WRC updates facilities, hours

ELIZABETH KELSEY, News Editor

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Students will soon notice an expansion in the hours of the UNI Wellness and Recreation Center (WRC), thanks to a new functional fitness space which will be available for drop-in workouts during the hours when the WRC’s main fitness center is closed for classes.

Christopher Denison, Director of Recreation Services, explained that for many years, the WRC’s fitness areas have been reserved during the hours of 8-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. for academic courses such as Dimensions of Well-Being labs and Department of Kinesiology classes. Under that system, UNI students could not access the WRC for drop-in workouts during those hours.

“We’ve been living in that schedule since 1998, when we opened the building,” Denison said. “Over the course of the last 21 years, the number of [Dimensions of Well-Being] labs has shrunk, just as part of changes in the curriculum of the university, so it’s no longer necessary to hold the entire WRC closed.”

After observing these curricular shifts, Recreation Services staff were able to make a change that will ensure there is at least one area of the WRC open for student use at all times.

Over the last few months, the former WRC Studio 87 has been renovated into the Panther Performance Center (PPC). This newly remodeled functional fitness space is designed to promote high-intensity interval training workouts, utilizing both an open training space and a semi-private space for those who want their own cross-training room. The center will be open more than 40 hours a week and will be used both for functional training classes and drop-in individual workouts.

Denison explained that, although the WRC’s activity and racquetball courts, indoor track and free weight room will still be reserved during academic hours, the new PPC will be open for drop-in workouts during those times. In turn, when the other spaces are open to students over the noon hour and during the evenings, the PPC will host functional fitness classes. This means that, at any given time throughout the day, UNI students will now have a space available to use for drop-in workouts in the WRC.

“We are very excited to offer new opportunities for students to pursue their fitness and wellness goals and appreciate the collaborative environment that Recreation Services has with our WRC academic peers,” Denison said.

The room now hosts a wide variety of unique workout equipment, including fitness sleds, tires, sledgehammers, assault bikes, sandbags, battle ropes and even a ski machine. More “traditional” equipment, such as kettlebells, plyo boxes, a rowing machine and pull-up bars are also included in the center, which features half-mat, half-turf flooring.

“The variety of equipment that the UNI Recreation Services staff decided to include in the new Panther Performance Center will create new and unique training and programming opportunities,” said Alex Long, WRC personal trainer and kinesiology graduate student. “Some of the new equipment, commonly found in functional fitness gyms, has vastly increased in popularity over the last ten years.”

According to Mayo Clinic, functional fitness exercises “train your muscles to work together and prepare them for daily tasks by simulating common movements you might do at home, at work or in sports.” The exercise style is designed to make everyday tasks, such as carrying groceries or climbing stairs, easier and more efficient.

While some functional fitness exercises use a person’s own body weight, such as squats and lunges, equipment such as the tires and battle ropes found in the PPC allows users to strengthen muscle groups by working them in unique ways.

During the Functional Fitness FX classes, included in the Fit Class Pass and scheduled to begin January 27, instructors will use this varied equipment for flipping, hitting and more.

“It’s exciting to offer cross-training styles of classes in this new space. The renovated space gives us an opportunity to offer a whole new spectrum of fitness equipment that we didn’t have the space for prior to the new room,” said fitness coordinator Dana Foster. “It is going to bring our group fitness classes up a level to challenge you and rediscover what ‘getting in shape’ means.”

Personal trainers will also be posting daily workouts and weekly goals to help students utilize the PPC to their best advantage.

Recreation Services staff are still installing remaining flooring and putting the final touches on the PPC, but Denison hopes that the new space will be open for student use next week. He said that he and his team are excited for students to experience what the PPC has to offer.

“Because we haven’t been able to offer these types of things in the past, some students have probably been going off campus and paying fitness facility memberships, which is unfortunate because every student is paying a mandatory recreation fee,” he said. “Now we have this new space. We think students are going to love what we’ve done.”