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And combining the two—the former a solo activity often performed while keeping up with the Kardashians, the latter an agreement to keep pace with 30 strangers—might seem like a recipe for workout failure. But one boutique studio has already proven that it works, and a second just debuted to solidify its place in the exercise milieu.
New York City was first exposed to the foreign concept of group treadmill workouts with Mile High Run Club, a Noho gym that placed its treadmills atop black turf and bathed them in soft colored lighting. It inspired a flurry of bold statements, from the New York Times claiming it would be Soulcycle's successor to our sister site saying that you'll blow all your fitness funds on it. (MHRC only pioneered it in the boutique fitness world, by the way—membership-based gyms like Equinox and Crunch have had them for a while now).
So what are they going to say about TheRUN, the city's newest treadmill gym that debuted on West 25th Street last month? They might agree that it's the treadmill gym's natural evolution—and not because it looks like an unused set from the latest Tron film.
First, let's take a step back and break down that pesky phrase: "group treadmill class." Contrary to some beliefs, it's not just walking at a brisk pace on a slight incline, with or without weights in hand. There also will never be an instructor menacingly holding down that plus-sign button to increase your speed while you hold onto the console for dear life. What everyone is doing in unison is speeding up, slowing down, or climbing a hill—they're just not doing it all at the same pace.
There will never be an instructor menacingly holding down that plus-sign button to increase your speed while you hold onto the console for dear life.
At MHRC, that means you decide whether you're there to jog (if you're new to running,or someone just looking to work up a casual sweat) or run (if you go hardcore, or you're training for a race), while you follow along with the recommended intervals as they're called out.
But at TheRUN, a few quick steps allow the treadmill to adjust the speed and the incline for you. You'll set your pace as you warm up—a pace that you could see yourself maintaining for 45 to 50 minutes, an instructor suggested to a group taking a recent Shaper class (more on that later). Once you enter that pace to begin the running portion of the class, the treadmill will automatically increase or decrease your speed or incline as each interval comes.
These peaks and valleys are displayed on the treadmill's wide touchscreen as you're setting your median pace, so you won't be caught off-guard when you hit a sprint or a hill. If you find that the pace you set was too ambitious (or perhaps not challenging enough) midway through the class, you can manually change the speed—otherwise, it's a totally hands-free run.
This run can take place in a few different classes. The Shaper is the only class that involves a non-treadmill portion, with 30 minutes of running and 15 minutes of strength-training drills, like side lunges at a slow-moving pace or pushups with your legs on the treadmill. The others are run-only: 45 minutes filled with bursts of speed in Velocity, 55 minutes of tempos and progressions in Endurance, or two full hours of just running it out in The Long Run.
No matter the class, everything is based on that initial pace you set, which is stored in the account you'll log into each time you jump on a treadmill at TheRUN. That account will also log your average speed and total miles—something that may encourage you to bump up your pace as you keep running.
In short, a group treadmill class allows everyone to work at their own pace, but be in the same spot when the cool-down comes, regardless of whether they've run two miles or twelve (a conundrum that running clubs have yet to solve). And while you could head to the gym on your own and speed up or slow down a treadmill at your whim, chances are you'll less likely to hop off after ten minutes with everyone watching.