Michael P. O’Brien Athletic and Recreation Center Adapts to Mitigate Spread of COVID-19

Written By: Olivia Sothoron

With the reopening of St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) for the return of students, the Michael P. O’Brien Athletic and Recreation Center (MPOARC)  rules and regulations have been adapted in order to reopen for the use of students. Although students, staff and faculty are able to return to the MPOARC, exercise this year looks very different, as the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the College to institute various limitations to mitigate the spread of the virus. 

The MPOARC website lists the various guidelines which must be followed in order to use the facility, including: completing health screening and a temperature check upon entry, arriving in workout attire (no use of locker rooms), wearing a face mask at all times and wiping down equipment after use. In addition, the purchase of guest passes is not permitted this year in order to prevent people outside of the SMCM community from entering into the facilities. 

Another new guideline in place for the MPOARC requires all who wish to use the facilities to register for a specific time to use the equipment. In order to register for a time slot, one must download the IMLeagues application and create an account. Then, through the app, one can select the equipment which they wish to use, and they can reserve a time slot for that equipment. Time slots are limited to 45 minutes, before that time is up, patrons must clean their equipment and leave. After the patron leaves, an employee of the MPOARC will also wipe down the equipment, ensuring that it is properly sterilized before the next time slot. 

Lily Pohlenz (‘21) typically goes to the MPOARC between four and six times each week, where she visits both the fitness center for weightlifting as well as the cardio room, where she likes to use the stairmaster. In addition, since Pohlenz is a member of the SMCM Women’s Basketball Team, she will visit the auxiliary gymnasium to shoot around. 

Although Pohlenz agrees with the efforts being taken to prevent the spread of the virus, she expressed wishes to have an extra ten minutes added to each time slot to allow for her to thoroughly clean her equipment upon finishing her workout. She explained: “Sometimes I find myself just quickly wiping down and not really thoroughly cleaning the equipment I used just because I feel like I am short on time. The ARC employees do come by after we leave and clean all of the equipment for a second time, though I definitely would appreciate at least a full 60 minutes when working out.”

Pohlenz explained that IMLeagues is fairly easy to navigate, and she recommends that one register at least 48 hours in advance of their desired workout time in order to reserve the equipment and time slot they desire. Pohlenz remarked that she thinks having to reserve a time slot is good not only because it limits the amount of people who can use the facilities at one time, but also because it “is a great way to motivate people to go to the gym.” She continued, “If you have to sign up to workout, then you are more likely to go because you went through all of the effort of signing up in advance.”

However, Pohlenz mentioned that having to wear a mask, although necessary, complicates physical activity. It causes her to take more frequent breaks in order to avoid becoming lightheaded while engaging in extraneous physical activity. She also stated that wearing a mask during exercise is definitely more conducive to light intensity workouts, however, workouts of a higher intensity can be difficult with a mask as they make it more difficult to breathe. Pohlenz explained, “I have been and will continue to wear my mask while working out, because I do not want to get sick and I also want the ARC to stay open, but sometimes it is a tad bit difficult.”

It is obvious that wearing a mask is not ideal in an exercise setting, however, as Pohlenz explains, it is more important to be grateful that the MPOARC is open for use. Pohlenz stated, “I am just thankful that the gym is open and I would much rather be slightly light headed/irritated with my mask on than actually be sick with COVID and not be allowed to workout!”

For more information on the new guidelines or to make a reservation, visit the MPOARC website at smcmathletics.com. For more information on the College’s policies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 around campus, visit the COVID-19 Dashboard on the College’s website.

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