Tammy Gutierrez, top left, a fitness instructor at New Mexico State University, hosts a recent Aggie Fit class on Zoom. NMSU is now offering online fitness classes through the videoconferencing platform. | Photo courtesy NMSU

NMSU offers free online fitness classes amid statewide gym closures

The last fitness class Tammy Gutierrez taught at New Mexico State University was on March 18. The next day, gyms, recreation centers, health clubs and spas across New Mexico shuttered by order of the state’s health secretary to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

For Gutierrez, a longtime NMSU fitness instructor with a dedicated following of exercise enthusiasts, the closure of NMSU’s James B. Delamater Activity Center was disheartening as it abruptly ceased all in-person Aggie Fit classes for the foreseeable future.

“At first, we started limiting our class sizes and went from having 20 to 30 people in a class to only 10,” she said, “but then overnight, we had to cancel our classes – which was very traumatic.”

Recently, however, Gutierrez and other NMSU fitness instructors returned to teaching their popular Aggie Fit classes in a new online format offered through Zoom, a videoconferencing platform. More than 20 fitness classes are now live-streamed five days a week – at no cost to participants, regardless if they’re Aggie Fit members or not.

“Our online fitness classes are providing a sense of normalcy for people and a sense of community and belonging during this challenging time,” said Amanda Blair, Aggie Health and Wellness Center assistant director. “That’s because participants are able to reconnect with the people they knew in their yoga or aerobics classes. So far, everyone’s been enthusiastic to see their classmates in our new Zoom classes.”

After a two-week hiatus, a selection of Aggie Fit classes moved online beginning April 6. But plans to offer online fitness classes had been well underway before the coronavirus pandemic forced the closure of NMSU’s Activity Center, Blair said. These efforts, she added, ultimately aided in the quick launch of the Zoom class series.

“Online programming had been on the back burner and something we were already looking into,” she said.

The current online offerings include a mix of yoga and aerobics classes – all accessible on the NMSU Recreational Sports website via the “Schedules” tab. NMSU students, staff or faculty who want to participate in a class must first create a Zoom account and download the app on a computer or mobile device. Then, they can join a class by either clicking the Zoom links on the Aggie Fit fitness schedule or entering the meeting ID directly in Zoom.

The response so far from online participants has been largely positive, Gutierrez said.

“Because we’re offering a way for our community to stay connected and stay physically fit during these stressful times, people are so grateful,” she said.

Gutierrez and Blair acknowledge that the online classes differ from traditional classes and present unique challenges. For example, participants may not have access to free weights that some classes require, so instructors encourage them to use items they may have in their homes, such as heavy water jugs or canned goods.

But the move to Zoom hasn’t affected the quality of the classes, Blair said, and participants with all levels of experience can benefit from the workouts. Gutierrez noted that the Zoom classes give participants the convenience of exercising in the comfort of their homes, leaving behind the hassle of having to go to the Activity Center between work or class breaks.

To ensure online participants have the best experience possible, Gutierrez is placing more emphasis on her verbal instructions when she teaches on Zoom, she said.

“They’re relying on my voice to help coach them through each move,” she said, “since I’m not able to help them in person.”

Gutierrez also encourages participants in her Zoom classes to play music during her workouts – but keeping themselves on mute – to keep themselves motivated.

The current roster of Aggie Fit classes is available through Zoom until May 15. But, Blair said, plans are in the works to continue the classes through the summer and fall.

“The feedback I’ve received is good,” she said, “so I definitely envision us having a presence online and growing our offerings.”

Author: Carlos Andres Lopez – NMSU


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