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Sunday Telegram (Massachusetts)
WORCESTER -—Last summer, Bette Carr started her daily walking program at Worcester State University's outdoor track.
"It's my new commitment," said Carr, a retired Worcester Public Schools principal and a resident of Paxton.
When winter came, Carr moved her workout inside to the elevated track above Worcester State's competition gymnasium, one of the features of the university's state-of-the-art Wellness Center that opened last August.
Worcester State's indoor and outdoor tracks are available free to the public, and for the first time this summer, Worcester State is offering community and alumni memberships to its fantastic, two-level, 9,000-square foot DeFeudis Fitness Center, which includes the latest in cardio and weight-lifting equipment.
"It's beautiful," Carr said. "It's just a wonderful resource."
Likewise, Quinsigamond Community College offers memberships to the public to its athletic center, which includes cardio and weight equipment as well as group exercise classes like yoga, indoor cycling, boot camp and full-body toning.
"Some people call it the best-kept secret," said Lisa Gurnick, QCC's director of athletics and fitness.
Recreation and fitness is vital on college campuses for athletes and non-athletes, and student access, of course, is the top priority of local college athletic and recreation facilities, as well as convenience for faculty and staff, but usage is available to other groups as well.
WPI, Assumption and Fitchburg State offer alumni memberships to their recreation centers.
Additionally, Assumption's department of recreation has been offering American Red Cross certified swimming lessons at the Plourde Center each fall and spring for more than 20 years. The Learn-to-Swim program is open to the public.
"You don't have to have a connection to Assumption," Assumption director of recreation Mike Rodier said. "If you have a son or daughter that wants to learn to swim, it's a great program."
Like at Worcester State, the track at Fitchburg State's Elliot Field Athletic Complex on Pearl Hill Road is available free to the public as long as there is no practice or competition going on.
The November Project, a free community fitness program, uses Holy Cross' Fitton Field on Wednesday mornings for its weekly workout.
When Carr started using the indoor track at Worcester State, she met up with old friend Connie Ouellette of Worcester. The enthusiastic pair gets together at Worcester State every morning at 6 a.m. The indoor track is open to the public from 6-10 a.m., Monday through Friday.
"We're usually there and waiting for the doors to open at 6," said Ouellette, a retired Worcester Public Schools teacher who is a literacy tutor at Burncoat Prep.
It's 11 laps for a mile, and Carr and Ouellette walk three miles a day.
"I think it's wonderful," said Ouellette, a Worcester resident. "I head over there before work, and it's how I start my day. I'm grateful it's open at that hour."
Ouellette and Carr started their walk outside on a recent Monday morning, but when the humidity got to be too much, they moved to the climate-controlled indoor track.
"It's good to hook up with somebody I knew," Carr said, "and it's an incentive to have a partner to walk with. The time goes by a lot faster."
Worcester State fitness center manager Dean Bowen said so far this summer about 20-35 people use the indoor track on a daily basis. And it's not just for walking.
"You can walk, run, skip, hop," Bowen said.
Carr has recently taken advantage of the new community and alumni memberships available to Worcester State's fitness center, where she uses weights, the rowing machine and treadmill.
Worcester State is offering summer memberships (June 1-Aug. 31) to its fitness center for just $25. The fitness center features cardio equipment, more than 12 tons of weights, functional trainers and a Keiser resistance circuit. That membership fee also includes a free fitness orientation on the equipment and use of Worcester State's multipurpose gym.
Bowen said the fitness center has added about 30 new members, a 50/50 split between members of the community and alums, since the new memberships became available this summer.
"Word is slowly getting out," he said. "We don't offer tanning, babysitting or a pool, but if you're looking to just come and move it's a great opportunity."
The membership fee will change at the start of the school year. Information on WSU's membership and hours can be found at www.worcester.edu/wellness-center.
The Richard M. Korzec Golf Simulator, located on the second level of Worcester State's Wellness Center, is available to the public for $9 an hour. Reservations are required.
The outdoor track at Worcester State is open from sunup until sundown, again, as long as there is no practice or competition occurring on or around Coughlin Field.
On a hot afternoon last week, there were a handful of students working out at Quinsigamond's fitness center, and about eight women taking part in a lunchtime full-body toning class in the downstairs group exercise studio.
Cardio machines, a punching bag, speed bag, mats and resistance bands are located on the upper level of QCC's fitness center. The school removed its pool about eight years ago, Gurnick said, and that area, located on a lower level, is where the free weights and weight machines are now.
"We try to keep up with the latest trends in working out," said Josh Cole, QCC's assistant manager of athletics and fitness.
QCC fitness center members can use the gym, locker rooms, showers and sauna. They also get free admission to QCC basketball games during the season, which, Gurnick said, is another nice way to bring the community together.
Information about QCC athletic center memberships, as well as hours, which vary in the summer, can be found at www.QCC.edu/athletics.
Gurnick said, including students, people of all ages use the QCC athletic center. "It's a good variety," Cole added.
Carr and Ouellette are both Worcester State alums, and Ouellette, who has walked on the track and on the perimeter of the campus for many years, watched with great interest as Worcester State's Wellness Center was being built.
As the building approaches its one-year anniversary opening date, she, like many others, has been thrilled with the finished product.
"I'm excited," Ouellette said. "As a community member, it's great using the indoor track, and I was hoping I could get a (fitness center) membership, which has come to fruition. It's a great facility; it's so nice and so new. We utilize it year round."
-Contact Jennifer Toland at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @JenTandG.
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