Clarendon Has a New Gym for Runners
Formula Running Center focuses on training and recovery, whether your goal is a 5K, a marathon, or simply running without injury.
There’s a new place for folks to get or stay fit in America’s fittest city. (ICYMI, that’s Arlington.)
Formula Running Center, the first boutique gym in the DMV dedicated to running, opened Nov. 4 at 3101 Wilson Blvd. with a menu of classes including Formula 101, which acclimates newbies to one of the gym’s 24 Woodway treadmills, and Formula Distance, a 75-minute class of which 60 are spent running or walking, depending on ability level. The 5,000-square-foot facility also offers recovery classes such as Yoga for Runners, which emphasizes deep stretching rather than poses.
“What we’re trying to do is create a complete training experience for runners here,” says Christopher Hoffman, who co-owns FRC with Nicole DonVito.
An often overlooked part of that experience is recovery, Hoffman says. That’s why the gym has a dedicated recovery room with a whole-body cryotherapy tank that uses temperatures of -130 to -184 degrees to heal the body within three minutes.
If that’s a bit too cold for your blood, there’s also a cold-water soaking tub that gets down to a comparatively balmy 42 degrees. (Most people stay submerged for six to 10 minutes, Hoffman says.)
Some like it hot, so FRC also has a Sunlighten mPulse infrared sauna. The infrared radiation heats the body rather than the air and has been known to promote healing.
Alternately, you can skip a temperature change completely and opt for a session in the NormaTec compression sleeves – which, according to the owners, speed recovery, increase circulation and ease sore muscles – or schedule an appointment with the gym’s massage therapist.
“One of the biggest reasons runners and endurance athletes get injured is because they’re not taking the time to focus on the downtime, the recovery they need,” Hoffman says.
Personally, I am recovering at room temperature from the Formula Tread and Train class I took in the 1,800-square-foot workout room. We spent about 10 minutes on the treadmill and the rest of the hourlong class on the Plae rubber gym floor doing run-boosting strength training moves. For instance, we held free weights at heart center, lunged forward with one foot and then – without putting that foot down – swept it to a backward lunge. We did 20 reps. Per leg.
We also grabbed the handles of TRX straps and did single-leg squats and rows to target our arms, chest and back. Because the class is a full-body workout, we tackled our tummies and core – think abs, obliques and back – which are crucial to good running form and therefore crucial to endurance and injury prevention. Mountain climbers – in plank position, hold your upper body and core steady while driving one knee at a time in toward your chest – left no muscle unworked.
The Pit Stop, an area stocked with snacks and hydrating drinks, many of which are free to members, was a welcome post-workout sight. Because Hoffman intends it to be a place where outdoor runners can swing by for reinforcements, it also has Band-Aids and Body Glide anti-chafing products at the ready.
Speaking of membership, the price ranges from $144 to $499 per month, depending on what services you’re chasing. FRC uses a credit system. Classes, 45-minute sauna sessions, 30-minute compression-sleeve sessions and a soak in the tub are 1 credit each, while cryotherapy and a couples infrared sauna session cost 2 credits. A single credit is $30; packs range from $142.50 for five to $510 for 20.
Credits don’t apply to massages, training programs, personal coaching and assessments. Assessments are done on a treadmill in a separate room, where experts monitor gait; assess resting metabolic rate, or the number of calories burned when your body is at rest; and VO2 max, or the maximum rate of oxygen consumed during exercise.
Additionally, FRC has a registered dietitian on staff to help people prepare for races or just make healthier food choices.
As it turns out, Arlington is a running haven. It topped SmartAsset’s list of best cities for runners in 2018 and 2019, in part because it has the third-highest number of gyms per 10,000 residents. Still, FRC believes its arrival will have the biggest effect on novice and recreational runners, not top athletes.
“We’re not trying to be an elite training facility,” Hoffman says. “It’s very important for myself and my partner that everyone feels comfortable here.”