According to Kathie Wheadon, Dalhousie University’s director of facility and business services, the closure of athletic facilities on March 15 was only supposed to be for about two weeks.
This obviously didn’t turn out to be the case. However, virtual fitness campaigns created in mere weeks kept the Dalhousie Tigers and the athletic department present on social media feeds throughout the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal: to keep students active at home.
“We were hopeful, at first, that we wouldn’t be closed long. We anticipated reopening,” said Wheadon. “But as each month passed and we were further delayed, [executive director, athletics and recreation] Tim [Maloney] organized a team to see what we could do online.”
Move More @ Home and Tigers Training Tips
The closures resulted in a virtual campaign called Move More at Home, announced on April 13.
In the program, participants take part in a weekly fitness challenge. For instance, one week participants were challenged to walk, run or travel 2.2 kilometres for as many days as possible in the week, or to complete 30 minutes of a chosen exercise. After each challenge, there is a draw amongst participants for two $50 gift cards from local businesses.
Maloney said it was important to encourage Dal students to stay active when most people were still subject to stay-at-home orders.
“It’s clear to most people that physical health impacts our mental and social well-being. We’re doing our best to provide resources to students to support them during the isolation period,” Maloney said.
Online e-sports tournaments and Tigers Training Tips also began mid-April. Tigers Training Tips is a video series the Dal Tigers made that introduced more challenges with an emphasis on skills and tricks in several sports. Dal athletes videotaped themselves performing the challenges for others to watch and learn from.
A team effort
On top of these campaigns, fitness and training programs continued virtually on the Dalplex’s website. Wheadon named several people vital to getting everything online.
“The fitness coordinator [Anne Falconer] found some staff to run programs from home, some who filmed themselves doing programs and sending them in. We sent these to our coordination and marketing team so the programs could go online. They help us figure out what went on our [social media] so we could reach out to as many people as we could,” Wheadon said.
On the Dal Tigers YouTube channel, a few virtual workouts earned roughly 250 views while some Training Tips videos had more than 100. On Facebook, one Training Tips video gathered 365 views. Maloney said across all platforms, Training Tips videos received more than 600 views each and workout videos exceeded 1,000.
“I think we did a decent job. With so many gyms and fitness apps out there that students use providing competition, we still had decent uptake,” Maloney said.
What will happen this fall, with school about to begin and many students not expected to return to Halifax for online classes?
“We are still filming [fitness] classes to put online. We’ll continue that for now,” Wheadon said. “The times have been difficult, but we are committed to playing a role in our student’s lives and giving them a vehicle that they can tap into to maintain their activity.”