Under normal circumstances, the wellness center at Minnesota Crookston is the hub of campus.
On any given day, intramural coordinator and student lead Kolby Castillo estimates, around 100 students, faculty and staff make use of the facility's courts, fitness/cardio areas, track and multipurpose room. And at the height of intramural season, close to 70 students participate in leagues, on a campus of about 1,000 students in all.
But it goes without saying that the last month has been anything but normal.
And as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, the wellness center is trying its best to hold the UMC campus together and keep it healthy, like it normally does — just without people on campus.
"We understand circumstances change," Castillo said last week. "But our purpose is providing resources to the students."
Prior to the pandemic, the facility was in the process of expanding those resources. At the beginning of the spring semester, Castillo and company began offering more and more exercise programs, an area they hadn't emphasized as much in the past. This meant free body fat testing, muscle-building tips, and specialized exercise classes including cycling, body pump and yoga.
As it turns out, the rollout of these programs couldn't have come at a much better time. In the past, people would simply go to the gym and work out on their own. With plenty of options to choose from, including treadmills, dumbbells and weight racks, the need for guidance was lessened.
"A lot of people no longer have access to a gym, and without the equipment, a lot of times it's 'okay, what do I do now?' " Castillo said. "Somebody who's inexperienced can go to a wellness center and go, 'okay, I'll grab some dumbbells,' or 'I'll jump on the treadmill.' Now people run into the problem of 'oh, I don't know what to do, I don't have these plans.' "
What the wellness center has tried to do since March, then, is offer a plan. And with the increased focus on exercise science, it's been a smooth transition.
The heart of this plan is a Google Doc, which contains a weekly workout curated by Steven Krouse, UMC's head athletic trainer. The doc also includes YouTube links to demonstrations of the workout, performed by wellness center interns.
In the spirit of accessibility, the typical workout doesn't require any outside equipment, and can be done right in someone's bedroom. It's often plyometrics-based, working out the lower half of the body: jumps, squats, sit-ups, flys and planks. In lieu of dumbbells, the upper-body portion revolves around pushups.
"Our mission is really to give them the strategy," said Castillo, who says that from the feedback he's received, most students have found the workouts very useful. "Usually, when you have a plan, you're more inclined to do something compared to just doing it freely without any knowledge of what to do."
The workouts aren't the only thing the wellness center has sought to provide. On Wednesdays, it releases mental health tips based on resources obtained from the government or university. On Fridays, it sends out a weekly meal, one that's both nutritious and can be prepared by anyone.
Castillo says that the biggest adjustment, though, has been in the way the wellness center sends out these resources. Instead of being just one of many modes of communication, online outreach is even more essential. UMC posts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter from Monday through Friday, ensuring that anybody — not just the Minnesota Crookston community — can access its workouts or health tips.
Aside from that? Nothing has changed. And that's exactly how Castillo wants it.
"We're just trying to make sure people stay healthy under the circumstances that we have," Castillo said. "With mental tips, fitness, nutrition, workouts, our job is to help everyone adjust to the new normal."
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