I always hated running growing up. I got side stitch, was consistently out of breath, and could never finish the timed mile in middle school as fast as the majority of my classmates. It wasn’t until high school that I started to actually choose to run. I was a rower, and was told that running was a good means of cross-training to keep me in shape in the off season. It took me months to build my way up from one mile to three—and the first time I ran three miles, you’d have thought I had just run a marathon.
Someone who met me today would have a hard time believing that it was not love at first sight with my running shoes. I’ve run two half marathons and happily lace up my sneakers to go for a run along the Hudson River at least three times a week. On a beautiful day, it’s the first place I want to be after waking up. The mix of moving my body, good music coming through my headphones, and the breeze coming off the water is pretty blissful, in my opinion. Plus, there are beautiful dogs everywhere you look…
As much as I love running now, though, I avoid treadmills at all costs. I feel like a hamster on its wheel, expending a crazy amount of energy without actually going anywhere. And there’s no nice breeze. And there’s nothing fun to look at. So when I first heard about Mile High Run Club, which was described to me as a spin class on treadmills, I was wary. Could running on a treadmill alongside a bunch of other people actually make it more fun? And for 45 minutes or an hour? I wasn’t convinced I’d even make it through the class.
Let’s just say I was pleasantly surprised. And that would be an understatement. After my first class, I felt like a super hero. I had run faster than I thought I could, up incline levels that I’d normally scoff at, and had felt really darn strong throughout the entire class. Sure, I was sweating profusely, but I was also smiling. (This is the best way to end a run, if you ask me.)
Mile High Run Club has three standard classes—the Dash 28, the High 45, and The Distance. The first is a 28 minute running workout with an additional 10 minutes of strength training exercises. It’s more or less the same length class as the High 45, except High 45 is all on the treadmill, so adds in a bit more of an endurance factor. And the final class, which, shockingly, has become my favorite, is 60 full minutes of treadmill time. It combines speed and hill intervals with some longer, comfortable pace pieces. It’s no joke of a workout, as I’m sure you can imagine. The last time I took that class I ran seven miles.
The trainers who lead class act as coaches—they focus on form and keep all the runners motivated throughout the class. I credit them with much of why class is worth it. Plus, the music often has me singing along (in my head), and the lights in the studio seem to be connected to the beat of the music, pulsing color throughout the room. It’s not your average corner-treadmill-in-the-gym experience, to say the least.
I haven’t always had the best relationship with running, though. Once I started to like it, it wasn’t long before I was abusing it, using running as as a means of control over my body. For a few years, it was as though I was trying to quite literally run away from the things I was afraid of. Running daily was an easy way to exert control over my body size and a way to justify food. I was overexercising, and despite my attempts to tell myself I liked running, it was really starting to feel like punishment.
Shifting my relationship with my running shoes to something more positive didn’t happen overnight. We had to see other people for awhile (if that metaphor makes any sense). I had to take a serious look at my why when it came to exercise, reconsider my motivation. But in the past year or so, running has become something that I look forward to. It’s become something that makes me feel strong, empowered, and proud of my body for what it can do, rather than focusing on what it looks like. It’s a celebration of my body rather than a punishment. That is what exercise should be about.
I’m a firm believer that your workout should make you feel like you’re invincible, ready to take on the world. Running at Mile High Run Club gives me that feeling. I get off the treadmill at the end of class amazed with what my body can do, grateful to have a healthy and able body, and proud of my stamina to push me through the tough bits. It’s a feeling I wish I could share, and one that I hope everyone finds in their own way. And if you’re someone who feels strong when you’re arms are pumping and legs moving quickly underneath you, maybe I’ll see you on the treadmill next to me sometime.
Mile High Run Club, 24 W 25th St. NY, NY 10010 and 28 E 4th ST. NY, NY 10003