Why Treadmill Classes Are All the Rage for Every Fitness Level

Mackenzie L. Havey
by Mackenzie L. Havey
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Why Treadmill Classes Are All the Rage for Every Fitness Level

If there’s one common complaint about running, it’s boredom. Pounding mile after mile with no set destination can be akin to watching paint dry for many people. Running indoors is particularly mind-numbing. There’s a reason people have nicknamed the treadmill “the dreadmill.”

Even still, we all know that running offers a wide range of health benefits. So how can you garner those fitness perks without doing an activity you hate? This is where treadmill studios come in. The latest trend in studio fitness, treadmill classes take an otherwise boredom-inducing activity and make it both fun and inspiring. Set to high-energy music and led by motivational instructors, these running sessions put runners side-by-side on treadmills to complete everything from hill training to interval workouts right in the studio.

Jake Schmitt of the recently opened Thoroughbred Treadmill Studio in Mill Valley, California, says the best part of these classes is that they allow runners of every pace to complete workouts together.

“We really thought putting everyone in the same room doing the same workout at their own pace was a cool idea to get a wide range of abilities working out together,” says Schmitt, a 2:15 marathoner.

In a Thoroughbred class, the treadmill screens are covered, and everyone is instructed to run based on feel. This keeps participants from worrying about their pace and how it compares with the person next to them. Each 45-minute class, which is set to music, begins with a warmup and then goes into a workout. The instructor runs on a treadmill positioned on a podium at the front of the class.

While the finer points of a workout are described in depth by the instructor, here is an example of what a class might look like:

Thoroughbred Workout

  • 5 minutes
    • Warmup: Start running at a conversational, easy pace, increasing the speed gradually.
  • 4 minutes
    • Intermediate Incline/Speed Play: To acclimatize the body to both varying speeds and inclines later in the class, increase the speed and incline every 30 seconds.
  • 6 minutes
    • Intermediate Hill Intervals: Starting at the incline where you ended the previous section, begin hill intervals. Early in the workout, the intervals should be longer with shorter recovery at a sustainably tough pace.
  • 6 minutes
    • Steep Hill Climb: Slow the pace way down, and dramatically increase the incline. Do intervals of 2–3 minutes, increasing the pace as comfortable.
  • 6 minutes
    • Intermediate Flat Intervals: This is to bring turnover back to the session with similar-length intervals as before. This time you move at a faster pace on a flatter incline.
  • 2 minutes
    • Recovery: Bring the treadmill back down to an easy jogging pace and a flat incline.
  • 6 minutes
    • Short Hill: Similar to the first set of intermediate hill intervals, these should be done at a slightly steeper incline and/or faster pace than the previous effort. This time the pace should be faster, the interval shorter and the recovery a bit longer.
  • 6 minutes
    • Fast Flat Repeats: These are short, fast, flat sprints of 30–45 seconds with equal recovery between each repeat.
  • 4 minutes
    • Cooldown: Bring the treadmill back to the conversational pace you started with at the beginning of class.

MyStryde in Boston, another new treadmill studio, takes a similar, inclusive approach to their 45- to 60-minute classes.

“Every individual who comes to a MyStryde class is presented with a ‘Stryde Guide,’ which is broken down into beginner, intermediate and advanced categories, which are then broken down into five different levels,” explains lead instructor Kelli Fierras. “This way, everyone can get a great workout without feeling intimidated or held back.”

Those five levels within the beginner, intermediate and advanced workouts include the following, along with a miles-per-hour range to help guide your workout:

  • Level 1: a walk
  • Level 2: your warmup pace/light jog
  • Level 3: the pace that you could maintain for 30–45 minutes
  • Level 4: the pace that you could maintain for 5–7 minutes
  • Level 5: the all-out sprint that you can hold for 30 seconds max.

Here are snapshots of a shorter, faster Stryde workout and a more endurance-focused session. An instructor describes the finer points of the workout during class:

Stryde Workout

  • Warm up at Level 1 or 2 for 1 song
  • Main workout consists of 7–9 songs total, split into three separate portions: short sprints, hill work and gradually increasing speed. Here are some examples of what you might do in a class:
    • Short sprints: Alternate between 30 seconds at Level 5 intensity and 30 seconds of rest.
    • Hills: Start at 1% incline and gradually increase to 8% incline. Intensity level decreases as incline increases.
    • Speed increases: You rest between intervals during the sprints, but for this portion, you’ll start at Level 2 for 1 minute, then Level 3 for 45 seconds, Level 4 for 30 seconds, and Level 5 for 15 seconds, with no recovery in between the speed changes.
  • Cool down at Level 1 or 2 for 1 song

Endurance Workout

  • Warm up at Level 1 or 2 for 1 song
  • Main workout consists of 7–9 songs total, with steady pace increases, hill work and speed play (fartlek-style workout). While the structure is similar to the Stryde workout, this one focuses more on overall endurance. The instructor will guide you on both intensity and time spent running each portion of the workout. Here are some examples of what you might do in an endurance class:
    • Steady pace increase: 3 minutes at Level 2, 2 minutes at Level 3, 1 minute at Level 4
    • Hill workout: Run on 3% incline at Level 3 for an entire song
    • Fartlek workout: Run 30 seconds at Level 4, followed by 30 seconds at Level 2, 60 seconds at Level 4, 60 seconds at Level 2, 90 seconds at Level 4, 90 seconds at Level 2
  • Cool down at Level 1 or 2 for 1 song

About the Author

Mackenzie L. Havey
Mackenzie L. Havey

Mackenzie is a freelance journalist and coach based in Minneapolis. She contributes to a variety of magazines and websites, including TheAtlantic.com, OutsideOnline.com, espnW.com, Runner’s World and Triathlete Magazine. She holds a master’s degree in Kinesiology from the University of Minnesota, and is a USA Track and Field certified coach. When she’s not writing, she’s out biking, running and cross-country skiing around the city lakes with her dog.

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