Sure, running in place might not seem as glamorous as, say, running through all five boroughs of the New York City Marathon, or exploring Paris by foot. But over the past few years, I’ve learned to appreciate and respect the treadmill as a killer training tool.
So when I was tasked with testing out Studio, the new app that's promising to get people to stop referring to this particular piece of gym equipment as the "dreadmill," I wasn't, well, dreading it. In fact, I couldn’t wait to jump on and get running.
Here’s what happened when I downloaded the app and laced up my sneakers to test it out.
From there, I found myself faced with a whole bunch of options. New classes are added every single day, so I literally had hundreds to choose from.
Studio’s premise is simple: You get on a treadmill at your gym or in your home (A-plus for convenience and being very on-trend!), cue up the app on your phone, pop in your headphones, and are immediately transported to what feels like a group treadmill class, not unlike Mile High Run Club, Barry’s Bootcamp, or Orangetheory. And just like at those classes, the instructor (there are 10 different ones to choose from) gives cues, motivation, and a few inspirational quotes to ensure a solid, sweaty workout.
Each class features a leaderboard where you can see who else has taken it and where they’re from. One day, I was running “with” people from Los Angeles, Biloxi, Denver, Houston, Miami, and Chattanooga.
Each class features a leaderboard where you can see who else has taken it and where they’re from. (Bonus: The names are accompanied by a photo. I’m happily married and all, but this could make for a great dating app extension. I’m just saying….) One day, I was running “with” people from Los Angeles, Biloxi, Denver, Houston, Miami, and Chattanooga.
The downside to the leaderboard is that if you don’t have an Apple Watch—I don’t—you have to run “unranked,” which means you don’t have quite as much data to go by. For example, you won’t see your heart rate on the screen in real time. I’m not a big data buff, so I was fine with it, but if you’re all about nabbing that top spot on the board, make sure your Apple Watch is charged and ready to run.
I ended up taking three Studio classes (on three different days—I’m not a total masochist), and definitely chose based on the class title and music selection. I scrolled right past Linkin Park Beast Mode Sprints, but perked up when I saw the HIIT Hip Hop and Hamilton options. Classes are all 20-, 30-, or 45-minutes long. Plus, they cater to all running levels, including beginner, intermediate, and advanced. (There are also walking-specific classes to choose from.)
The first class I took was a high-intensity interval training workout taught by Selena Watkins. The 30-minute intermediate class kicked off with Missy Elliot, so I was immediately ready to run. Watkins spoke clearly, had good energy, and gave good form tips throughout the workout, though her music transitions were a little choppy.
Next, I tried Tuesdays at the Track, a 20-minute intermediate workout with Shelly Ramoni. I didn’t love this one. The audio had an echo, which was distracting, and oftentimes, the music was drowning out Ramoni's cues, which was tough. The music—a “70s rumble” theme—wasn’t my favorite, but I did like the actual fartlek-style speed workout.
For my third and final sweat sesh, I opted for Megan Peterson’s 20-minute advanced Sprint Master class. This HIIT-based run was short, so I could really push myself. Peterson spoke clearly, which is always a bonus when something is audio-only, but it was weird when she quoted the American College of Sports Medicine. That felt less like she was standing in the middle of a bumpin’ studio and more like she was at a desk, reading from a book. (Though Peterson, if you have that book memorized, girl, power to you.) Plus, she played “My Songs Know What You Did In the Dark,” which got me pumped. If you’ve seen Pitch Perfect 2, you understand. I went from Ali the treadmill runner to Ali, lead vocalist for Das Sound Machine.
Each workout delivered—I broke a good ol’ sweat every time I hopped on the treadmill.
Throughout class, there’s a time countdown on the screen, so you always know how much of your session is left—though, I turned that off, because that, to me, makes a treadmill minute feel longer than waiting in line for one of those new healthy smoothies at Black Tap. At the end of class, you get a summary saying how many miles you covered, how long you ran, and how many FitCoins you earned. (FitCoins are Studio’s currency—you earn them every time you take a class, and right now they’re just for leaderboard status, but the Studio team says soon you’ll be able to redeem them for “real world prizes.")
The best part of Studio is that it's convenient, and each workout delivered—I broke a good ol’ sweat every time I hopped on the treadmill.
The downside, however, is that every instructor told me what speed at which to be running. To me, the beauty of group treadmill activities is that everyone is running together, but at their own pace. I would rather be told to run at my "push pace," to use an Orangetheory term, than to be told to run at five miles per hour. Inclines are fine to be universal, but paces vary so much by person. I scoured Studio’s reviews on iTunes, and one member mentioned this concern as well. The Studio team responded saying they’re working on it! Lisa Niren, former head coach at Peloton, just signed on as the company's director of content and programming, and under her direction, the team plans to start finding better ways to get runners to reach their individual potential rather than telling them exactly what pace to pop into the machine.
Aside for the forthcoming improvements, probably the biggest highlight is that Studio is $15/month or $99 for an entire year, which includes unlimited classes through the app, making it the second pretty awesome workout option at that price point to launch lately. Could it mean the future of boutique fitness is not only digital, but more affordable? TBD.
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