To the elation of gym rats around campus, the Rudolf Fitness Center (RFC) has officially opened for the commencement of the 2020 fall semester with modified procedures in place. 

The RFC’s professional staff worked throughout the summer by deliberating and constructing potential plans that optimized the facility’s usage to serve students best, while also making sure to adhere stringently by local, state and federal guidelines. 

The team worked directly with local health officials and brought in the Spokane Regional Health District once the plan had been modeled to get official authorization to resume operations.

“It has been a very difficult summer because local, state and federal guidelines change constantly,” said Jose Hernadez, director of fitness center operations. “But the truth is that the way we got this done with the motivation to have students back in the facility safely, and in a way where everyone will be comfortable using the facility that we know that the students want to use, so this was designed specifically for the students.” 

After hosting a soft opening throughout last week, the RFC officially opened to all of its patrons on Monday. The gym is attempting to maintain as many of their procedural habits from years past as possible, in part by keeping the hours on both weekdays and weekends largely consistent with the prior schedule the RFC hosted before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are trying everything in our power not to disturb or change much of the feel of the RFC,” Hernandez said. “There is already a huge change with this pandemic, so when it comes to the schedule, what we’re trying to do is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays.”

While many of the RFC’s operations have remained congruent with what returning patrons are accustomed to, the physical and procedural set up for exercise within the RFC has been widely moderated to construct a safe environment for students.

Between the fieldhouse which has now been outfitted with 30 pieces of cardio equipment, the large studio, the downstairs section and the upstairs section, the RFC has 45 separate exercise stations fit available for use. Students can reserve a particular one of the stations for a 45 minute session through IMLeagues, and once a session is finished, the staff spends 30 minutes thoroughly sanitizing the equipment before the next scheduled appointment. 

The staff is equipped and wearing a face mask, face shield and gloves while going through and sanitizing each station, and all pieces of equipment are extensively cleaned after all usage, although the RFC still provides complimentary wipes that students can use on their equipment before and after use if they want to.

“Above all for us is thoroughness and safety,” said student supervisor Andrew Carlson. “We want to additionally provide outstanding customer service too, but above even that is a desire by our team to be thorough and safe in everything we handle.”

There are a wide array of cardiovascular machines such as ellipticals, stationary bikes and AMTs in the fieldhouse and upstairs that are available to be reserved, as well as five X-bikes in the large studio, and a double-sided squat rack, a Smith Machine, and three cable apparatus in the previous free weight area downstairs. 

Some of the stations come equipped with a mat, a bench, or both and certain stations are able to support additional pieces of equipment.

This equipment — such as dumbbells, kettlebells, French curl bars and medicine balls — can be checked out by students at the front desk after their Power Apps are screened for potential COVID-19 symptoms upon entering the facility. For stations that support auxiliary equipment, which are all of those located on courts 1 and 2 of the fieldhouse and the first floor lifting area, you can borrow multiple pieces of equipment or check out equipment during your workout through a cone communication system, where the RFC staff will wheel all of the rented amenities to your station with a cart.

“We’re really proud of all of the work we’ve put in to create such great customer service for our students in this system,” Carlson said. “We understand that these are difficult times so want to make sure that the RFC is a place they can go to forget about everything else, and as staff we want to alleviate any extraneous tensions possible.”

Unfortunately, with all of the protocols in place and with the adjustments to the RFC’s set up as well, the swimming pool and basketball courts are out of commission for standard use for the foreseeable future. Patrons also will no longer have access to any of the locker room areas or amenities, as the RFC staff is asking that you come already fitted into your exercise attire. 

Not all of the RFC’s supplementary functions are out of commision however. Two of the facilities most revered programs, intramurals and fitness classes, are still operating in amended formats.

Under the Phase 2 conditions which Washington currently abides by, only five students are allowed to be in-person for an exercise class; so for the moment, the RFC has deferred to using an entirely online based format for the four fitness classes that they have ready to start the year, HIT, Barre, yoga and jazzercise. 

Other formally held classes, such as spin, are being held off by the RFC until potentially the point where the state advances to Phase 3 because unique equipment is needed that remote patrons may not possess. But for the other four classes offered, the RFC is putting on its free week of fitness classes starting Sept. 8 for you to give them all a try. 

“We only have 85% of our student body returning in-person this semester, but we didn’t want to exclude that 15% not here by not accommodating them at all,” Carlson said. “These fitness classes benefit all students while increasing our serviceability.”

Intramurals have been adjusted to fit in with the new normal, but the RFC staff has managed to find innovative ways to make one of GU’s most coveted extracurricular programs still as viable and enjoyable as ever. Along with plans to bring  back the Go-the-Social-Distance Step Challenge introduced after spring break last semester, the team is putting on an entirely online 5K race, intramural golf tournaments, cornhole and esports competitions. 

“For us, intramurals are a priority because we know that intramurals are the No. 1 program in the Rudolf Fitness Center,” Hernandez said. “The biggest of all our innovations is esports; we’ve been researching extensively to make sure we’re careful with how we do it, but we want to get after it as soon as possible because we believe that it can become very popular.”

The RFC is making sure to dot its I’s and cross its T’s in every facet of its facility’s operations. The commitment the entirety of its staff has dedicated to implementing this recommencement plan is exemplified by the comprehensive model that the GU student body is now able to engage with at the RFC.

“We care so much about the ways that we can help out the students of this school, so we dedicated extensive care to coming up with this plan,” Hernandez said. “And safety is in the center of this plan, it always has been, but now even more than ever.”

Asher Ali is a sports editor. Follow him on Twitter: @asher_ali3.

Sports Editor

Major: Journalism / International Relations Because the ability to tell other people's stories within such a passionate community like GU's is an opportunity unlike any other.

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