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Your Entire Exercise Budget Is About to Go to Treadmill Running Classes

Photo courtesy of Mile High Run Club
Photo courtesy of Mile High Run Club

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If the last time you laced up your tennies was to jog laps around an elementary school gym, you might not be aware that a lot has changed in the world of running. Really, a lot, and the latest innovation is the indoor running class.

First, some history. When you're talking tread, it's impossible not to mention the granddaddy of the whole thing. Barry's Bootcamp, which has been around for some sixteen years, remains the undisputed pioneer of the indoor running experience. Its mix of treadmill cardio intervals and strength work on the floor has earned it a much-deserved reputation for being a calorie-incinerating power-hour workout.

Where BBC prevails in intensity and terror—yelling is motivation!—though, it comes up short in terms of endurance, form, and technique. This has left room for new players to step up to the plate with a twist on the format: classes that are centered on running and...nothing else. Would you spend $34 dollars to run on a treadmill for 45 minutes?

It feels less like a place for tired people trying to work off that slice of office birthday cake.

Our favorite gyms already offer some of the most inventive classes we've seen to date; take Crunch's group treadmill classes or Equinox's running courses that utilize expert David Siik's Balanced Interval Training method. Siik's Precision Running in particular combines distance training and high-intensity interval training to provide a well-rounded workout for runners.

New York's Mile High Run Club, however, may be the clearest indicator that indoor running is a trend with legs (sorry), one that doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon (again, sorry). With its spotless facilities and spacious, spotlighted room filled with $10,000-a-pop Woodway treadmills (also seen at Barry's), the brand new studio is impressive. It feels less like a place for tired people trying to work off that slice of office birthday cake and more like one for a disciplined community training together.

Photo courtesy of Mile High Run Club

Instead of short bursts, MHRC classes focus on endurance training, with intervals lasting two to three minutes—oof—often uphill. While Barry's has small speed ranges and a tight line of treadmills that'll make you feel like Augustus Gloop for not keeping up, Mile High is flexible to individual needs, for better or worse. You may not be as motivated (or, let's be real, shamed by the speed demons surrounding you) to push through to your highest level, but you'll be able to focus on your own objectives without gritting your teeth so hard your jaw cramps.

The emphasis to push yourself past your own limits is on you, which makes it more like a running intensive instead of a sprint-filled bootcamp, but the best part of the indoor running craze is that it caters to those of us who hate running in the first place.

Oh, yes, that's the thing. I absolutely, undeniably hate running. The hamster wheel nature of the movement drives me crazy. I'm morally opposed to marathons. I ran cross-country in high school only for the resume boost and the free Panera bagels (so many free bagels!), and once there were more dance-based activities on offer, I gave it up for good.

But when you're locked in class, there's accountability. You have to run, even if it's not at full speed.

But when you're locked in class, there's accountability. You have to run, even if it's not at full speed. Still, no matter how elated I am with the results of tread classes, it's nearly impossible to quiet the voice in my head asking, "Isn't it insane to pay this much money to do something I could do on my own?!"

Barry's may have the ability to whip me into shape near-immediately and MHRC may be the solution for running multiple miles without even realizing it, but the conclusion I keep coming to is yes, it's kind of crazy. Boutique fitness classes are supposed to offer something you can't get at a gym, much less in your own home, which can make tread classes difficult to swallow.

Then again, why doesn't that mentality apply to bang trimming? Or blowing out your own hair for a fancy wedding? If you've ever tried to make your own cappuccino, small-batch rose syrup, or Beef Wellington, you know they're almost always better when you visit a coffee shop, cocktail bar, or restaurant that specializes in them. Why wouldn't it be the same for running?

I will not jog two-and-a-half miles without stopping, or sprint up a hill, or run faster than my legs can carry me on my own—but in class, I will. And I have. Sure, I could run by myself for the better part of an hour and pocket the cash, but that's fantasyland. While I'm there, hopefully I can get Cara's eyebrows, Giada's recipes, and Blake's beach waves, too.