If, during treadmill workout classes, your transition from a sprint to a recovery interval involves fumbling with buttons for a full minute while gripping the machine with the other hand so you don’t go flying, we’ve got news you’re going to like.
Boutique fitness studio TheRun just opened on 25th Street in New York City’s Flatiron District, and plans to retread the group treadmill class, with Technogym machines that automatically adjust speed and incline while you run (this is some fitness-of-the future stuff).
It’s just the latest example of the treadmill’s transformation from yawnsville gym machine on solo workout days to group fitness class star. Strictly-running spot Mile High Run Club opened in Noho last November, and strength-and-“treads” brands like Barry’s Bootcamp and OrangeTheory are expanding in the Big Apple and across the country at race pace.
TheRun is meant to appeal to boutique fitness enthusiasts and serious pavement pounders, but founder John Henwood definitely has both sneakers firmly planted in the serious category. A former Olympian, he’s a renowned runner (who’s won 21 New York Road Runner races) and a coach who’s worked with everyone from young record-breaking star Mary Cain to racing newbie Ivanka Trump.
TheRun, he says, was born out of a desire to coach runners of all different abilities at the same time. “It’s all runners of different abilities next to each other,” he says. “It’s a five-minute mile next to a 12-minute mile, both pushing and running as hard as they can, and the 12-minute mile is not feeling left behind. That doesn’t really happen much in the park. They’re all getting the same coaching and the same hard workout, enjoying it, and getting good results.”
There are three class types at TheRun—Velocity, Endurance, and The Shaper. Velocity (45 minutes) involves lots of intervals for developing speed, Endurance (55 minutes) includes longer intervals with tempos and progression runs, and The Shaper pairs 30 minutes of running intervals with 15 minutes of drills to improve form, strength, and flexibility.
Whichever class you book, the running program is pre-set on every treadmill before you show up, and when you hop on, you type your personal pin number into the touchscreen so that it knows who you are.
The system then adjusts the class’ program around your personal base running pace (you can work with a coach to figure out yours if you’re not sure). When there’s a hill, the incline will automatically move, when there’s a sprint, the speed will automatically jump. If you ever need to slow down, you can manually adjust the speed, and the system will still pick up where you left off when the next interval starts.
The whole thing is incredibly freeing, since you can concentrate on your form and powering up hills instead of wondering if you heard the correct speed the instructor yelled out. I also felt like it pushed me harder, since my treadmill was dictating the speed that would challenge me, instead of me choosing my speed from with a range.
All of this happens in a dark room lined with small white lights, with music blasting and an instructor circling the room offering additional cues, guidance, and encouragement. “The music is a huge part,” Henwood says. “It can take you out of the grind of the workout.”
Overall, the studio is small but chic, with 20 treadmills, a hallway with lockers, and petite locker rooms with two showers (stocked with Rituals products) each for men and women.
Which is to say that if the studio catches on, it may get as crowded as the Central Park loop on a sunny Sunday. “Running is huge here in New York,” Henwood says, “and it’s just getting bigger and bigger.” —Lisa Elaine Held
TheRun, $34 per class, 24 W. 25th St., between Fifth and Sixth Aves., Flatiron, New York, NY, 10010, 646-682-9076, www.the-run.com
(Photos: Lisa Elaine Held for Well+Good)