Campus offers limited indoor excercise options for students, faculty
Last semester, the School of Education’s department of exercise science sponsored a ‘Journey to Fitness’ to motivate faculty and staff to walk outdoors in a month-long team walking competition, said Elaine Gregory, assistant professor for the SOE.
The contest was based on steps rather than time, speed or distance, so that participants at any fitness level could take part, she said.
But in a region that experiences an average of 137 days with temperatures below freezing, faculty and staff face the same limited options as students for continuing their new walking regiments or regular running routines.
Breathing colder, drier air through the mouth during strenuous activity may cause symptoms such as wheezing, chest tightness, coughing, chest pain and prolonged or unexpected shortness of breath, all of which are associated with exercise-induced asthma, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology.
Many non-asthmatic patients – up to 13 percent of the population – may experience symptoms, according to the academy. Extrapolated to Syracuse University, approximately 1,690 undergraduates may be affected by asthma associated with exercise, especially in cold weather. This may make running or walking outdoors more difficult as winter approaches.
Recreation Services provides students, faculty and staff with alternate options for indoor exercise.
Archbold Gym has 16 treadmills and 16 elliptical machines, according to Joseph Lore, assistant director of Recreation Services. The machines are almost always in use – with a waiting list – when the facility is open from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. or 1 a.m., he said. While some students patiently wait their turn, others find the stationary equipment undesirable.
‘There is just something about being (on a treadmill) in a line with people watching you. It just doesn’t feel natural,’ said Stephen Shane, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He said he prefers to run on an indoor track when weather prohibits him from exercising outdoors.
Lore says the running deck on a treadmill is lower impact than outdoor surfaces, but some faculty members can’t tolerate a treadmill, even for walking.
‘It’s boring,’ said Patti Blincoe, administrative specialist for the history department and member of the Journey to Fitness winning team, of the treadmill experience.
Recreation Services is not affiliated with the Journey to Fitness program, nor does it directly sponsor any outdoor walking programs. The former director of Recreation Services introduced a Noontime Running Program for faculty members in the late 70s, Lore said. They run outdoors regardless of the inclement weather, but they have been seen running on the university’s only indoor track at least one day a week, he said.
SU’s Athletic Department has a 200-meter tartan indoor track at Manley Field House, but it is a bus ride away from main campus. The track is available for use by current SU students, staff and faculty between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. most weekdays, said Barbara Henderson, assistant director of athletics and facilities manager.
The track is open to non-athletes during limited lunchtime hours due to tight scheduling of athletic teams, she said. The track team uses it as their sole indoor facility, and other teams use the track for winter conditioning.
Henderson estimated 40 to 50 walkers and runners frequent the track at the height of the winter months. Two small changing rooms with showers are available at the facility, but locker use is limited to daytime use. She said she has seen few, if any students among the track users.
Information about the availability of this facility is promoted by word of mouth alone, Henderson said. She did not know whether Recreation Services cites the Manley indoor track in department manuals.
‘I thought it was only for varsity athletes,’ Shane said, who had no previous knowledge that the track was open to the public.
Although Manley Field House is known as a competitive athletic environment, Shane said he would not be intimidated to run there as a non-athlete, but only because he could disguise himself as one.
‘I’m not big enough for football, but I could pass as a varsity golfer,’ he said.
Most students are also unaware that the Carrier Dome concourse is open for walking between 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on most weekdays. Blincoe said she plans to continue her daily walking regiment at the Dome throughout the winter months.
The facility has been available for walking for approximately 15 years, according to Pat Campbell, senior associate athletics director of the Dome, who said there are regularly about 10 to 12 participants, none of which are students.
Lore said the Manley Field House and Dome facilities are both affiliated with the Athletics Department rather than Recreation Services, but Campbell takes no responsibility for informing students about walking hours at the Dome.
‘It’s not really a program I’m going to go out and promote – that would be more of a Recreation Service thing.’ Campbell said. ‘We just make sure the facilities are available.’
Students who seek to run indoors are not welcome at the Dome.
‘There is a lot of activity on the concourse,’ Campbell said, who sees this rule as a necessary precaution to avoid accidents among participants and product deliveries to concessions.
Running on the Dome concourse’s concrete floor may not be a good idea, anyway, since treadmills provide a more even surface that is springy, according to SU athletic trainer Tim Neal.
‘Regular treadmills are less stressful,’ he said.
This is important because runners are subject to frequent injuries, such as foot sprains, stress fractures and shin splints, Neal said. He said he runs on a track made of tartan, a granular, rubberized material commonly used on track surfaces.
Two years ago the Dome had a real indoor track which was convenient to main campus staff, faculty and students, but prohibited for their use. Henderson said the Dome track was rarely open, even to the track team for regular practices, since it was always covered by Astroturf carpet.
The carpet could be unzipped in strips to expose the track, but was left covered for all but two track events: the Big East Track Conference and a New York statewide public high school meet, Henderson said. The track was removed when permanent Astroturf was installed for the 2005 football season.
Both the Manley Field House track and the Carrier Dome concourse are closed on weekends, and any weekdays that may interfere with events or event preparation. When open, both facilities offer limited three-hour time slots in mid-afternoon when students are likely to be in class, and faculty and staff may be seeking a non-strenuous lunch break from the work day.
Of the current indoor track location and hours, Shane said: ‘You can’t expect it to be convenient for everyone. But if it’s open, it’s a nice option.’
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