Picture this: You’re struggling through an intense interval on a treadmill. Maybe you’re running fast enough that you can hardly catch a breath, or you’re climbing a hill that makes your calves and quads burn from the effort.
Treadmills offer unique benefits to running outside because you can manipulate the speed and incline while you watch the clock, which makes it easy to follow intervals to a tee. But trying to push through a workout like this solo can trigger the temptation to quit: If no one knows that you intend to keep going for another 30 seconds, another quarter mile, you could decide to slow down, cut the sprint short, or jump ahead to the cool-down.
But doing your treadmill session with others, like a workout partner or in a group setting like Equinox’s Precision Run classes, can help you take your indoor run to the next level. Whether you personally know the people pumping their arms next to you or not is less important than the fact that you’re all there for a common purpose.
“The groups I’ve run with laughingly say, ‘Misery loves company,’” says Janet Hamilton, an Atlanta-based exercise physiologist and run coach. “That social aspect of having a shared journey is huge.”
Treadmills aren't best for long-distance running, says David Siik, senior manager of running for Equinox and creator of Precision Run. Instead, they're your go-to tool for intervals. That's exactly what you’ll get out of Precision Run, a 45- to 60-minute treadmill workout that combines speed, incline, and time to help athletes build fitness and avoid injury. (Try this 30-minute routine, designed by Siik, to get a taste of what the class is all about.)
Before the belt starts moving underneath your feet, make sure you’ve planned the appropriate kind of workout. Then find a workout partner or join a class to get the most out of your session. Here are three ways you’ll benefit from treadmill training with others.
You might not care if a stranger sees you step off the belt early in a sprint, but there’s something off-putting about knowing that a workout partner will witness your surrender, Siik says. “You want to be successful in front of your friends and other people you care about,” he adds.
Plus, if you know someone (or a group of people) is waiting for you, you’ll have more incentive to make it to the gym in the first place. If you flake, you’re letting yourself, and others, down.
When you’re using the treadmill, you can get in a high-quality workout in a short amount of time with whoever you want to spend the time with, even if that person is a lot faster or slower than you are.
Siik sees this with a lot of couples who come to his classes: “Even though one person might be faster, you’re not going anywhere,” he says. When you’re running outside, that difference in speed might translate into you lapping your partner around the track. On the treadmill, it's only apparent on the screen.
Training with a partner or group has a big impact on how you perceive the workout: An Oxford University study found that athletes who trained with teammates had higher pain tolerances than those who did it alone. The researchers hypothesized that this effect was due to the greater release of feel-good brain chemicals when exercising as part of a group.
Plus, some athletes don’t know how to push themselves properly: They either take it too far and risk injury, or limit their potential by not taking it far enough. “For them, the class environment can be really beneficial, because it takes them outside of their comfort zone and builds confidence,” Hamilton says.