Group Treadmill Classes Give SoulCycle a Run for Its Money

PHOTO: Exercisers take Precision Running class at an Equinox Fitness Club in New York City.Equinox Fitness Clubs
Exercisers take Precision Running class at an Equinox Fitness Club in New York City.

Every Saturday morning, a pack of ten runners blasts through 45 minutes worth of sprints and hills. But rather than training on a track or the road, they take the Precision Running class held on a bank of treadmills at an Equinox Fitness Club in lower Manhattan.

Gyms all across the country are adding similar treadmill classes to their group fitness schedules in hopes they will do for the treadmill what SoulCycle has done for the stationary bike.

Most exercisers approach treadmill workouts as a necessary yet mind-numbing evil for burning calories and improving fitness, said David Siik, who created the Precision Running class concept for Equinox. By building a class around the machines, you establish a group dynamic and add a motivational push, he said.

“Creating complex and mathematical runs and presenting them in an exciting and easy-to-follow format creates a very inspired and engaging experience,” Siik said. “You will never be bored again on the treadmill -- that is a promise I make to everyone who takes this class.”

A typical treadmill workout starts with a few minutes of warm up, followed by a series of intervals choreographed with changes in pace and incline. It ends with a cool down, some stretching and work on the core muscles of the abs and back, an area where many runners are notoriously weak. Most workouts last between 30 and 90 minutes.

“Runners of all levels can do essentially the same routine and train together,” said Debora Warner, founder of Mile High Run Club, a treadmill class studio in Manhattan. “We have people who are training for their first race and some people training for ultra-marathons all in the same group.”

PHOTO: Debora Warner coaches a treadmill class at the Mile High Run Club in New York City.Courtesy Brad Barket
Debora Warner coaches a treadmill class at the Mile High Run Club in New York City.

Because they follow the same basic set of instructions but adjust the machine’s controls to suit their own personal ability, a 10-minute miler can run alongside a 6-minute miler and get a similar workout, Warner said.

The classes have proven so popular that Equinox has added half a dozen to the weekly schedule. Mile High’s prime time workouts in the mornings, evenings and weekends are often sold out and they’ve recently added six additional treadmills. Clubs like Barry’s Boot Camp in Nashville and Miami, and Tread in Dallas are also filling up their classes.

Considering the modern treadmill started out as a punishment for prisoners and spent decades in the lab as a tool for medical research -- according to scholars at Houston University -- the classes aren’t as tough a sell as you might think, Siik noted.

“[People] often just walk by a class, observe, and decide on their own, they want in on that,” he said.

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