Exercise in the time of COVID-19: The best ways to get your sports fix on campus during a semester without fall athletics

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The widespread changes brought to student life in fall 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will not be limited to academic shifts. Recreational and athletic pursuits for members of the William and Mary community will also be profoundly altered as the administration and campus at large seeks to limit the spread of COVID-19.

For some, a key part of their college experience involves attending sports games and cheering on the Tribe or letting off steam at the Student Recreatuion Center. Although intramurals and casual recreation may not be as they were in years past, there are still lots of opportunities for students to exercise, have fun and get their athletic fix during the upcoming  semester.

Chief among them is the Student Recreation Center re-opening its doors, albeit in a very different capacity. The Rec plans to open to limited hours for the first three weeks of the semester, but after Labor Day they are planning to go back to regular hours, or as close to them as possible.

To make everything as safe as possible, the Rec will adopt a new hourly system. To use any of the equipment you have to first sign up for a 90-minute window on the College’s Wellness app. After you sign up you are free to get your exercise fix in, as long as you wear a mask at all times.

Another key component of the College’s campus recreation facilities and program is intramural sports. Though they’re going to look a little different this year, there will still be lots of competitions for you to sign up for, like a punt pass and kick competition. Outdoor programs, like camping and bike trips will also be present, but on-campus only.

And even though the Tribe may be taking a hiatus from intercollegiate competitions, sports are slowly re-emerging from their pandemic-induced hibernation. At long last, many of the professional sports so coveted by fans have returned and have brought with them opportunities to enjoy them with friends — with social distance precautions in mind.

Each league is using some combination of a shortened season and expanded playoff pool. The great thing about sports is being able to watch them with friends, and during the semester there are tons of ways to get creative with your watch parties. You can use Zoom to watch games, using the Cox Contour cable tv subscription you get through the College. Just type tv.wm.edu into your browser, and you’ll have access to all of the major TV channels and sports games.

The NHL playoffs have already started, and the NBA plans to start playoffs Aug. 17. The WNBA and MLB will have their regular seasons go for a little longer, with playoffs starting in early September and early October respectively. Don’t let being stuck inside your dorm restrict your ability to bond over sports with friends and start planning your virtual playoff watch parties now.

However, sports activities do not need to be restricted to a screen. Though to some Williamsburg may be a swamp-town, it does give one huge advantage, which is its warm — albeit humid — weather. If you went to school in a northern state, come September and October temperatures would be dropping, and it would be near impossible to enjoy the outdoors for long periods of time without wearing layers and experiencing uncomfortable weather conditions. However, in Williamsburg you can be outside, socially distanced and safe, for at least the first few months of the semester. This is great, especially now when one of the few places you can safely go to escape your dorm room is the outdoors. There are lots of outdoor exercise options in and around the College that allow you to be socially distanced with your mask on.

If you enjoy running, walking or biking, try exploring Colonial Williamsburg one day. Not only will you get a nice workout but you can also see all of the different animals, including cows, sheep and horses.

The College also has lots of great fields around campus that offer a great space to engage in whatever athletic activity you want, as long as you wear your masks and stay socially distanced. There are lots of sports-related activities you can do without people, from kicking a soccer ball around to practicing passing a volleyball to yourself. Not only will some outdoor activity give you a nice mental break from being inside your dorm room and working, but it also provides a great opportunity to relax and focus on your mental and physical health, something that is super important during the school year.

It’s safe to say that no one is more bummed about fall sports being cancelled than the sports editors, but that doesn’t mean sports still can’t be enjoyed by everyone this semester. Whether you decide to use some of the information in this article, the most important thing is that no matter what athletic or outdoor activity you participate in, you do it in a way that’s safe for you and for others. Your health and the health of everyone else around you is the most important thing. We’ll be looking forward to seeing you at a Tribe game next year.