What We Tried: Sproing Sport
Where: The Sproing Sport studio is located in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood at 1652 N. Wells Street.
What We Did: Classes are 45 minutes long and consist of 30 minutes of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) plus a 15-minute period ahead of time to set up your heart rate monitor, situate yourself in the Sproing harness and get the rundown on which skills (lunges, bicep curls, planks, forward running, backward running, etc.) will be performed during that particular session. When trying a new class, I hate feeling like I'm constantly two beats behind as I catch on to what we're supposed to be doing, so this preparation time was much appreciated.
How'd It Feel: Sproing's philosophy is "train hard, land soft." The machine itself looks a bit like a backward treadmill, only instead of a moving belt beneath your feet, you have a soft stationary pad reminiscent of a camping air mattress (in fact, that's what the founders used in their very first prototype). You're attached to the machine via a harness that allows you to run in place and that also contributes to the low-impact nature of the class.
Arguably more important is how the class didn't feel -- painful. Typically, after 30 minutes of strenuous, "actually no, I cannot do another burpee, because I don't have a drop of energy left in me" exercise, I wobble home on aching knees and strained shins. When I clipped out of the harness and returned to solid ground, there was the feel-good burn and fatigue that comes with a good workout but no aches to be had.
What It Helps With: Runners will appreciate that the Sproing Trainer was designed with them in mind as a way to build endurance and strength without the pain that can come with pounding the pavement. This is a low-impact workout that gets your blood (and sweat -- lots of sweat) flowing.
What Fitness Level Is Required: Everyone's max intensity is different, and the nice thing about classes that focus on heart rate zones is class-goers can customize to their fitness level. If certain skills are more difficult for you than others -- say, for example, you loathe planks of all varieties... ahem -- there are ways to change up your positioning on the pad to utilize the Sproing's harness and take a bit of the strain off your body while still completing the exercise.
What It Costs: Individual classes are $25, and package deals are available. Special heart rate monitors are required; you can purchase and personalize your own (helpful for those who like to know how many calories they're burning) or borrow a loaner.
Would We Do It Again: Definitely. This would be a nice supplement to my regular running activities as a way of building endurance and strength while also giving my joints a respite.