Just several months ago, I couldn't run a whole mile without stopping (and whining). I used to despise everything about running, and I would do everything within my power to avoid it, which meant I was exclusively lifting weights and doing yoga. Plus, when you're bad at something, you can't help but feel self-conscious about it, and I was genuinely embarrassed by what a slow runner I was.
Several months ago, my husband convinced me to try a class called Precision Running at our Equinox gym, which he has been doing for a couple years. He recently ran a marathon, so when he told me about the class, I just assumed it was an advanced workout that catered to the hardcore folks who were training for yet another race. But I decided to go with him anyway, and it was by far the most challenging group fitness class I've ever done, yet I kept going back week after week — and I'm signing up for my first half marathon this year because of it.
"Number one: we base everything on your own individual ability."
Precision Running is an exclusive Equinox class that was designed for all runners, from beginners to marathoners, and it's a 50-minute treadmill workout. Each session is a little different, but it's essentially an interval session that plays with speed and incline. I was lucky enough to speak with David Siik, the creator of Precision Running, and he explained why this class stands out from any group fitness sessions you've ever done before.
"I wanted to help create a more performance-based treadmill class," David told me. "I love running science, and I wanted Equinox to have an elevated treadmill class, not just a fitness class." Although David's background is rooted in running, he insists that Precision Running is just as perfect for absolute beginners as it is for seasoned runners. Why?
"Number one: we base everything on your own individual ability," he explained. "We created the one-minute PR (personal record) system, where everybody bases their starting speed on their top one-minute speed under their current ability. So whether you're a walker or jogger or [Olympic decathlete] Ashton Eaton, you pick your PR and we tell you where to work from there. It's super individualized."
"You will burn a ridiculous amount of calories."
Your PR is unique to you and you alone, and you base the intensity of class on whatever that number is. For example, my PR is 9.0 mph, so if our Precision Running instructor tells us to run for 60 seconds at 1.5 mph below our PR at 4.0 percent incline, I know exactly what to do. It's methodical, it's comprehensive, and it's extremely effective. As you get faster and stronger, you'll gradually see your PR climb higher. This has been especially exciting for me, because I started Precision Running with a PR of 7.5 mph (told you I was slow).
David says this class allows you to "gain control back of your workout." In most group fitness classes, we just go in and mindlessly follow someone's instructions. However, with Precision Running, you start to understand how speed and incline relate to each other, and you eventually learn what a solid run really looks like, which helps you run more on your own time.
In the past, David kept seeing "people get caught up in the burn" of group classes or how many calories they were burning, and this mindset doesn't lead to great results. He wanted to give everyday folks a "smarter, safer, and more effective way to run" with Precision Running. And the very sweet bonus is that you'll simultaneously get one of the best workouts of your life. "You will burn a ridiculous amount of calories," David says. Because you no longer have to worry about that, you're freed up to focus more on your running game. "The most important part is good programming that's backed by science."
"Take a deep breath and tell yourself, 'I'm willing to try.' You can't teach that; you can't sell that."
"Precision Running is a safe place to gain confidence," he continued. "You're all together. There's a coach that's always with you, so you never get lost; you never feel like you get left behind, because guess what? Nobody can pull ahead of you on a treadmill!" And that's exactly how I felt when I started, even though I was nervous and very, very sweaty.
I asked David to give his best advice for people who are just starting out running for the first time. "Find a class and let a coach know that it's your first time," he said. "Take a deep breath and tell yourself, 'I'm willing to try.' You can't teach that; you can't sell that."
"We are all actually scientifically designed to run. It's not that scary," David told me. "The truth is — and science supports this — that not running is bad for your knees. And start slow. You don't have to come out and crush it. If you just start once a week for 30 to 45 minutes and you weren't doing it before, running will change you."