A bicyclist riding on an off-road bike with the Richmond skyline in the background.
VCU Recreational Sports has put together a menu of virtual programs to help the community stay fit, including a #OutdoorSocialDistancingChallenge. (Courtesy photo)

Social distancing? VCU Recreational Sports is offering free virtual programming

A new library of programs includes everything from group fitness classes and solo outdoor challenges to escape rooms and eSports tournaments.

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The staff at VCU Recreational Sports was forced to punt when its facilities closed because of the COVID-19 virus. Forced to shutter in-person programs — including group fitness classes — the staff quickly began creating a menu of virtual programs that are free and available to anyone with an internet connection.

“The goal for us was keeping students part of the community even while they were isolated at home,” said Anthony Muscatello, assistant director of external relations for Recreational Sports in the Division of Student Affairs. “We didn’t have a library of ongoing programming prior to this. We turned around two months’ worth of work in two weeks.”

Virtual offerings range from fitness to intramural activities, Muscatello said.

“Group exercise was the easiest to translate to an online format,” Muscatello said. “We are also offering games through eSports tournaments and will be rolling out a #OutdoorSocialDistancingChallenge, which will be facilitated by our outdoor adventure program. We will provide people with a daily challenge and they have to document their challenge and get it back to us.”

Recreational Sports will also host virtual escape rooms where groups can participate in challenges through a Zoom meeting. “We will set the tone, provide a list of clues and your team works to solve the clues within a time limit,” Muscatello said.

A library of videos for parents, including one on helping build a child’s confidence about being in the water, also is being created.

“The online offerings will eventually be built into our normal operations,” Muscatello said. “Across the country, university rec centers are adapting to this online environment. Some students are not comfortable in a recreational environment or don’t have the time to participate in person.”

Initial offerings in Recreational Sports’ Virtual Programming include:

  •  Live online fitness classes taught by Recreational Sports staff
  •  Recorded classes from Recreational Sports partner Les Mills 
  •  Workouts of the day 
  •  Online eSports tournaments 
  •  Virtual escape rooms 
  •  Curated lists of fitness and outdoor resources and apps
  •  Activities for parents and children, including aquatics
  •  Family friendly activities and informal recreation activity instruction 

“The tools we use to recreate, exercise and connect may have changed, but our commitment to foster a thriving community has not,” said Derek Hottell, Ph.D., director of VCU Recreational Sports. “Although we may be practicing social distancing, we are not isolated. We are committed to the continued well-being of the VCU community and beyond.”