FROM WOLF TO RABBIT
How a class at Fly Feet Running made a hunter feel like the prey.
By Kyle Smelter
When it comes to fitness, I’ve been around the block. I’ve been a seasoned long-distance runner and weekend warrior for the better part of a decade. I’ve logged the miles, sprinted my way through speed workouts and slogged through sweltering heat and bone-chilling temperatures. I had heard how much of a monster the classes at Fly Feet Running were, but I was still confident that I was the veteran hunter and it was my frail and panicked prey. Little did I know I was dealing with a crafty beast, one that eats athletes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and picks its teeth with the egos of those who think they’re prepared.
When the doors opened up, we were greeted by one of the coaches holding a box of chalk and sporting a friendly smile and hello. We were asked to each take a piece as we stepped into the room because this little powdered stick would act as our guide and pseudo-sponsor to keep everyone individually on track and accountable throughout the workout.
The dimly lit room at Fly Feet Running was unlike any workout studio I’ve seen before. 20 treadmills sat side-by-side underneath a thin strip of green lights, and yellow TRX straps coiled around 20 pull-up bars like snakes. On the ends of the room sat mounds of dumbbells, and above them loomed speakers blasting hip-hop and pop music designed to energize and invigorate. The vibe was very jungle-esque, a perfect setting for the beast to jump out at unsuspecting hunters.
Once everyone had entered, Aaron, the head coach—not instructor—tasked us with finding a home (treadmill) and writing our names on the floor with chalk. This plot of floor space would be our personal central command for the hour, where we would write down the amount of repetitions for each exercise we were able to muster.
As soon as I finished etching my name next to my treadmill, we quickly began the dynamic warm-up and education portion of the class. While slowly jogging on our machines, Aaron and the two other coaches, Heidi and Laura, made their rounds asking every participant for any injuries or specific needs they had so they could effectively tailor the class for them on an individual level.
When check-in wrapped up, it was time to learn the proper techniques for pull-ups (modified or true), wall sits, dumbbell squats, burpees, and hollow holds. I felt like a newborn deer trying to walk for the first time, wanting to move my body in one direction while it went the other, but the three coaches did a great job at correcting mine and people’s forms.
With the moves learned and our muscles warm, it was finally time to begin the hunt. We hopped back onto our treadmills and Aaron’s voice cut over MØ’s “Final Song,” “OK, I need you to raise your treadmill to a 10 percent incline, and then find a pace that you can sustain for only a minute. Don’t worry about anyone else. Just focus on you and what you can do for only a minute.”
I dialed in a pace that was challenging and gutted out the intense 60 seconds. The effects of the 10 percent incline had gotten to me, but Aaron’s encouragement of, “come on, Kyle, keep that pace,” were enough to spur me on.
After a heavenly 90 second respite, we dove headfirst into three rounds of the exercises we had just learned. This is truly where I started to feel like I was the prey.
We stepped up to the pull-up bars and did as many as we could handle for a full minute. I started strong, muscling out a quick 10, but arm and back strength are not my forte, so I had to resort to modified pull-ups at the end. As soon as the set finished, I hopped down from my bar, grabbed my trusty chalk and marked down my number before we quickly transitioned to another 60 seconds of dumbbell squats.
I picked up my dumbbells from off the floor, rested a portion of them on my shoulders, and carefully began lowering and rising, while the coaches continued to improve people’s form and stressed pushing through our heels. With my legs, hips and butt burning, I hastily scribbled my number on the floor because the fun wasn’t over quite yet.
The final minute of the circuit was a round of burpees. I slogged my way to the floor and did my best to explode back up, but I was running on fumes. As I looked down at the puddle of sweat forming underneath me, one of the few things that kept me going was knowing we had another 90 seconds of rest as soon as time was up.
“Rest,” Aaron yelled. We had only finished the first round, and the beast already had me on the ropes.
The second and third rounds had the same design, but the exercises after the treadmill had changed. The beast attacked with a flurry of wall sits and hollow holds, while the pull-ups and burpees took a backseat.
By the end of the third round, I was bent over, hands on knees and gasping for air. I had survived my first encounter with the beast of Fly Feet Running, barely. The last portion of the class was the cool down. We walked for a few minutes on the treadmill before giving our legs some TLC on foam rollers, while Aaron recapped the class and spoke to the importance of active recovery after a high-intensity workout.
Although the class didn’t have as much running as I had hoped, one of the girls in my group reassured me that each class is completely unique. The differentiation of classes is one of the ways Fly Feet Running keeps their member’s muscles on their toes.
I walked out the door, nursing a bruised ego and licking my imaginary wounds. The beast of Fly Feet Running promised to push me to my edge, but I didn’t just find it, I swan dove off it. I can’t wait for round two, and (hopefully) revenge.