Running shoes and sweat-wicking clothing won’t make you an athlete. But the stores that sell them to you might. Group runs and other free workouts offer motivation, a place to stash your stuff and frequently some extra perks, such as snacks and prizes. I spent five days sampling as many store events as physically possible.
Day 1: Sunday
Writes for the MisFits column.
(Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post) - Fitness instructor Grace Thompson leads a class of students (front to back) Catherine Potter, Emerald Becker and Suzy Goldenkranz at the Athleta store in Georgetown.
Fleet Feet Sports (1841 Columbia Rd. NW, www.fleetfeetdc.com) boasts the longest-running store run club in Washington; it was founded in 1984, when Phil Fenty opened the Adams Morgan business. His son Shawn has kept the Sunday morning tradition alive: “We call it the church of the open road.”
There were only a handful of parishioners gathered by 9 a.m., when Shawn explained the five-mile route into Rock Creek Park, past the Watergate and through Dupont Circle back to the store (the run is always five miles, but the route changes). In case we got separated from the group, he encouraged us to jot down the turns on pieces of paper he then covered in clear tape, as sweat protection. And I was glad to have the taped-up piece of paper. If a nice gentleman named Ray Bingham hadn’t doubled back to find me, I would have done most of the run solo.
Day 2: Monday
There was no chance of getting left behind with the run club at the Logan Circle
Lululemon (1461 P St. NW, www.lululemon.com). Just as people pack into the store on Sundays for free community yoga, a huge bunch run together every Monday at 6:30 p.m. Organizer Elyse Braner, in pearls and a running skirt, explained that the 40 of us would be splitting up by distance, running three miles, 41
2 miles or six miles. She recommended the last group only for folks who could maintain a seven-minute-mile pace. Three miles sounded good to me, as did our route: the “five states run,” which followed a circle of state street names. Team leaders Andrea Rutledge and Eva Lee ran at the back of the pack, offering chitchat and support to anyone lagging behind. Awaiting us at the finish line was a spread of hummus, cheese and fruit, and the chance to work out our abs with Braner.
But I had to dash over to Nike Georgetown (3040 M St. NW, www.nike.com), which transforms into the Nike Training Club every Monday at 8 p.m. Between the doorman — making sure you’re there to sweat, not shop — and the music from DJ Chris Styles, it really felt like a club. Or maybe it was the crowd of 100 people crammed into every inch of floor space. Instructors Deanna Jefferson and Ingrid Nelson tag-teamed, with Jefferson up front and Nelson weaving through the folks struggling with body-weight-based exercises such as squat jumps with 180-degree turns and single-arm push-ups from flat on the ground. For a partner exercise (one person held plank while the other jumped back and forth, performing a burpee on each side), I worked with Hayat El-Bereir, a 26-year-old student who says Nike has become her entire fitness program since the store opened in October. “You should come as much as you can,” she said, suggesting I also join the Nike+ Run Club at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and (for women only) Thursdays.