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April 10, 2006

'Upgrading The Road To Nowhere' — for a moment I thought I was reading one of my own headlines in the New York Times


Turns out I wasn't and it really was in the paper on March 30 over a story by Abby Ellin about the new new thing in treadmill workouts: doing things like "jumping, kicking a soccer ball from one foot to another, hitting a ball with a paddle — while on treadmills...."

These are among the activities in "a new treadmill class called Fre Flo do [which] aims to improve athletes' balance, agility and endurance."

Jennipher Shaver, an editor at Club Industry's Fitness Business Pro, a trade magazine, told Ellin, "The treadmill is a lot less dancey and aerobic — and more sporty."

Excuse me?

Shaver may spell her first name in a hip fashion but she's way behind the curve here — "less dancey?"

Is she not keeping up with fast–breaking developments in the treadmill dancing space being reported as they happen?



Here's the Times article.

    Upgrading the Road to Nowhere

    It's 5:15 on a Friday afternoon, and while much of Manhattan is heading home or to happy hour, Jodi Cornish, an instructor at the Wall Street branch of Equinox, is leading 10 regulars through a treadmill workout intended to banish boredom and love handles.

    The class, Tread and Sculpt, begins with a warm-up jog, then participants hop off to do push-ups.

    They get back on and for 50 minutes endure running drills, sprints and power walks at various speeds and inclines.

    Ms. Cornish uses no music; she expects her runners to stay motivated by concentrating on her commands.

    "Put your speed at 3.8 and your incline at 6," she tells her breathless class.

    "For the next three minutes we'll run, and then we're going to sprint for a minute as fast as you can."

    Treadmills may be the most popular aerobic machine at the gym, but running on a road to nowhere can be a snooze.

    The way most people use treadmills — rarely varying incline or speed — doesn't always build stamina or lead to weight loss.

    Now gyms are offering classes like Tread and Sculpt to help members get the most out of running in place, just as instructor-led Spinning revolutionized the stationary bike.

    And participants are flocking to the classes because they offer a challenge on a familiar machine.

    "The treadmill is a lot less dancey and aerobic — and more sporty," said Jennipher Shaver, an editor at Club Industry's Fitness Business Pro, a trade magazine.

    "People respond to it, especially men." She said the classes have been growing in popularity.

    Mark Goldwasser, 47, the chief executive of National Securities Corporation, a brokerage firm in Manhattan, said, "I don't have to do fancy stuff."

    Twice a week Mr. Goldwasser and a colleague, Stephen Jones, 49, attend Ms. Cornish's class.

    "I'm in a high-pressure business, but this is easy: we walk in, do the class, we sweat, and we're back at work in an hour fifteen," Mr. Goldwasser said. "It's kind of addictive."

    Nationwide treadmill classes are taking off.

    They are such a staple at Gold's gyms that some are building special rooms for them.

    In January, Life Time Fitness introduced a 12-week program of group treadmill workouts, with strength training like push-ups before and after the running, at 40 of its 48 clubs clustered in the Midwest.

    The first series of 44 classes, limited to 18 people each, quickly filled. Last fall Tread and Sculpt was introduced at a fifth Equinox branch, in the Westwood area of Los Angeles.

    And the Crunch chain, which began treadmill classes last year, offers them at a third of its 31 locations, including one in which joggers wear weighted vests as heavy as 16 pounds.

    Behind the trend, like many other classes at health clubs, is the recognition that members don't push themselves very hard without a trainer to motivate them.

    Class participants are more likely to see gains, to avoid boredom — and to renew their memberships.

    "We did see clients jumping on and doing the same 20- to 30-minute run while reading a magazine, and the benefits were minimal," said Barry Shingle, an official at Rancho La Puerta, a fitness resort in Tecate, Mexico.

    By contrast, the resort's guided treadmill class incorporates speedwork and increased elevation to ensure that participants push themselves.

    "It's the treadmill's answer to Spinning," Mr. Shingle said.

    For runners who log mile after mile at the same pace, "a class format helps them change up their workout," said Matt Messinger, a spokesman for Bally's Total Fitness, which now has 30 classes nationwide, compared to just a few three years ago.

    In some cases classes have encouraged gymgoers intimidated by the treadmill to hop onto one.

    "I was afraid of stumbling over my feet, so I avoided it," said Sharon Koch, 51, a preschool teacher in Sugar Land, Tex., who joined a class at a Life Time Fitness club.

    Her instructor, Jessica Bartel, coaxed her into trying the treadmill, by starting her out jogging and incrementally adding elevation.

    Ms. Koch now runs on the treadmill five times a week — three times in a class and twice on her own — often at a steep incline.

    "When I first started doing it, I would hold onto the side, but the instructor told us we couldn't hang on or we'd have to do push-ups. So I stopped."

    To invigorate treadmill routines, many instructors incorporate interval training — alternating between steady efforts and all-out bursts — which some experts say can help speed weight loss.

    "Intervals burn fat more efficiently than a long slow steady exercise session and provide a nice safe manner for elevating the heart rate," said Scott L. Danberg, an exercise physiologist and the fitness director at the Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa in Aventura, Fla.

    "The average person cannot hold 85 percent of their maximum heart rate for a full 30 minutes, but they can for a short time."

    Studies have shown that individuals also perform better when they receive constant feedback, said Brian McFarlin, an assistant professor of exercise physiology and nutrition at the University of Houston.

    That many sessions include more than just cardiovascular conditioning attracts people looking to cross-train.

    "Running makes me leaner," said Renee Mitchell, 43, a broker at the New York Stock Exchange who attends Tread and Sculpt at the Wall Street Equinox.

    "But the fact that there's calisthenics helps you tone as well."

    A new treadmill class called Fre Flo Do aims to improve athletes' balance, agility and endurance.

    Its creator, Kappel LeRoy Clarke, leads participants through a variety of drills — jumping, kicking a soccer ball from one foot to another, hitting a ball with a paddle — while on treadmills with extra-long decks and no arms.

    Fre Flo Do used to be offered at an Equinox gym until Mr. Clarke decided to start his own specialized studio in Santa Monica, Calif., scheduled to open next month.

    "Fre Flo Do improved my balance, my physical fitness, speed," said Jayme Goldberg, 35, a real estate investor in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., who used to participate in one-on-one sessions with Mr. Clarke.

    "You're faced with challenges you cannot foresee, and you kind of have to deal with whatever's there."

    Therese Iknoian, a founder of Geartrends.com, a Web site for the fitness industry, is skeptical that Fre Flo Do will have mass appeal.

    "This might be dandy for a super-advanced person who's incredibly bored, but it's probably not what your everyday person needs," she said.

    At $200 for the cheapest one-hour group sessions, it's not a class everyone will be able to afford either.

    Even if Fre Flo Do does not catch on beyond a single studio, innovative treadmill workouts will continue to evolve.

    The machine is "classically boring," said Bernhard Schroeder, a spokesman for IDEA Health and Fitness Association, a trade group.

    "People are going to try to develop it and be inventive."


I so expect to hear from the various principals in these clubs within the next several hours, as they attempt to lock me up for future innovations.


If the phone don't ring, I'll know it's them.

April 10, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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A friend of mine came across your blog the other day and forwarded it to me, seeing as I'm mentioned. Thanks for spelling my name right; it rarely happens.

I also invite you to send me your thoughts on the latest in treadmill "dancing." Might even result in an article for me.

And, for the record, I was misquoted. The Times isn't always what it's cracked up to be.

Posted by: Jennipher Shaver | Apr 9, 2007 5:03:17 PM

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