Vaibhav Sharma, Photo Editor

While many Yale students have distant memories of exercise classes, a small cohort is still attending in-person spinning classes at Payne Whitney Gymnasium this fall.

Though Payne Whitney staff initially planned to offer a series of in-person, socially distanced classes, the only remaining class on the schedule is Tayah Turocy’s GRD ’24 spin class, which meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. Turocy, a third-year graduate student studying chemical biology, has been teaching spinning classes at the gym for more than two years. With COVID-19 affecting Payne Whitney operations this fall, Turocy has adapted the spin class to a socially distanced format that aligns with the health and safety guidelines of Yale and Connecticut.

“We are very proud of the efforts of our Campus Recreation team to continue to offer as many recreational experiences as possible to our student body,” Senior Associate Athletic Director Anthony Diaz said. “On-site classes are open to in-residence undergraduate, graduate and professional students. Numbers are modest, but all registered students have attended nearly every class.”

The class occurs as long as Payne Whitney remains open, Diaz said, and does not follow the department’s phasing timeline for varsity team workouts.

In previous years, group exercise class offerings have included yoga, boxing, Zumba, ballet and more. The array of classes was available to all Yale affiliates at various times throughout the week. Many undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and staff would attend their favorite workouts at times ranging from early mornings to late nights.

This year, most instructors are teaching their classes on Zoom. For example, the Yale community can join Ali Bailey for core workouts at 7 a.m. on Mondays or practice ballet skills with Ann Cowlin at 6:15 p.m. on Thursdays. But for in-residence students, Turocy’s evening spin class is an in-person alternative and a chance to get back in the gym with other community members.

“When [Diaz] was pitching these ideas, obviously I was hesitant and said I would teach under the right conditions,” Turocy said. “But he walked us through his plan, we had a Zoom meeting, he showed us around the rooms and made us feel safe. I do think that’s why the gym this year hasn’t had as much participation in these classes — we originally thought a lot of people would sign up — but I think people still associate the gym with germs. But there are really safe ways to do it and I think Payne Whitney has been incredible in the methods that it’s been using.”

To host the spin class, Turocy and the rest of the Payne Whitney staff are taking careful precautions. The class — which used to be held in a smaller basement room without windows — is now held in one of the fifth-floor gymnasiums, with open windows and much more space. Spin bikes are positioned at least 12 feet apart and are sanitized before and after riding. Staff use an electrostatic sprayer after classes to ensure the equipment is thoroughly cleaned. Masks are required throughout the ride.

Turocy noted that she usually holds classes of four to six attendees spread out across the room. In past years, when students jumped around between classes, attending different ones each week, she met lots of new people and had larger classes. Now that students have to reserve a spot in her spin class in advance and only have one option, Turocy said that she sees mostly the same faces.

Turocy first fell in love with spinning in her junior year of college, and she started teaching just one year later. When she was searching for graduate programs, she was also reaching out to schools’ athletic centers for teaching opportunities. She toured Payne Whitney and ended up taking the open spin instructor job when she chose Yale for its chemistry program. In her chemistry lab, Turocy works on developing probiotics and prebiotics to help with colorectal cancer prevention. Because her day-to-day schedule at the lab can be busy, she loves teaching early-morning classes and thrives off the community atmosphere that her classes create.

While the experience of group fitness during COVID-19 is new to all, Turocy said that one unexpected difficulty is learning to teach her class with a mask on. Normally, she likes to yell to encourage her riders to push their limits; she said that she has never needed a microphone to teach in the past. Now, she uses a microphone to avoid yelling through her mask.

“Tayah is a great spin instructor, and she always has such positive energy,” said Samantha Rossano GRD ’22, a doctoral candidate who frequents Turocy’s class. “She’s very encouraging during the class and pushes us to our max effort. Also, her playlists are incredible and make the classes so much fun.”

Students can register online for exercise classes at Payne Whitney.

Alessa Kim-Panero |