As public perception of gym equipment goes, the treadmill is probably considered the most dull and unsexy machine on the gym floor, with plodding along on a treadmill becoming somewhat of a metaphor for being on autopilot or stuck in your ways. Of late, however, the treadmill is anything but. It’s blazing a trail where genuinely exciting, highly effective workouts are concerned, with tech allowing you to join live classes from the comfort of your home, galvanising instructors ensuring that no two treadmill workouts are ever the same and ‘run labs’ assessing your every stride in real time. Here’s why treadmill workouts are set to be the next Soulcycle -level fitness trend, what it means for your body, mind and mojo.
From luxe gyms launching entirely treadmill based studios to a surge in demand for treadmill classes on ClassPass, here’s how the treadmill is running rings around other workouts. It’s time to stop dreading the tread…
In research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine last month, HIIT training was found to be more effective for weight loss than longer, more steady workout sessions, with sprint intervals proving to be especially beneficial in the weight loss camp. It’s these kind of sprint interval workouts that ever-expanding training studios and concepts such as Barry’s Bootcamp and Equinox are majoring on, combining ‘half treadmill, half gym floor’ style class structures that fuse the fat-burning cardiovascular benefits of running with the muscle-building results of resistance training. Partnering weight training with treadmill sprints will add an edge to the results you’ll get from running and pays off for rookie runners and marathoners alike according to Barry’s Bootcamp co-founder and master trainer Sandy Macaskill :
“By combining running and weight training you’ll simultaneously improve your cardiovascular system, meaning greater stamina for your runs, and strengthen your muscles, meaning better control of running form.
“Mixes of speed, endurance and hill runs improve your overall running capability. Being more economical with your movement, and converting energy to power more efficiently, in turn circles back to increased stamina. All of this is great to have when combined with steadily building distance in your legs if you’re training for an event or doing longer runs away from the treadmill.”
Indoor treadmill workouts also bring an added advantage where keeping up your fitness routine is concerned…
They can help to prevent injuries
Rather than going hell for leather on an uneven surface, treadmill-lead workouts allow you to push your fitness boundaries in a more controlled environment, which can help you to stay injury-free according to Sandy:
“By training with a mix of treadmill interval sprints and resistance exercises you’ll be cutting down on your chances of picking up injuries. Notching up runs on a cushioned treadmill (the Woodway treadmills in our studios are the best on the market and used by professional sports teams across the globe) rather than pounding the pavements also cuts your risk of impact injuries.
“Workouts like this are also a great way to progressively load your body. You can always go to the best of your own ability, whether that means you haven’t run in ten years or you’re an Olympic athlete . That steady approach is a great help in any training regime but especially if you’re a first time runner, and direct feedback and motivation from trainers in classes helps you to achieve your goals faster.”
They’re anything but boring
Forget the hamster wheel associations or slogging along while staring at a wall - the latest treadmill workouts incorporate everything from “parachute mode” to simulate the resistance of pulling a parachute behind you to virtual running avatars in fantasy landscapes and more IRL choice than ever. New London studio Sweat It anchors all of its fitness class offerings (from £15.50 per class as part of a package) around the treadmill, with a ‘run’ and ‘rig’ component to every class that varies every day to allow you to mix up interval sprints and longer distance runs with functional weight training on a ‘rig’ with 20 separate workout stations. Specialist running machines have both powerful parachute modes and a ‘sled’ setting to mimic the effect of pushing a sled, meanwhile specialist treadmill trainers ensure that you take each class at your own pace.
Barry’s Bootcamp workouts (from £16.50 per class as part of a package) also promise to stamp out the potential monotony of treadmill workouts (Sandy insists that “no two classes are ever the same”) while the Equinox Precision Running programme (membership from £215 per month) features over 90 individual running workouts. These take place on customisable Woodway treadmills that adapt to your unique running habits and allow you to tailor everything from lighting to your on the go audio and even the air you’re breathing - it’s oxygen enriched if you so wish. The classes have proved so popular (spots typically get snapped up as soon they hit the schedule) that Equinox is set to launch standalone Precision Running studios in the US, meanwhile Run Labs allow for advanced performance analysis and a London St James’ club Run Zone aims to make treadmill areas more immersive than ever, with tailored audio and even CBD infused water to give runners an energy boost.
If you’re lucky enough to have a treadmill at home but are more partial to using it as storage unit, you’ll be happy to learn that fun and futuristic virtual treadmill workouts are also legging it into your front room to banish treadmill tedium. Zwift allows you (in the form of an avatar onscreen) to go for quick jogs or more epic runs in fantasy and real world surroundings, with elite coaches devising workouts behind the scenes to suit your needs and the choice to embark on solo countryside runs, join competitive races alongside a volcano with thousands of others or stretch your legs in a group workout on a desert island. All you need is a Zwift Foot Pod or a bluetooth enabled treadmill to get on board.
The fact that you can run with others even when you’re technically alone via treadmill workout apps such a Zwift makes training less lonely, and whether you’ve joined a real life or virtual treadmill workout, Sandy emphasises that “a community atmosphere can really help you to push through those mental barriers that can take hold on a run.”
The ‘we’re all in this together’ vibes are stronger than ever where treadmill workouts are concerned too - Equinox credits its group-focused classes for a widespread “renaissance in treadmill running”, with classes and programmes “democratising and demystifying” running in the way same way that Soulcycle and the like popularised spinning among the masses. The increasing appeal of treadmill classes is reflected in the fact that treadmill workouts are the fasted growing category on the ClassPass app too, meanwhile giant leaps in treadmill tech make joining a live treadmill class possible even if you’re not leaving the house...
The tech has gone space age
No doubt you’ve seen the adverts for the at-home spin bike and virtual class service Peloton , loved by everyone from Hugh Jackman to David Beckham and coming in at just under £2000 for a ‘basics’ package. Now the virtual class specialist has launched Peloton Tread in the US, teaming a cutting edge at-home treadmill with a virtual treadmill class membership for a price tag that’s likely to make you breathless before you’ve even gotten on the soft-touch shock-absorbing belt - the basics option comes in at $4295. For your cash you’ll benefit from both live and on-demand treadmill classes with the crème de la crème of NYC fitness trainers, presented to you via a huge LCD touchscreen on a smart treadmill with smooth as silk speed, incline and free run options, a steel carbon frame and powerful sound system. A UK launch date is yet to be announced, but the exchange rate currently suggests that you’re looking at an initial outlay of at least £3000 when it does. Gulp.
If that’s more than a little beyond your reach, Digme ’s Matrix treadmill classes (from £9.95 as part of a package in London and Oxford) use state of the art Technogym Skillrun treadmills that combine cardio and power training to up the athletic ante. The treadmills are currently the fastest on the market, reaching speeds of up to 30 kmph vs. the average 20-25 kmph of regular studio treadmills, with a wider belt to prevent you from clipping the edges and a decline mode to allow you to nail downhill running technique as well as hill climbing prowess. You’ll also receive biofeedback as you run, assessing where you’re putting your weight and whether your gait is holding you back, with parachute and sled modes adding to the challenge. If you thought the treadmill workout was old-skool, think again, but you don’t actually need to head to a swanky studio to finesse your technique or inject more energy into your run. Here’s Barry’s Bootcamp master trainer Anya Lahiri ’s 20 minute treadmill “shock” to get you started...
Anya Lahiri’s 20 minute treadmill workout routine
Speeds: All speeds below in miles per hour and in order of beginner, intermediate and advanced.
Carry out the below in minute intervals:
Minute one - 5, 6, 7mph
Minute two - 5.5, 6.5 ,7.5mph
Minute three - 7, 8, 9mph
Minute four - 7.5, 8.5, 9.5mph
Minute five - take it down to a walk to recover.
Minute six - 5, 6, 7mph at a 4% incline
Minute seven - 5, 6, 7mph at an 8% incline
Minute eight - 30 seconds 7,8, 9mph, then 30 seconds 8.5, 9.5, 10.5mph all at 0% incline.
Minute nine - take it down to a walk to recover.
Minute ten - 5, 6, 7mph
Minute eleven - 7, 8, 9mph
Minute 12 - 6, 7, 8mph
Minute 13 - 8, 9, 10mph
Minute 14 - take it down to a walk to recover.
Minute 15 - 6, 7, 8mph at a 3% incline
Minute 16 - 6, 7, 8mph at a 6% incline
Minute 17 - 30 seconds at 7.5, 8.5, 9.5mph then 30 seconds 9, 10, 11mph all at 0% incline
Minute 18 - take it down to a walk to recover.
Minute 19 - 30 second jog at 5, 6, 7mph followed by a 30 second sprint (9mph+)
Minute 20 - 30 second jog 5, 6, 7mph followed by a 30 second max speed sprint (9mph+)