Even in the gyms where the machines are equipped with TVs and iPhone jacks, it’s easy to get bored on the treadmill after a few miles—or a few minutes. The monotony can be mind-numbing, and finding the motivation to incorporate things such as intervals, speedwork and a proper cooldown into a solo workout can be a challenge. That’s where one of Charlottesville’s newest fitness studios comes in.
“It’s really hard to do high-intensity intervals on the treadmill by yourself,” says Claire Mitchell. “You have to watch the clock, which is the hardest thing. But here, someone else is watching the clock for you.”
Introducing treadHAPPY, a recently opened studio specializing in workouts that combine run-walk intervals on the treadmill with other elements, such as yoga and Pilates moves, weight exercises and foam rolling. Mitchell and co-owner Sara Currier, both runners, want their classes to help clients strike a balance between strength and flexibility. Overuse injuries tend to come from an imbalance, Mitchell says, when something is either not strong enough or too tight.
“I tell people in the mat room, ‘This is going to make you more efficient and better in the tread room,’” Currier says. “‘This is prevention and strengthening those muscles.’”
Located at 103 Eighth St. NW, across West Main Street from the Amtrak station, the two-room space doesn’t look like other niche gyms. Unlike darkened, windowless spin classes that feel more like a dance party than a workout, expansive windows fill the treadmill room with natural light. Mitchell and Currier decided to forego the addition of mirrors, wanting clients to focus more on their own form than on competing with their neighbors. (Plus, who wants to look at themselves while chugging along on a treadmill?)
“You do look at the person next to you a little bit, but it’s just you versus you on the treadmill,” Mitchell says. “Even as coaches, we don’t walk around and look at your distance. That’s not our job.”
One thing treadHAPPY does have in common with other studios is the energizing music blasting from speakers during the class. Instructors crank up the volume on their wireless mics so both rows of treadmill runners can hear their directions over the sound of pounding feet and the thumping of “Turn Down for What.”
At 5pm on a recent Friday, the studio buzzed with about a dozen new clients who’d signed up for the pre-weekend Happy Hour, a bootcamp-style treadHAPPY class. Mitchell led half the class to the treadmill room for the first of four 10-minute intervals while Currier got the other half started on the mats with planks, lunges, push-ups and other bodyweight exercises.
Mitchell and Currier remind running-averse beginners that even though it’s a high-intensity class, they’re only on the treadmill for 20 minutes total. Each 10-minute segment is further broken down into shorter intervals varying in speed, and the instructor is watching the clock so all you have to do is focus on putting one foot in front of the other at whatever pace you can handle, with a couple 30-second sprints sprinkled throughout. It’s a challenging workout for sure, but for more serious runners who are inclined to stay on the treadmill long enough to get into the zone, Mitchell and Currier recommend either the treadTEMPO or treadDISTANCE classes.
On the menu
The owners of treadHAPPY designed the selection of classes “almost like a menu,” co-owner Claire Mitchell says, so clients can build a balanced fitness plan at the studio, or pick specific classes to fill a gap.
treadHAPPY (45 minutes): High-energy boot camp class with two treadmill intervals and two strength-training intervals. Overall time on the treadmill is 20 minutes.
treadHUSTLE (60 minutes): High-intensity interval training that combines cardio and toning. Overall time on the treadmill is 25 minutes.
treadTEMPO (45 minutes): Progression and interval exercises on the treadmill at 75 to 85 percent max heart rate followed by strength training on the mat. Overall time on the treadmill is 30 minutes.
treadFLOW (60 minutes): Less intensity on the treadmill with light running and walking combined with yoga, Pilates and tai chi exercises.
treadDISTANCE (60 minutes): Longer stretches of running to build strength as a runner (or walker), followed by stretching and foam rolling. Overall time on the treadmill is 45 minutes.
treadRECOVERY (45 minutes): Low-intensity running or walking combined with a sequence of foam rolling and stretching to loosen tight muscles. Overall time on the treadmill is 20 minutes.