Students seek alternatives to SDFC through closures

Some students are finding new ways to exercise with fitness centers closed on campus

The Sun Devil Fitness Complexes on all four ASU campuses were hotspots for students to lift weights, play indoor sports, attend group workouts, swim and form connections with others — until the pandemic hit.

In an attempt to replace in-person workout classes, ASU has provided virtual classes for students as one way to stay in shape while many gyms off campus are still closed, partially open or available by appointment. 

On March 16, the University announced it would close all on-campus fitness centers until further notice in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19, leaving many students without an alternative. 

Noel Coker, a senior student studying criminology and criminal justice, once taught a cycling workout class when the SDFC was still fully operating but switched to teaching a "Butts and Guts" class via Zoom on Mondays and Fridays after the SDFC closed in-person operations. 

Coker explained that although she loves teaching, her greater desire is to encourage people to work out and have fun while doing it with a motivated group of students. 

“In in-person classes, it’s definitely easier to make friends, but we can still do it virtually, too,” Coker said. “I’ve had some regulars that come in and it’s been fun to meet people.”

Tiffany Harmanian, a sophomore studying biology, has not yet taken advantage of ASU’s virtual courses, but recently decided to invest in a stationary cycling bike to stay in shape. 

“At school, a big constant was going to the gym and something to look forward to,” Harmanian said. “So, I’ve kind of tried to maintain that whole mindset now.”

Without access to a gym, Harmanian says she has created her own workout space within her home, complete with resistance bands and a couple of eight-pound weights for strength training. 

Aysha Sam, a junior studying technological entrepreneurship and management, was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome in December and has been advised by her doctors to stay active. She said after the SFDC closed, her health has significantly worsened, which she believes is the reason she is developing Crohn's Disease. 

“I usually go to the gym to run, do weights and kind of get my blood pumping and that really helped my digestive system work,” Sam said. “So when the gyms aren’t open, it makes my symptoms worse.”

Although the SDFC is closed and has not released any plans for reopening, ASU is still charging students its $25 recreation fee for use of its programs and services. 

In late August, Sam took to Twitter to express her frustration with the University’s refusal to remove the fee from students’ tuition.

“The fact that the school isn’t allowing the gyms to be open, that we’re paying for, really bothers me because they’re not lowering tuition and they’re not doing anything to accommodate that,” Sam said. “I don’t think it’s fair."

According to ASU’s tuition webpage, the recreation fee, along with the health and wellness fee, student athletics fee, student programs fee and student services facility fee, which add up to $260 per semester, serve to “enrich the student experience.” 

Funds from the recreation fee are "used to provide intramurals, student employment opportunities, a broad array of fitness classes and workshops, events and programs," according to the Student Business Services page. 

Christiana Sletten, the associate director for Wellness and Sun Devil Fitness, did not respond to requests for comment from The State Press.

Reach the reporter at and follow @kaceywilson_ on Twitter. 

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