November 11, 2014

Class Review: Tread Fitness (Dallas, Texas)

Little late for a weekend recap, I know, but… I’m on vacation. Sorry not sorry 🙂

In order to get down to Mexico for vacation from Denver, I had to have a layover in Dallas. (Okay, maybe not “had to”, but it was significantly cheaper than taking a nonstop when I was booking relatively late in the game.) Rather than getting up super early on Saturday morning and then just spending an hour hanging out in DFW Airport, I decided to fly to Dallas on Friday and catch up with friends there.

It was so weird to be back in Dallas after two months away, when I had previously been going there every single week for three years! It was funny to me how familiar it felt to be leaving the airport and heading back to the Renaissance Hotel (where I stayed a lot in the last few months of my time in Dallas). On the unfamiliar side, though, I was disappointed that Capital Grille had taken the chopped salad off their menu. That was definitely my favorite salad in Dallas! Fortunately, they still had the decadent lobster mac & cheese and yummy Stoli Dolis that I love 🙂

Of course, after all that food, I definitely wanted to get in a good workout on Saturday morning before flying out to where I knew I’d be donning a bikini pretty much the entire vacation! I turned to Tread Fitness, where I still had some leftover class credits that would expire at the end of the month. Since my flight was at noon, I was really psyched that they offered an 8:15am class on Saturdays, while most studios in Dallas don’t start their morning classes until later in the day. Plus, since I’m an early riser, I actually had time for an easy 30 minutes on the elliptical at my hotel gym as a warmup, catching up on the latest ep of The Biggest Loser. (Am I the only one still watching that show?)

Tread, in case it’s not evident from its name, is a treadmill class – you spend half the time on the treadmill and half the time doing some (pretty intense) weight lifting. For those of you familiar with Barry’s Bootcamp (Dallas doesn’t have a Barry’s), it’s similar to that – except you don’t have the dark lights and club music, and you don’t have the hefty pricetag and packed, impossible-to-get-into classes. Tread is $20 per class if you buy just one class, but drops down to $15 per class if you buy a 30-pack – and of course there are lots of options in between. They also periodically run discounts via their email list, so you can get classes even a little bit cheaper. Compared to a regular gym membership, of course that is pricey, but for a boutique fitness class, it’s one of the cheapest around. And yet, it’s one of the toughest, best workouts!

Tread Fitness Dallas
The studio is pretty industrial-looking, but I like that it’s still reasonably light thanks to a huge plate glass window. Plus, while the music is great, they don’t blast it so you go deaf. That is NOT what I want at 6am!

The class format is usually 20 minutes of treadmill, 20 minutes of free weights, another 10 minutes on the treadmill, and then 10 more minutes of weights. (Or vice versa, if you’re starting out with weights.) Usually the last ten minutes of weights has a pretty strong ab focus, so that’s my least favorite part of class – my abs are not all that strong, and my super weak neck makes it even harder for me! On Wednesdays, though, the class format changes a bit – you’ll be doing 9 minutes of each, switching back and forth to do both treadmill and weights three times, for a total of 54 minutes. It’s a great way to start your day feeling strong – I always was in a fabulous mood when I left Tread, usually putting a “victory song” on in the car for the quick drive back to my hotel to shower before work 🙂

If the class is only filled to half-capacity, you’ll start on the treadmills; if there are more students than treadmills, half will start on the treadmills and the others will start with weights first. I always like the packed classes because I prefer starting with weights – doing them first means that the last few minutes of class, when I’m exhausted, I can crank the treadmill up to a ridiculous pace and feel like I’m flying, yet not have to worry about saving any energy. And you definitely get the treadmill up to some pretty unreal speeds during this class! The treadmills max out at 11mph, which for me is quite a challenge – and if I’m feeling particularly strong, I can increase the incline on those 11mph sprints to make sure that I’m giving it everything I have.

I usually get bored on the treadmill by myself – I don’t think I’ve ever run more than three miles (max) on one if I’m doing it on my own. One thing I really like about Tread is that as you get to know the instructors, they’ll tease you a little bit and push you into doing more. There is no being lazy at Tread! I remember one time when I went to work out with my boss, and the instructor goaded each of us into trying to beat the other. “Come on, Laura, are you really going to let your boss go faster than you? Step it up!” Being super competitive, I of course tried my best to smoke him at the intervals we were doing 🙂

The other reason I never get bored is that rather than just doing a slogging pace for the whole time on the treadmill, the instructor calls out different things for you to do at different intervals, so you don’t have time to get bored. For example, you might warm up for two minutes at a moderate pace, then do a series of hill intervals where you keep increasing the incline until you’re running at a 10% grade. Or, you might keep the grade at 0% (though I usually do 1% as my base, so it approximates running outside on flat ground) but take the speed way, way up… I’m talking about sprints at 10-11mph! I am usually dying by that point, so I love having the instructor calling out what’s next. There’s no thinking at all, and in fact, one of my favorite instructors frequently emphasizes that: “Don’t think about it, just crank that incline up to an 8%.” (And this while I’m running at an 8:00 pace… gah.) But I dutifully just do what he says and try to keep up with the moving belt, and am usually pleasantly surprised to find that I’m much stronger than I think I am.

My favorite intervals are when we do what my favorite instructor, Scott, calls “dives”. You do just 15 seconds on the treadmill (usually at something like a 11mph pace) and then 5 seconds where you jump to the rails and catch your breath. At first, 15 seconds feels like nothing – but as you continue to do more and more of them, that 5 seconds is not nearly enough recovery, and you start to get pretty winded. My old boss and I were frequently convinced during some of the toughest intervals that we were going to throw up. Okay, so maybe that doesn’t sell Tread as a fun workout, but you feel fantastically accomplished when you’re done!

The free weights segment is usually 45-60 second intervals of one exercise, using moderate weights – so you’re doing about 20 reps before changing to the next move. However, the next move usually still emphasizes that same muscle group, so your muscles get pretty fatigued! For example, on Saturday, we did regular chest presses lying on the bench, then switched to chest flyes, and then went to some combos of chest press to skull crusher. I generally pick up a few different sets of dumbbells (there are plenty for everyone) and gradually trade down as my muscles fatigue.

Tread’s motto is “Anyone can run. Anyone can lift.” If everything I’ve described sounds intimidating, rest assured that the staff (and other students) are super nice, and they also offer a special class that is for beginners to help get them up to speed. But once you are at the level to take the regular classes, I can definitely attest to the fact that they make you so much stronger and a much better runner! The improvements I made from going just once a week when I was in Dallas was pretty amazing, and if they had Tread in Denver, I’d definitely become a devotee now. (I’ve heard that Orangetheory Fitness is kind of similar; I still need to check that out.) This is exactly the kind of speedwork I need to prep for my January marathon… now I need to get motivated to do it on my own, without the awesome Tread instructors.

This particular Saturday at Tread, though, I was very pleased to find that despite being away from Tread for two months, I still had a lot of speed. I’ve written a lot of times before about how dismayed I am to suck at hiking, and thought that perhaps the altitude is causing me problems. Furthermore, my long runs are generally in the 10-11 minute/mile range rather than the 9 minute/mile range that used to be comfortable. But part of me always wonders if I’m being a big baby – maybe I am just more out of shape than I want to admit? I was thrilled to be vindicated at Tread on Saturday, when I found that a 8:00/mile pace felt totally comfortable as a baseline rest pace, and I managed not to drop down even as we pushed the incline up to 8% and kept it there for a full minute! (We did 2%, 4%, 6%, and then 8%, bumping the speed up by 0.2, 0.4, 0.6, and 0.8 mph each time. So the 8% was actually at a 6:19 pace – killer!) I was so proud of myself for doing so well at Tread, and it also made me feel better that perhaps the altitude really is responsible for my shortness of breath and exhaustion whenever I’m in Colorado. And perhaps it’s even the cause of some other very weird health issues I’m experiencing? I am crossing my fingers.

Things to know before you go: there are no on-site showers, and you will get drenched in sweat, so make sure you can get to your own shower facility if you plan on doing anything after (e.g., if you take an early morning class and have to go to work after.) The bathrooms are large, though, so it’s easy to change in your gym clothes there if you’re heading straight from work. (But be warned: the latest class is 5:30pm, so you’d have to work a job where you get out super early.) There are also no towels provided, so it’s helpful to bring a (large) towel to put over the weight bench for when you’re lying down doing weights. Tread sells bottled water, but I usually bring my own and either fill it at home or fill it up in the bathroom. There are lockers where you can put your stuff during class – they don’t have locks, but since they’re right in the main room and no one goes near them between when class starts and ends, it feels pretty safe.

Bottom line: if you are in Dallas, I would highly encourage you to try out a Tread class. I know that every time I go back, I’ll be dropping in for a class, and I know that I’ll get a reliably awesome workout every time!

Disclaimer: I have been going to Tread classes in Dallas for over a year, and have never been provided a free class or any other form of compensation. I meant to write this review long ago to introduce everyone to one of my favorite workouts, but honestly, just never had the time! I’m so psyched that I got to go back to Tread this weekend and get reminded of how awesome it was, plus snap the photo for my review.


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