Tucked away in the back corner of Turner Gym sits the Ellis Fitness Room, a place that countless Wildcats call home. On a typical day in Westminster’s weight room, athletes of all ages work out for a sport or exercise together in a weight lifting class. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically altered the weight room’s day-to-day functioning. The pandemic has forced all aspects of Westminster life to adapt, and the Ellis Fitness Room is no different. The CDC reports that indoor activities are at a high-risk for spreading COVID-19, so precautions have been taken in order to allow athletes to stay safe in the weight room.
“In a normal year, there was no limit on the capacity of the weight room, but now the number of athletes is restricted,” said head strength coach Eric Lougas.
This year, students who have had the opportunity to access the weight room are enjoying some of its new renovations, which includes a turf speed and agility training site. Athletes can work out in the morning for a sport, or participate in a weight-lifting class that occurs during the school day.
“I sometimes go in the morning to work out for football, and I also do a weight-lifting class,” said junior Jim Davis.
The precautions in the weight room have remained the same since June, when students first started working out on campus. They have followed the rules required by Westminster, which are based on the Georgia High School Association’s (GHSA) guidelines.
“Since June, we have adhered to the school’s policies, which go above and beyond the GHSA’s,” said Lougas.
The GHSA’s only guidelines for lifting during the pandemic are that any equipment used by an athlete during a workout be cleaned prior to use by any other athlete. Westminster has added extra guidelines like limiting the student capacity of the weight room. The social distancing rules that Westminster requires in the classroom must also be followed in the weight room.
“We always have to wear a mask while we work out in the weight room,” said Davis. “The coaches are also always making sure that we are socially distanced.”
Even though it may be uncomfortable to wear a mask while doing strenuous exercise, athletes have been forced to adjust, as safety is the number one priority for everyone.
The CDC also reports that COVID-19 can be spread through contaminated surfaces, which is why the weight room is properly sanitized every day by facilities staff. They spray disinfectant, which can greatly decrease the spread of disease via weight-room surfaces and equipment, allowing the weight room to be safe and ready for use by the next day, and even the next class period. Students are also required to do their own sanitizing while they are inside the weight room.
“Every time we use a weight machine, we have to wipe it down,” said sophomore John Collier. “We also can’t share weight racks.”
The strict rules that must be followed in the weight room, such as mandatory masks and social distancing, may not be ideal but are required to ensure everyone’s safety. The coaches are working to ensure that the athletes can continue to utilize the weight room as the pandemic continues to develop.
“We just want to make sure that our athletes can continue to work out while still being in a safe environment,” said Lougas.
Even with all of the obstacles athletes are facing in the weight room, they have adjusted well and found success. This year, two athletes have already etched their names in the Westminster record books for the squat and the bench press. Ejike Adele, senior football player and Dartmouth football commit, has already put himself on the record board this year.
“Ejike got 540 pounds on the squat for two reps and he is probably going to improve on that even more by the end of the year,” said Lougas.
Senior varsity softball and basketball player Hallie Schiff also left a mark on the record board for the bench press.
“Her bench press number, 145 pounds, was enough to get on the record board and is very impressive for her height and weight,” said Lougas.
These seniors aren’t the only ones benefiting from extra time in the weight room. Athletes from ninth through twelfth grade have shown promise all year, even while under these current circumstances regarding COVID-19.
“There have been a lot of really good numbers from students that have been progressing well all year,” said Lougas. “They will only get better as the year goes on.”
Westminster athletes have been very resilient, getting off to a great start in the weight room despite new guidelines. They understand that these guidelines are imperative to their continued success in the classroom and in the weight room and will continue to demonstrate a willingness to adjust that COVID-19 has demanded of all members of the Westminster community.