In the world of exercise and fitness, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) has become, well, a hit. A body of recent scientific research has shown HIIT to be the most effective way to burn fat, improve endurance and build strength. It’s more effective and time-efficient than, say, taking a half-hour to run three miles.
High-intensity interval training is what Fly Feet Running is all about. Entrepreneur Kristin Shane opened her first Fly Feet exercise studio in downtown Minneapolis in the fall of 2016, and her second location opened a few months ago in the Promenade of Wayzata.
Shane, an Indiana native who moved to the Twin Cities 12 years ago with her husband, Ben, has combined an entrepreneurial spirit with the love of running she’s cultivated for the past 20 years.
Her interest in entrepreneurship goes back even farther than that, to sixth grade, when she watched her father start a successful manufacturing business “at our kitchen table,” she says. “I’ve always been excited about starting my own business, and always had some kind of business plan in the works,” Shane says. She started thinking about the business that became Fly Feet in 2014 and left her job as a vice president of merchandise (for beauty and personal care products) at Target Corp. in 2015.
Shane, who has run close to 20 marathons, saw a market opening for a new approach to personal fitness. Forty-two million Americans identify themselves as runners, “the biggest contingent of people who identify with any one sport,” she says. And 80 percent of runners deal with some type of injury within a year, Shane says, partly because “no one actually teaches you how to run. A lot of runners go out on long, slow runs and tend to get hurt, but don’t get any faster.” She enlisted exercise physiologist Aaron Leventhal, a former Minnesota Thunder soccer player and former strength coach for the Minnesota Wild, to design a program including short, high-intensity bursts of sprinting, with strength and flexibility training. “We’re not just for runners; we’re for anyone who is looking to get fit,” Shane says.
The workouts are designed “with a lot of specificity around how people move, and how different exercises work together to make you fitter. The classes are designed to deliver results. We create programming centered around this idea of intensity, which can be a scary word for people. But you, the client, are in the driver’s seat, making decisions,” Shane says.
Frank Millo has been looking forward to the opening of Fly Feet’s Wayzata facility for some time. Since late 2016, he’s been getting up at 5:30 a.m. and driving downtown from his Medina home to participate in classes, before driving to work in Plymouth. A former defensive tackle at the University of St. Thomas, Millo says Fly Feet offers “probably the toughest workout I’ve ever done, and the most rewarding ... doing a lot of push-ups, pull-ups, front squats and burpees. It’s a very time-efficient, one-hour class, and they have phenomenal coaches,” he says. “Because the coaches are so good, the class winds up being a lot of the same people, all running and sweating together, everybody in the same boat. It’s rewarding because there’s no way you can push yourself that hard on your own.” The combination of exercise and nutrition advice from coaches has helped Millo lose more than 50 pounds in a year.
Laura Docherty, a former high school and University of Minnesota cross country and track competitor, has been
a coach at Fly Feet for over a year.
“What I like about the approach is that it’s accessible for everyone,” she says. “We never tell people what speed to run or what weight to pick, or tell them how they should feel. It’s my job to get them to try new things, get them to a new place, every time they come in. The people I meet are so hardworking, regardless of whether they consider themselves runners or not. I’ve never been in such an awesome community.”
In the high-intensity workouts, class members are pushed to run as fast as they can, or do as many pushups, lunges or other exercises as they can in a minute. Each result is written in chalk on the floor behind the treadmill, so participants can try to improve their results each time they try. Three coaches guide each class through the exercises, and “make sure people are moving well, so they don’t get hurt,” Shane says. She and Fly Feet seem to have found a terrific niche in the competitive fitness industry, but Shane is staying humble and practical. “Our ambition is to inspire people to chase the best version of themselves,” she says.