15 Apr 2024 World leisure: news, training & property
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Health Club Management
2021 issue 8

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Leisure Management - The extra mile


The extra mile

Running booms when health clubs and gyms are closed. Could this enthusiasm result in treadmill training becoming the new spinning? Kath Hudson reports

Running booms when health clubs and gyms are closed photo: Cspace

Let’s look at what’s been happening – research from Macmillan Cancer Support found an estimated seven million people in the UK turned to running to stay active during lockdowns – the charity hopes this will convert to more people taking up marathon running.

Sports Direct is reported to have sold 218 per cent more pairs of trainers online during lockdown 2020 than in the same period a year earlier and Britons bought 243 per cent more running clothes. The Couch to 5k app was downloaded 858,000 times between March and June 2020 – a 92 per cent increase on 2019.

Running ticks a lot of boxes: it needs minimal kit, you can do it from your front door wherever you live, it’s enjoyable to be outside in most weather, it can be sociable, and as well as being a great calorie burner and muscle toner, the endorphin rush afterwards gives mental health a boost too.

With all these advantages, and the mainstream media stoking the fire, there were some fears that some members might swap their memberships for running.

The return-to-gym stats have shown this is not to be the case, however, and rather than lose members to running, operators are supporting their running habit by helping them to improve their times, train for longer distances and, most importantly, stay injury free.

Many new runners need help: research by WholyMe showed running related injury searches soaring last year. “How to help shin splits” was the most common, with a 600 per cent increase, followed by sore knees and ankle and Achilles injuries.

Added to this, strength work in the gym can pay off hugely in improving running performance. According to research published in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, regular core-focussed group workouts can shave more than a minute off an average runner’s 5k time and reduce the potential for injuries. For the study, participants completed three Les Mills Core workouts per week for six weeks and found their speed increased and running economy improved.

Many operators are already catering for the demand, with both outdoor running sessions and treadmill classes. Going forward there are further secondary spend opportunities, including gait analysis, selling apparel and offering coaching (see interview with Danny Dreyer founder of Chi Running www.HCMmag.com/dreyer).

Case study: Odyssey Knebworth
Ian Riches

Treadmill training has definitely become more popular as an increasing number of members discovered running during lockdown,” says Ian Riches, club director of Odyssey Knebworth. “The ability to connect to Strava on the treadmills, replicate outdoor runs, and use scenic videos means the treadmill is a far more versatile tool for both trainers and members.”

Odyssey has been offering treadmill training classes since 2018: “Our coaches can design these sessions and pre-set them on the pedestals,” he says. “Each individual is able to control the pace and gradient in order to ensure the class is suitable for all abilities.”

The other class, a Skillrun bootcamp, uses swift pad technology enabling instant speed and incline changes and also a power training feature allowing up to 160kg of resistance on the sled. These classes also include work off the treadmill. The parachute attachments are sometimes used for pure speed work.

Odyssey also offers a run clinic where coaches perform video analysis and utilise the biofeedback metrics in order to assess running technique. “This tool gives a great insight into power, cadence and flight time, enabling assessment for areas of progression,” says Riches.

“The classes appeal to the more active, sport-specific members. Those members that enjoy HIIT training enjoy the Bootcamp classes, as these help take the tedium out of treadmill training,” he says.

The club also has a weekly outdoor run club which gives members the opportunity to practice skills they learned on the treadmills.

Each individual is able to control the pace and gradient in order to ensure the class is suitable for all abilities
Odyssey has been offering treadmill classes since 2018 / photo: Odessey Health Club
Case study: Nuffield Health
Charlie Banfield

Treadmill classes bring the group effect into what’s normally perceived as a lonely style of training,” says fitness development manager Charlie Banfield. “These motivating workouts create running camaraderie and bring a community together. Other benefits include improved technique, enhanced aerobic capacity to ignite metabolic rate and ultimately burn calories and increased competitive edge by challenging run times and distances.”

Nuffield introduced treadmill training classes in 2018 and offers two options. Skillrun Edge is built on the foundations of speed, stamina, agility and power. This class improves running technique and gives a competitive edge through longer training blocks of six minutes.

Skillrun HIIT is a fun fitness-inspired class built around the principles of High-Intensity Interval Training. There are 4 x 4-minute rounds alternating between running drills and floor work.

“These classes have been popular thanks to leveraging the features of Technogym’s Skillrun,” says Banfield. “It’s a performance treadmill capable of delivering speeds up to 30kph, as well as a gradient from -3 per cent to +25. The sled and parachute functions increase acceleration and top end speed, which allows members to mix up their runs with power-specific training. Utilising this seamless technology, together with our bespoke programming, has significantly increased the demand and popularity of these classes over the years.

“Emphasising the camaraderie and community aspects of running classes will definitely attract more people to attend. With more people trying running for the first time, these classes provide an alternative way to train in a gym setting.”

These motivating workouts create running camaraderie and bring a community together
Nuffield’s Skillrun treadmill classes have grown in popularity since launch / photo: technogym
Case study: Awakn
Running is more intense than cycle workouts, says Traynor

"We’ve launched a couple of running offerings to capitalise on lockdown habits,” says Awakn CEO, Shaun Traynor. “As people were enjoying getting outside to run and walk, we tried to continue with this newfound love of running and bring it into a coached environment.”

Canary Wharf boutique, Awakn, has curated two running offerings, one outside and one inside on treadmills. There are three bespoke classes on offer: Lift and Run which uses weighted accessories to build strength and power; Box and Run which incorporates punchbags and a hybrid class that combines all three.

“Because we envisage people will still want to get outside, we’ve also launched an outdoor running class around Canary Wharf,” says Traynor. “We’re creating a running brand using technology so instructors can stay in touch with everyone throughout the class, tell them when to change pace and give motivation.”

He predicts running classes will continue to grow in popularity, but questions whether they will ever take off in the same ways as cycle classes since the workouts are more intense and treadmills are more costly.

We’ve launched running offerings to capitalise on lockdown habits
Case study: Body Hub
Stefan Quirk

People like running because it’s such a good way of burning fat, but many find it monotonous. The feedback we’re getting is that people who hate running love our running classes because they’re so varied,” says Stefan Quirk, owner of Cheshire-based boutique indoor bootcamp, Body Hub. “However, it’s an intense workout. I’ve had people who have had to go and throw up during the class.”

The studio runs two different classes on its TRX suspension trainers and Skillrun treadmills. One is purely treadmill-based and the other is a bootcamp, incorporating treadmill and TRX.

“These treadmills offer the opportunity to use the treadmill in a number of ways – sprints, uphill walks, parachute running and sled push, so our hour-long class uses a mix of these, choreographed to music,” says Quirk.

“I have a background of teaching spin classes, so I’ve incorporated elements of that into the class – the variety of exercises and the choreography marrying up to the music.”

Quirk says the treadmill classes appeal mainly to young professionals who are taking their fitness seriously and prepared to pay between £10 and £15 for a class. He expects the enthusiasm for running to continue, but to stay injury-free recommends everyone invests in decent trainers and has their gait analysed.

People who hate running love our running classes because they’re so varied
Hour long classes at Body Hub are choreographed to music / photo: Body Hub
Treadmill classes appeal mainly to young professionals at Body Hub / photo: Body Hub
Case Study: Cpase
Clare Stobart

The treadmill classes deliver results fast. Not only do they maximise fat loss, they also deliver improvements in speed, endurance, coordination, power, agility and strength,” says Cpase owner, Clare Stobart. “Lung and heart function improves, while lean body mass is increased and more calories are burned than in any other workout available. Completing a workout like this gives you a sense of achievement and will leave you feeling ready to take on the world after, due to the huge rush of endorphins!”

Cpase introduced the treadmill bootcamp classes to provide members with a total body approach to training. Each class delivers a full-body HIIT workout and members split their time evenly between the Skillrun, using the parachute, sled and hill running features, and Technogym’s Skillbench, which has integrated resistance bands and dumbbells. There are lots of short bursts of exertion, followed by rest and digital displays show heart rates, countdowns to the next exercise and what is coming next.

“These classes appeal to members who aren’t afraid to work hard,” says Stobart. “Initially they may look as though they’re only for the experienced, but in fact, they’re suitable for most people. The experience is bespoke to the individual and works to their training zones, using our Team Beats monitors. We can also offer variations where necessary to members so it is suitable for most individuals.

“People see huge improvements in their 5k and 10k times. Combined with the full-body strength training, it’s a perfect addition to any runner’s training schedule, making them stronger, which will help to prevent and reduce the risk of injury and also making them faster.

“If people ever considered running to be boring, they should think again, this style of class just gave running a makeover.”

If people ever considered running to be boring, they should think again, this style of class just gave running a makeover
Cpase offers treadmill bootcamp classes for a total body effect / photo: Cpase

Originally published in Health Club Management 2021 issue 8

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