Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the McGill Fitness Center is adapting to provide students with as many activities and services as they can. Students living in Montreal can still reserve spots to play tennis, badminton, basketball (at one person per basket), run on the track, and swim laps. McGill Athletics and Recreation is tackling the issue of a geographically dispersed student body and remains committed to providing all members of the McGill community, wherever they may be located, with the resources they need to stay physically active.
Among the individuals working to provide in-person and remote activities are Perry Karnofsky, manager of the Recreation Program, and Sarah Canzer, Head of Communications and Engagement.
“We wanted to make sure that—even if remotely—we were still able to contribute to the overall health of our students,” Karnofsky and Canzer wrote in an email to The McGill Tribune. “The science behind the correlation between physical and mental health continues to pour in, and we want to make sure that outlets to relieve stress and stay healthy remain readily available to our students.”
In response to restrictions on in-person events, McGill Athletics and Recreation now offers fitness classes via Zoom. These classes are designed so that minimal equipment and space are required, increasing accessibility for students in small residence rooms or apartments. Adjustment to the online format has presented instructors with some challenges. Leena Struzina, a second-year chemical engineering master’s student, went from teaching Hatha yoga twice a week to leading a yoga powerflow class once a week.
“The online format was a hard adjustment at first as you aren’t able to see the students and make modifications to the class based on their level of yoga,” Struzina wrote in an email to the Tribune. “I’ve gotten used to going in depth on the explanations of each pose to make sure that everyone can follow along with class.”
Each week’s schedule offers a variety of classes to keep students engaged and adventurous in their physical health. From yoga and pilates to tabata, a form of high intensity interval training, and boot camps, the wide variety of classes offered is a testament to the diversity of the instructors’ backgrounds.
“As someone who never did yoga in the past, it is a wonderful workout and has proven to be a great way to de-stress for 45 minutes,” Karnofsky wrote.
Approximately 15 classes are offered each week, from Mondays through Thursdays. For those who live in other time zones or are unable to attend the live session, videos are organized into playlists and uploaded to the McGill Athletics YouTube channel.
Many on-campus services used trial and error to find a remote system that works, and McGill Athletics and Recreation is no exception.
“Being our first venture into the virtual domain, the learning curve regarding the technical aspects has been steep,” Karnofsky and Canzer wrote. “As with all of our programs, we try to deliver the best product possible for the McGill community. We are constantly looking to improve—whether it be the video, the sound, or the instruction.”
McGill Athletics and Recreation believes that a healthy body leads to a healthy mind. The way in which staff are working tirelessly to continue supporting student well-being during these tumultuous times speaks to the strength of the department. The improvements since the beginning of the pandemic have not gone unnoticed by instructors.
“McGill Athletics has really improved the quality of the classes by adding a music extension to the Zoom classes,” Struzina wrote. “They also added a video camera attached to the laptop which improves audio/video quality and allows the teachers to see themselves and other students on screen. This helps in giving corrections to students who may have their camera on.”