Whether it’s a gym treadmill class or studio one like Barry’s Bootcamp, treadmill classes are a growing fitness trend. Why are so many people ready to hop on a machine that has been long avoided by runners or used as a ‘last resort’ in training?
“The boutique fitness industry is exploding in general because people love to challenge themselves in a group setting,” says Keith Kimble, owner of Runn Chicago. “Treadmill studios have finally brought this to running. Indoor running is particularly good for bringing a wide variety of ability levels together; you’re on a treadmill so you can’t get left behind!”
If you’re ready to see what a class is all about, we talked to the experts to find out everything you should know before you set foot in the studio and hit the ‘mill running.
THE TREADMILLS MAY SEEM FOREIGN AT FIRST
Depending on the class you attend, you may find yourself hopping on a type of treadmill you’ve never used before. This isn’t always the case — for example, Runn Chicago and Equinox gyms use the LifeFitness Integrity Series many regular gym-goers are familiar with — but you may want to ask what treadmills the studio uses before you attend your first class so you go in with the right expectations.
There are a wide variety of treadmills on the market and all of them have the same basic features, but some studios use Woodway treadmills that feature a slatted belt that you may be unfamiliar with. Though this shouldn’t change your run too much — Chelsea Ley, director of programming at tread HAPPY in Virginia, says the custom-built treadmills reduce impact and offer a smooth ride — it can be intimidating at first if you’re attending a new fitness class. If you’re at all concerned, ask for a tour of the studio so you can eyeball the equipment; if the treadmill is foreign to you, come early, introduce yourself to the instructor and ask for a test run, then get excited for a new running experience.
YOU’LL GET IN SOME SERIOUS MILEAGE
For non-runners, hearing some classes have you running up to seven miles might come as a shock. The good news is, these aren’t seven straight miles run at one consistent pace. Thanks to intervals and the ability to go at your own pace, that is the maximum mileage you can expect to get. Walk breaks are absolutely acceptable and you don’t have to keep the same pace as the person next to you to be able to run side-by-side.
Here’s how they do it at tread HAPPY: “Our run-specific classes are either 45 or 60 minutes, but they are segmented into working and recovery rounds so clients have an option to slow down their speed/walk during recoveries or run through them,” explains Ley. “Each ‘working’ segment is only 8–10 minutes long, which really makes the experience accessible to everyone. A client who runs through all of the recovery blocks will typically get about 5–6 miles in our 45-minute class and 6–7 in our 60-minute class.”
If you are a first-timer and start with a low speed and walk your recovery sections, you won’t get so close to that maximum mileage that the workout isn’t doable. As you would in spin class, be sure to take the class at your own pace and, if you need a break, don’t be afraid to take one!
CLASSES KEEP YOU ON YOUR TOES
As mileage can vary, so does the type of running you are doing. You aren’t just changing up your speed in treadmill classes, but you’ll be changing up your incline, as well.
“Things change constantly — faster, slower, uphills, downhills — so you’ll never get bored,” shares Kimble. “Our music playlists are set up to have something for everyone, so when a hill gets overwhelming, a favorite song you haven’t heard in forever just might get you through it.”
In addition to running, studios often throw in a core, arm or stretching and foam-rolling segment so your cardio routine becomes more well-rounded (and to make sure no two classes feel the same).
THE TREADMILL HAS A NEW REPUTATION
Thanks to treadmill classes, it is safe to say the treadmill is no longer the dreadmill. It has been said that treadmills were once used in prisons as a form of labor and though the treadmill may feel at times like a present day torture device, the days of slogging along on the belt are behind us.
“So many runners who exclusively run outside are always surprised by how much fun they have in a class and how much the programming can add to their current routines,” shares Ley. “They are such a fun and helpful gateway into the sport of running for beginners while they also simultaneously provide a challenging training tool for those more experienced!”
Thanks to treadmill classes, people are actually excited about hopping on the machine — even on a sunny day — and getting in a workout.
TREADMILL CLASSES ARE FOR EVERYONE
No matter your experience, you can join a treadmill class. If you’re worried, Kimble says you can even start out by walking and just let it all come to you over time.
“Running has long been a solitary pursuit, even by runners who train in groups (this is especially true of treadmill use in more traditional gyms),” admits Ley. “A treadmill group class in one of the only settings where so many individuals of varying backgrounds and ability levels can run together — all going at their own pace and yet all cross the finish line at the same time.”
Ley says they give newcomers a full overview of the treadmill and can even connect them with a local specialty running store to get fit for the proper shoes before making classes a regular part of their routine. No matter your experience level, the guidance you receive from your fellow classmates and the staff makes you feel like a veteran in no time.