Need to get in shape for the big day? A fitness class in the area is taking a piece of equipment that has long been a cardio mainstay and turning it up a notch.
Over the past seven months, Darien resident Donna Christensen’s running speed has been gradually increasing. She went from being able to hold about an 11-minute mile pace for 30 seconds, to an eight-minute mile pace for the same duration—a huge improvement.
Christensen credits a new class at her fitness club, Equinox in Darien, for her increased speed. The class, called Precision Running, is a treadmill-based group fitness class. It was created in 2013 by David Siik, a treadmill running coach who teaches at Equinox’s West Hollywood and Beverly Hills locations.
Siik grew up in Michigan, where there were very long winters when he was confined to running on the treadmill. He was an indoor track athlete and needed something that would increase his speed without being limited to long duration paces.
Precision Running is a set program that uses the BITE method: Balanced, Interval, Training, and Experience. “You are setting yourself a goal for the best pace you will do for the day,” said Equinox personal trainer and fitness instructor Brian Robbins, who teaches the class.
“By the end of the class, you want to get to your goals. Then, you can set new goals for yourself the next time you come in,” said Robbins, of Stamford.
Equinox, which also has a location in Greenwich, offers Precision Running three times a week. The class is for runners of any ability level. It is also for walkers who would like to become runners.
The structure of the class is predetermined beforehand. The general format includes a warmup and movement preparation, Robbins explained. “Then there are three 15-second sprints at goal pace, which is the fastest pace the runner can go for a full minute. Then the class starts two to three miles per hour from that goal pace. There are two to three sets of intervals that range from sux intervals per set to as many as 15,” he said.
Duration of the intervals as well as inclines change throughout a workout, Robbins explained. “One thing that does occur in each class is that you gradually ramp up to your goal pace. This gives runners the ability to properly tax their cardiovascular system while increasing their capacity to endure faster speeds.”
Inclines change depending on the workout — sometimes they gradually increase and sometimes they are set at a certain percentage.
“Everyone runs at the same interval at the same amount of time, at their own pace. I give them cues on what incline they should be at,” said Robbins, who is 26.
According to Robbins, there are two types of cardiovascular training. The first type is steady state training, which is just keeping the same speed over a long duration of time. The second is interval training, which is changes in speed with a set goal pace or duration in mind.
“Most of your training should be longer duration at a steady pace, but you need those elevated paces to get yourself out of your comfort zone to increase your average pace for whatever race you have in mind,” said Robbins, who was an all-American track athlete at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven.
While some students take Precision Running to train for a particular race, about 60% to 70% simply take the class for a good workout, he added.
Robin Kane-Nickel, group fitness manager at Equinox, said the class is designed to have every person start at his or her best time. “It’s a signature group fitness class created by one of our very own instructors, trainers, and master runners.
“It is unique in that it is a program where every runner can participate. You can run next to the best runner or you can run next to someone who never ran before. This is all because the program is set up to start at your personal best time. Members are able to challenge themselves with wherever they are at personally. You never feel as though you are not able to keep up.
“We have members who used to walk and now run, members who only ran and who are now running faster than ever, and triathletes who are using the class to train for their events on the off season,” said Kane-Nickel, of Westport. Nickel has been in the fitness industry for 25 years and has certifications that include the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Council on Exercise.
Erica Smith, who is from Darien, has taken Precision Running twice a week for the past six months and finds it to be very engaging. “With Precision Running, you have a program that’s been developed to help you increase your speed and endurance with appropriate corresponding rest times for recovery. Running on the treadmill can be hard, boring, and monotonous. This class allows me to diversify my workout and provides motivation by working with a larger group of people,” said Smith, 26, who is manager of client services at Indeed.
Christensen, who is 65, said, “This class really builds your stamina. If forces you to push yourself. When I’m on the treadmill by myself, I may not push myself hard. We need somebody to kick our butts.”
For a free trial of a Precision Running class at Equinox, visit 72 Heights Road, Darien, or call 203-655-2300.