As a three-sport varsity athlete at Union College, Rebecca Skudder always remained on the run. Even when she entered the workforce in the Boston area, she kept up her active lifestyle. But when she began to train for a half marathon four years ago, she discovered the city had no workout studios that offered classes on a treadmill. Sure, every other block had a SoulCycle, but runners had nowhere to go, especially in winter months, to train.
For a few years, she toyed with the idea of starting a running studio. She created a business plan and even came up with an eclectic, eye-catching name. But the idea of actually opening one remained a fantasy in her mind, something she might do in the future. She would tell herself, “No, this is dumb. Focus on the job. You just got out of school.”
When a studio with a similar concept opened up in New York City, Skudder received emails from friends and family encouraging her to turn her plans into action. And so she made the leap, and decided to pursue her dream.
She left her corporate job downtown, and today, Skudder is the owner of MyStryde, a running studio in the North End on 456 Hanover St. On a sky-blue wall in the studio, Skudder defines a “Stryder” as “One who seeks sweat, finds happiness in hard work, finds strength in their squad, and energy from their tribe, finds glory in the grand and power in the pain, goes the distance, stops at nothing, and always believes.”
MyStryde is equipped with 12 Woodway treadmills, and offers a range of beginner to advanced classes. The workouts take place in a dark room, and are synced with music to set the pace. All of MyStryde’s instructors are certified by the USA Track & Field organization.
Skudder’s hiring philosophy reflects her passion for running and her dedication toward revolutionizing the workout experience for runners. She wants her instructors to be approachable and have a good vibe, something she says is rare in most studios. But Skudder’s teachers still must have an influential presence and be confident in their abilities.
“You can’t walk in there and be kind of timid and shy,” Skudder said. “You need to own the room.”
Sarah Ashiqueali, MCAS ’17, ran the Boston Marathon last year, and will be running it again this year. When asked her opinion on a running studio like MyStryde, she expressed an interest in a business that could build a running community within Boston. Ashiqueali also noted that MyStryde’s classes might be ideal for beginning runners, as they would provide guidance and a training schedule.
“It also builds discipline for those who have trouble forcing themselves to get out there and train,” Ashiqueali said.
In addition to running classes, MyStryde also sells running gear and apparel. They sell shoes from Sketchers Performance and On—a Swiss brand. Looking around at the shelves in her studio, Skudder emphasized the careful selection she makes when picking the materials she sells.
“I only bring in things that I really do believe in as a runner,” Skudder said, pointing specifically to one rack in the corner with socks on it. “Like these running socks are my favorite socks. If you look through my drawer, I’m always going to pick out these socks if I’m going for a run, because they’re good socks.”
MyStryde also supports the community by collecting old sneakers. The large, transparent box that they call the “kick wall” is already filled with dozens of donations, and serves as a bright decoration for the space. Once the “kick wall” is full, they will give the old sneakers to Soles4Souls, a Nashville-based charity that collects and redistributes new and used shoes and clothing around the world. They also support the fundraising efforts of runners, and have partnered with CharityTeams, an organization that assists small charities with athletic fundraising opportunities.
Looking back on the past year, Skudder said the two biggest challenges she has encountered are managing a team of people with different personalities, and making decisions about the cash flow of the company. Despite its success in its first year as a business, she has had to be patient with attracting customers without using excessive marketing strategies.
“They’re going to come in slower than you ever imagine,” Skudder said “You’re always going to think, ‘Ah, it’s gonna be the next big thing. It’s gonna be huge.’”
As Skudder reflected on her path to MyStryde, thinking about how many college students must go through the same choice she did—abandon your dream or risk it all?—her phone rang. She laughed as she let it go to voicemail.
“This is my life,” Skudder said. “You own a business? This is your life. It’s crazy.”
Featured Image by Sherry Hsiao