesday evenings at the Campus Rec Center. She says being able to share workouts online has provided a “silver lining” as she completes her courses and labs online this semester.

“On campus, I was active every day, so keeping that as a part of my routine has given me the structure I’m used to,” says Barros, who adds that staying connected is as important as staying fit right now.

“I want the people who take my class to know that I’m still here and they’re not alone,” says Barros, who also likes knowing that her students are still here for her – just not in the studio. “This way, we can still heal and get stronger together.”