Orangetheory Fitness Review

Happy Hump Day, everyone! Yesterday I went to my first Orangetheory Fitness (OTF) class and wanted to share my experience and thoughts about the workout with you. I first learned about this workout program/studio via Facebook (it came up as a Suggested Post since some of my Facebook friends had ‘Liked’ the page).  More recently, I read about the program in the September issue of SELF magazine. The article discussed the afterburn effect of high intensity interval training and how OTF incorporates this science-backed practice into their workout routines. The article also included a sample workout that you can do at your own gym, similar to the routines done at the studio.

I’ve been looking for ways to change up my workout routine since I’ve hit a plateau and am also getting a little bored with my cardio on the elliptical. I know I need to push my body harder, and this class seemed like the perfect way to do just that. Plus, the first session is free—there was no reason not to give it a try. I went to the company Web site, selected my studio location (they have over 110 locations nationwide), and submitted my contact info to schedule my free session. I received an email the next day from one of the studio’s associates with instructions to call or email back to book my free session; I gave him a call and selected the class I wanted to take from their online schedule.

The Theory behind Orangetheory Fitness:

Orangetheory’s workout routines are based on the science of interval training and the excess postexercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) that it creates. What that means is that it takes oxygen and energy (calories) for your body to recover from exercise—the more intense you work out, the more energy (calories) it takes for your body to return to its resting state. Therefore, you burn calories both during AND after your workout. According the company’s cofounder, Ellen Latham, M.S., you can burn more than 500 calories per class and up to 15 percent extra in the 24 hours after your workout.

Putting the science of EPOC into practice, Orangetheory’s workout routines are designed to push you into the “Orange Zone,” which is 84 percent or higher of your maximum heart rate, for 12 to 20 minutes, to generate a big “afterburn” effect. You switch between three different paces throughout the workout: a base pace (71 to 83 percent of your maximum heart rate (MHR)); a push pace (84 to 91 percent of your MHR); and an all-out pace (84 to 100 percent of your MHR).

You’re given a heart-rate monitor at the beginning of class, which is programmed to a large screen in the studio, to track your heart rate throughout the workout and make sure you’re reaching the prescribed pace for each interval. At the end of the workout, a chart on the screen shows the total amount of time you stayed in the “Orange Zone” (with the goal being 12 to 20 minutes). The chart is also emailed to you so you can track your progress after every class and see how you’re improving.

The OTF Workout:

The OTF workout is broken into two segments: a treadmill segment and a rowing machine/strength training segment. My instructor, Jewel, had me start on the treadmill. (There were about 15 people in the class; half started with the treadmill routine, the other half started with the rowing machine/strength circuit segment).

Before the class began, Jewel asked if I identified myself as a power walker, jogger, or runner. I said a jogger. She then asked what speed I typically run on the treadmill; I said between 5.5 and 6.5 MPH. She then told me that I would actually be considered a runner (runner’s have a base pace of 5.5 MPH or higher). From there she went over how the routine works and what the lingo means. She went over the three paces (base, push, and all-out) and what they would translate to on the treadmill (i.e., push pace would be 1 MPH higher than my base pace; all-out pace would be 2 or more MPH higher than my base pace). (Note: There’s also a recovery pace, which is 3 to 4 MPH, but it’s short period of about 15 to 30 seconds to catch your breath and recover after an all-out sprint interval.)

Given my base pace was between 5.5 and 6.5 MHP, my push pace would be between 6.5 and 7.5 MPH, and my all-out pace would be between 7.5 and 8.5 MPH. I’m not going to lie, at first those numbers scared me. It’s been a few months since I ran on the treadmill and the fastest I remember running was at 7.9 MPH to run a half mile in under three minutes—and it was not easy! On top of that, the treadmill routine is done at a 1 percent incline to resemble walking/jogging/running on a flat surface outside.

Orange Theory Fitness Interior

Treadmills and rowing machines at Orangetheory Fitness Studio. (Source)

Once Jewel went over the details with me, it was time to get started. The entire treadmill routine took about 27 minutes. I started at my base pace of 5.5 MPH and was surprised to find it was pretty easy. We spent about five minutes at base pace before going to our push pace. I brought the treadmill speed up to 6.5 MPH, and, again, was surprised to find it easier than I had thought. I think it’s because I gained some muscle in my legs over the past few months and have been building my endurance with Plyometrics. Anyway, back to the workout. After the push pace, we went back to the base for another minute or two. Then it was time for an all-out sprint interval. The first all-out sprint interval was for 90 seconds. (The instructor tells you how long each interval block will be before you start it.) For the all-out sprint, I brought my speed up to 7.5 MPH…and quickly learned that I could definitely go faster. After that first all-out sprint, we went to a quick active recovery pace (3 to 4 MPH) and then back into our base pace for about two minutes. Then it was time for another push-pace interval; this time for four minutes. I decided to bring my pace up a bit and went for 7 MPH. We rotated between push- and base-pace again before going back to the all-out sprint pace. We did several all-out sprint intervals back-to-back, with short periods (30 to 60 seconds) of active rest in between. The all-out sprint intervals lasted 90 seconds; 60 seconds; and then there were two 30-second intervals. Each time you’re advised to try to go a little faster than your previous all-out pace. I ran at 8 MPH, 8.4 MPH, and went up to 8.6 MPH for the 30-second intervals. After the sprint intervals we went back to rotating between intervals at base pace and push pace for the last 5 minutes, with one more 30-second all-out sprint thrown in there.

At the end of the treadmill routine I was soaked, and, most importantly, my heart rate was up! Throughout the workout I tried to keep an eye on my heart rate on the screen, but I found it a little difficult since the screen was not directly in front of me. At first I had to find my name, which is hard to do when you’re running. Once I knew where to look, all I had to do was make sure I saw the right color to know whether I was in the right zone or not (green for base pace; orange for push pace; and red for all-out pace).

With the treadmill routine done, it was time to move to the rowing machine/strength training part of the workout. This routine was broken into three different circuits, or blocks.

OTF Interior 2

Free weights, TRX straps, steps, and other fitness equipment are used during the strength training blocks of the workout to build strength and power. (Source)

For the first block, we had to perform 16 single-arm dumbbell snatches (8 on each side) followed by 16 single-arm dumbbell swings (8 on each side). We repeated this circuit of moves for the entire block, which lasted about five minutes; I went through the circuit four times.

For the second block we had to go at an all-out pace on the rowing machine for one minute, then perform 8 what I’ll call “plank-to-squat” moves (see instructions below), followed by 16 bicycle crunches (8 on each side). We repeated this circuit of moves for five minutes, performing it anywhere from 2 to 4 times, depending on your fitness level.

Get into plank/push-up position. Jump legs wide and to the sides of your hands; keep weight in heels.
Rise up to a low squat position with your hands raised in front of your chest; hold for a second.
Then lower your hands back to ground and jump feet back into plank/push-up position for 1 rep.

The next block consisted of 8 TRX jump squats followed by 8 burpee push-ups. This block last about the same time as the others; I went through the circuit four and a half times.

At this point I was sweating way more than I typically do during my at-home elliptical sessions, but I wasn’t completely exhausted. After the workout we did a few stretches and then checked the screen to see how many calories we burned. I burned a total of 559 calories; one of the guys in the class burned over 700! Unfortunately, they were experiencing some computer problems and the chart that shows how long each person was in the “Orange Zone” wasn’t loading, so that kind of stunk—it’s basically the whole point of the workout! But I was still very happy with the class and knew I had a good workout.

After class, Jewel talked to me a little more about the program and how every day there is a different workout; every studio around the country follows the same workout for the day. The workouts also focus on different elements, such as endurance, strength, and power. (Today’s workout was focused on power.)

Overall I really enjoyed the class and could definitely see why so many people stick with the program and see great results (look at the transformation below!). I also know I was experiencing the “afterburn” effect when my Fitbit reached four dots before 4:00 p.m. (I have it set to total calories burned; it usually doesn’t hit four dots until 5 or 6 p.m.)

I’d like to take the class again, but I’m not sure if it fits my budget at the moment. They offer a range of different memberships, depending on how often you’d like to take a class. I was looking at the most basic membership, which is four classes a month for $59 ($14.75 per class). It’s not cheap, but I may give it a try for at least a month—it would be a nice change of pace. And if I do, you can be sure that I’ll be sharing my progress with you!

Have you ever taken an Orangetheory Fitness Class? What do you think of the program?

(Note: This review is strictly from my own personal experience; I was not compensated or asked to write this post by Orangetheory Fitness.)


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