St. Louis Park Welcomes Its Own Gym for Runners

Runners make use of the strength training space at Performance Running.

Biting cold and icy sidewalks are just two hallmarks of Minnesota winters runners are happy to leave behind this spring. With the opening of his new gym Performance Running, personal trainer and avid runner Mark Johnson sought to create a space for runners to strength train, connect and simply be among other runners.

“The main thing that makes this a gym for runners is that there are runners,” says Johnson. “I think of this as a place that will become a hub for all things running, to race coaching, recovery, community, group runs and strength training.”

Walking through the space, runners are met with high-end treadmills and walls decorated with race bibs from local and international races alike, a far cry from the cavernous rooms of treadmills you’ll usually find. A chalkboard wall is outside of the recovery room, peppered with races runners are training for and goals they hope to achieve.

Runners aren’t simply clocking in for a workout and rushing to their next engagement, they’re meeting other runners and training for a lifetime sport.

Now five months into business, the same camaraderie Johnson experienced as a runner on the trails has made its way into the gym.

“You might not know the person next to you, but you might have done a race they’ve done or they might have run with someone you know,” runner Kim Pease says. “There is going to be a connection.”

Pease heard of Performance Running after meeting Johnson in a local running group. She wanted to support a fellow runner. What she got was a greater connection to the running community.

“We’re all runners. We’re all used to running together and chatting together,” Pease says. “I feel like I’m running in this really big, casual living room.”

Johnson started running after a knee surgery to keep arthritis at bay, working to strengthen the muscle around the knee. What began as a goal of running a marathon quickly grew into a lifestyle. After discovering a need for a space for runners to strength train without the intimidation factor, he decided to follow a dream and create it. “I thought, ‘What if there was a place where all the people in the weight room were runners?’” says Johnson.

Designed with runners in mind, the weight room at Performance Running has all the equipment you’ll find in big box gyms, along with tall ceilings and lots of with natural light. Runners, cross country skiers and even a couple cyclists work toward their goals. A certified personal trainer with over two decades of running behind him, Johnson also offers one-on-one training for those looking to begin or strengthen their running careers.

This summer, Performance Running is one of the sponsors for the Endless Summer Trail Run Series. The series includes four races, taking place over four summer months in different locations just outside of the Twin Cities. The series is one example of events Johnson hopes to be involved with going forward. For now, you’ll find him growing his business, or just running.