Fitness Class Review: Precision Running at Equinox Bethesda

Call this the treadmill class for people who hate the treadmill.

Photograph by Jason Madara.

As someone who would rather run in freezing cold weather than set foot on a treadmill, I wasn’t too sure I’d enjoy Precision Running class at Equinox Bethesda. But this class, created by running coach David Siik, is more like a workout you would find in a track-and-field practice: It uses targeted interval training to make you stronger while also helping you break your personal record (PR) for speed.

Siik began the class by explaining the Balanced Interval Training Experience (BITE) that he used to design the class. The method is an alternative to high-intensity interval training that allows you to get the same burn with less impact on your body, thanks to small changes in speed and elevation throughout the workout. 

After Siik’s brief lecture, we got on our treadmills and began walking. We were instructed to use our towels to stretch our backs and get our arms warmed up. Next, Siik told us to think what our 30-second PR sprint was. It would be the core of the workout, a goal we would work our way to. This is when I started to panic. I hadn’t been on a treadmill in years and had no idea how fast I could run. Siik explained that on average, people tended to max at about 8 or 9 miles an hour, with everyday runners maxing out at about an 11 or 12. I decided to set my PR at 8 and hope for the best. 

Once everyone decided on a personal PR, the running began. We set our treadmills to 1.8 miles per hour lower than our PR speed. The idea was to work up to my PR by slowly increasing the speed and elevation of the treadmill in 60-, 50-, 40-, and 30-second intervals. Siik called the run the “good cop, bad cop.” We ran each interval twice—once without an elevation (the good cop) and the other with (the bad cop). 

As I got to the higher speeds and elevation, my starting speed began to feel like a welcome rest. Everyone in the class began to sweat, and Siik joked that the building’s air conditioning was cranked up, only confirming we were all receiving a good workout. 

The intervals lasted about 30 minutes, and then Siik guided us in some core exercises. One move, which he said has become increasingly popular with track-and-field teams around the country, involved holding our legs at 90-degree angles, placing our hands on our thighs and pushing to lift our shoulders off of the ground. I had never seen this exercise before, but I could feel my back and abdominal muscles working. 

Perhaps the best part? As the class is lower-impact than other running workouts, Siik mentioned we probably wouldn’t feel sore the next day. Yeah, right, I thought—but despite working muscles I haven’t used in some time, the day after the class my body feels great. 

All in all, it was a pleasant surprise to find an indoor running class I actually enjoyed. I felt the benefits almost immediately, and with colder weather coming, this is a solid alternative to my usual outdoor routes. 

Equinox Bethesda. 4905 Elm St., Bethesda; 301-652-1078. Precision Running is only open to members; it begins October 1 in Bethesda and is already offered at Tysons location. Membership is $142 to $147 per month.