Article By Kimberly Gillan Jul 19th, 2016
Can you make running on a stationary conveyor belt half-enjoyable? Coach writer Kimberly Gillan went to a Runnez group treadmill class in Melbourne to find out.
I've always had a love-hate relationship with the treadmill. On the one hand, it's a handy adjunct to road or trail running, and won't see you soaking in the rain or dying from heat exhaustion under a hot afternoon sun.
But on the other hand it's so boring staring at the digital display and I'm often tempted to just get off and call it a day.
For this reason, I gave up my gym membership years ago, instead indulging in beach side jogs or a couple of laps of Melbourne's iconic Tan Track so I can combine a bit of natural beauty with my huffing and puffing. Trouble is, if it's windy or raining, I'll stay on the couch.
So when I heard about Runnez classes happening around Melbourne, I thought I might've found the solution.
The brainchild of running coach and PT Rick Mirabella, Runnez is a 40-minute group session conducted on treadmills. It's sort of like a spin class for runners and Mirabella says at least half of his 500 regular runners are preparing for a fun run or marathon.
Mirabella came up with the idea in 2007 after struggling to teach running classes to runners of different levels.
"I had 15 people of all different levels at the track, running at different paces – it was too hard," he says.
"I figured that if they could do their aerobic, continuous stuff outside, I could take care of their 'quality' or lactic acid training inside. I found a location in Chelsea Heights that has heaps of treadmills and started with 10 people and it just went nuts."
These days Mirabella gets at least 30 people in each of his classes – there are 25 treadmills, plus bikes and cross trainers for anyone with injuries or wanting a different kind of workout.
The classes are designed to be challenging and fitness building, but there are no set speeds or inclines – you take care of the buttons yourself.
We started with about eight minutes of fartlek training where we jogged at a comfortable pace for one minute then increased the speed to 80 percent effort for one minute.
Rick paced around the room fist-bumping everyone and giving tips on how our bodies should be feeling. The age group ranges from teenagers to 75-year-olds and AFL players attend too, so the idea is to work at your own speed and ability.
It was a good lesson in listening to my body and not trying to compete with the two women next to me. I haven't been running much for the past couple of months, so I took it pretty easy in that first bit to avoid a humiliating defeat.
We had a two-minute break after the fartlek session and I was feeling warm but comfortable so I decided to take it up a notch in the second session – Vo2 sets for five minutes.
We were instructed to push to 90 percent of our max for 40 seconds, then lift our feet onto the treadmill edges for a 20-second breather before going again. Then we finished that off with a three-minute all-out sprint before a much-needed rest.
The whole thing was repeated a second time and during the final three-minute sprint, I had to drop the speed so my heart didn't burst through my rib cage. I'll blame that on the enthusiastic Runnez whooping and cheering everybody on – I think I caught their bug.
In all honesty, it was the most enjoyable treadmill session I've ever done. I felt challenged, engaged and entertained, without having to use my brain at all – Mirabella took care of all the cues.
The odometer told me I'd run 8.5km in the session, which felt pretty good considering I haven't run in weeks and was only at it for for 40 minutes.
"The quicker you can run 10km, the quicker your marathon will be," Mirabella explains.
"And if you're training for body composition, this will put you in good stead for that too."
As for treadmill haters, Mirabella says there's no need to dis the machine.
"All the best runners in Europe and the US use them, especially in winter," he says.
"What we are trying to encourage is an increase of mitochondria and an increase of capillaries and running at speed, [whether on a treadmill or land] is equivalent."
The difference, Mirabella says, is that people turn up week in week out for Runnez classes, and even the most seasoned runner is inclined to bail on an outdoor session if the weather is bad.
Group Training Melbourne Bayside, Running Coach Chelsea, Running Coach Chelsea Heights, Running Coach Patterson Lakes, Group Training Melbourne Bayside, Group Training Chelsea Heights, Group Training Bonbeach