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ChargerREC Takes Fitness and Recreation into the Virtual World
As students learn and employees work remotely, ChargerREC is helping the campus community stay fit and connected through exercise classes, activities, and programs that are all offered completely online.
April 8, 2020
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
Robert Torrens ’20, a personal trainer and group fitness instructor for ChargerREC, the University of New Haven’s department of campus recreation, has gotten creative as he has continued to lead group exercise (GroupX) classes from home. He realizes that when working out from home, not everyone has access to free weights or other fitness equipment. So, he’s been designing his classes to include household substitutions for weights, such as bottles of laundry detergent.
Torrens, who also serves as a building supervisor and an adventure recreation leader at ChargerREC, is focused on helping the University community feel connected while they work toward achieving their fitness goals from home. An ACE certified personal trainer, Torrens has been a part of ChargerREC’s “Ask a Trainer” videos on Instagram, responding to viewers in real time.
“It gives the students and staff extra social interaction, as some of them are away from family and friends,” said Torrens, a forensic science major. “In the classes and live videos, my main goal for participants is that they are able to maintain – or, perhaps, begin – an active lifestyle, despite the possible challenges of working out at home.”
Torrens is part of a team of students now working with Bella Miceli ’13, assistant director of fitness and wellness at ChargerREC, to plan virtual fitness and wellness sessions. ChargerREC now offers two or three live sessions each day on its Instagram page, @chargerrec, or through Zoom.
In addition to the interactive “Ask a Trainer” videos, ChargerREC offers meditation classes and wellness talks on Instagram. Zoom classes include strength, cardio, and yoga, which are designed for participants working out from home. Classes such as “Household HIIT” (high-intensity interval training) make use of household items such as paper plates, and “QuaranTraining” is an indoor boot-camp-style class. The schedule, which changes weekly, is posted on myCharger.
Amelia Appell ’20, a personal trainer, GroupX class instructor, and adventure recreation leader, was already collaborating with her colleagues at ChargerREC to brainstorm new ways to keep the community connected even before the University decided that the spring semester would be finished remotely.
“Engaging with the campus community is so crucial for students, faculty, and staff as we try to establish a sense of normality during this challenging time,” said Appell, a criminal justice and national security double major. “By providing these virtual platforms to our campus, we are not only showing individuals that the campus is still providing for them, but we are also helping people maintain healthy lives.”
In addition to virtual fitness and wellness, ChargerREC is expanding its recreation offerings to include video game ladder tournaments, esports tournaments, and virtual viewing parties for popular shows such as “Better Call Saul.” Students can also compete in weekly tournaments on Plato, an app for chatting and playing games with others.
“During this challenging time, we must stay engaged with our Charger community,” said Miceli. “Whether it is through academics, office hours, active or passive programming, or just checking in, it shows that our students matter and that we care about them.”
Members of ChargerREC are serving on a task force with representatives from other campus departments that is continually creating ways to connect with students virtually.
Ananya Khatri ’21 M.A., a certified group-fitness instructor who is conducting virtual yoga and meditation classes, says these sessions are especially beneficial during uncertain times to help students manage stress. She has also collaborated with the International Services Office to offer a meditation session on Instagram live.
For Khatri, a candidate in the University’s graduate program in industrial/organizational psychology, connecting with students virtually to help them reduce their anxiety is especially important. For her thesis, she is working with Stuart Sidle, Ph.D., executive director of the University’s Center for Teaching Excellence, to research mindfulness training through immersive virtual reality, mediating empathy, and affective and cognitive well-being.
“I want to help students see more than one perspective on this situation,” said Khatri, who, as a graduate assistant for the Dean of Students Office, is also developing a well-being newsletter. “While we are at home, we have social media to help us cope with the anxiety and stress of the current situation. Reaching students through social media is one of the best tools, and ChargerREC is definitely using it to its full potential.”