Orangetheory is slowly but surely working its way into casual conversations everywhere.
Have you heard of Orangetheory? Are you doing Orangetheory? How do you like Orangetheory?
Part of the mystery is that it looks like an exclusive and somewhat intimidating club. Most of the time, the gyms are in strip malls with big windows where you can see a bunch of sweaty people working out at extra hardcore levels.
I’ve been attending Orangetheory for the past 7 months and I’m going to tell you what it’s like from the non-athletic and non-gym lover point of view.
For background, I’ve basically always had a gym membership. Some were expensive, others were cheap, but those monthly dues were always being collected, whether I went to the gym or not. At the gym, I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m not a big weight lifter and I’m not educated in the art of fitness. Usually, I’d just default to running the treadmill or checking my phone a bunch between random sets of exercises on machines I had no idea how to really use.
What drew me to Orangetheory was two things: someone leads you through a workout that’s finished in one hour, and you get your money’s worth.
Orangetheory offers everyone a free first class. This gives you a chance to sample what it’s all about. It’s best to show up a bit early because the coach will want to work with you to explain the routine. Just be prepared for a pretty hard sell afterward. They want you to join. I’d recommend sleeping on the decision. Keep in mind you will be pretty energized and amped after your free class and they’re capitalizing on that feeling.
Booking your classes is pretty simple. There’s an app for Android and iOS that lets you see a list of all of the classes happening at your home club. One click and you’re booked. Another click adds the class to your calendar. You can cancel right on the app up to a certain amount of hours before the class starts. I’ve also found that if you call the location directly they can do a lot more for you. At times, I’ve asked to cancel right before class and they were accommodating. The thing I’ve noticed about the booking is that you want to do it early. People seem to book their classes – especially the early weekend classes – way in advance so if you’re big chance is to workout on Saturday or Sunday morning – you’ll want to book a bunch of these ahead of time.
Everyone in an Orangetheory class wears a heart rate monitor. There are two versions – a chest strap and a wristband. I highly recommend you go with the wristband version as I’ve seen way too many people have issues in class with the chest strap not working. It interrupts your workout when you have to adjust it. Also, since you have to lift your shirt up to fiddle with it, not everyone will be comfortable doing that in front of a bunch of random people. You can usually borrow a heart rate monitor for your free intro class, but after that, you’ll have to purchase one of your own from the club. The wrist strap I got was about $100.
Everyone’s heart rate information is displayed on giant TV screens. This is the heart of the workout. Everyone’s current heart rate is color-coded into blue, green, orange and red. (There’s also black, but that means there is a problem with your sensor isn’t responding.) The idea is that you want to spend at least 12 minutes of your workout in the Orange zone. Each minute in this zone will give you a “splat” point – Orangetheory’s fitness currency. Your goal of each hour workout is 12 splat points. According to Orangetheory, if you get 12 splats, your body will continue to burn calories for 36 hours after your workout. I have no idea if this is true, or how much you actually burn after your workout, but that doesn’t matter to me. A goal is a goal, and that’s part of the simplicity of going to Orangetheory. Do this, achieve this and you’re doing good for yourself.
Whether you get the splats you want all depends on you and your body. Sometimes if you’re having a blah day, you might not work out that hard and you won’t get them. Other days, you’ll get them right at the beginning of class. What I’ve noticed is that some people – especially if you’re just getting into a fitness routine – will earn more of these points since their body is working harder. The longer you do Orangetheory, the harder these splats are to earn.
When you check in for class, they ask if you would like to start on the Treadmill or the Rowing machines. I always start on the Treadmill since I like to be “warmed up” before I get into the weight part of class. This is just a personal preference. Classes are generally capped at about 30 people – 15 that start on the treadmills and 15 that start on the rowers – but there are some classes designated as “3G” where there are 3 groups of people. Usually, these are scheduled during peak times or on holidays.
A typical class will take you into three separate workout areas – cardio on the treadmill, weight and core exercises in the weight room and rowing. Every class you attend will be different, but the general outline is the same – some combination of cardio, weights and rowing.
Music is loud and commands are spoken over speakers by the class trainer, who is wrangling people in two separate workout areas. For instance, the cardio folks will run for a bit while the trainer shows the weight room folks how to perform each exercise they’ll be doing. Then, they’ll come back over to the treadmill area and coach the treadmill folks through their exercises.
Treadmill exercises are usually the HIIT method, where you go super hard for a bit, then “recover” at a slower pace. This is repeated over and over. Of course, every class is different so you really don’t get bored.
Weight exercises are much more involved. The biggest downside here is that you might not do the exercises right. There are TV’s that show you little looping videos of the exercises you’re supposed to do, but if you’re not familiar with weight exercises you might still have the wrong form. This is where the coaches come in, but it’s pretty hit or miss. Depending on the coach you have they might be all over the class and correcting form, or not. This is probably my biggest criticism of Orangetheory, but in a real gym you have zero guidance so this is way better in general. I’ve just noticed there is a wide-ranging quality of coaches so take classes at different times if you can to find one that likes to guide folks along to the proper form.
Rowing is rowing. There’s not much to say about this part of the class except that I’ve heard rowing is super good for your body if you do it right. I’m still working on getting the form down.
One thing that will take a little getting used to – especially if you’re a germophobe – is switching equipment. Since there are groups of sweaty people switching between machines, you’ll be wiping down the equipment you just used halfway through the workout. They supply little disinfectant wipes for everyone to use and it’s not an optional thing. It’s not that gross since you’re just wiping your own sweat off before you hand over the machine.
Ending the Workout
I call Orangetheory the McDonald’s of workouts. I know that sounds terrible, but it’s sort of true. It’s fast, efficient and almost like a drive through. You get an amazing workout done in an hour’s time. If you do it right, you will be super sweaty by the end of it and feel fantastic. Since you’re with a group, there is a lot of group camaraderie going on too. The other nice thing is that everything happens at your own pace. Orangetheory can look intimidating to the outsider but it’s actually the least intimidating gym setup for a beginner. No one else in the class cares what your heart rate value is or if you’re going super fast on the treadmill. Orangetheory is actually a great way to get in shape if you have no idea what you’re doing in a gym. There is some stretching after the 55-minute class but not enough to be truly useful. The trainers often recommend taking a yoga class or stretching on your own at home. (Guess how many times I’ve done that…)
Perhaps what I like most about Orangetheory is the value. Unlike a regular gym, you don’t have to sign up for a monthly membership. They have monthly plans of course, but I opt for the class packs. You pre-pay for 10, 20 or 30 classes up front and they last a year. If you do the math, it’s a bit more expensive but you’re never paying for something you don’t use. A 10 pack is $245, or $24.50 a class, a 20 pack is $380 or $19 a class and a 30 pack is $510 or $17 a class. Monthly memberships will bring this cost down even more but keep in mind those numbers are totally dependent on regular attendance. You can use your pre-paid classes at any locations, but I’m not sure about the monthly memberships. Since each location is a franchise, you will have to sort of sign up at any new location you use. It only takes a few minutes but they need you to sign a fresh waiver form and have your credit card on file. It’s not ideal, perhaps Orangetheory will streamline their system in the future.
Overall, I highly recommend you give Orangetheory a shot. It’s a fast and easy way to feel good. I regularly burn about 700 calories in a one hour class and it definitely feels like you are getting a full body workout.
When you go to Orangetheory, bring a towel, your water bottle and heart rate monitor. (I LOVE these microfiber towels I got on Amazon – perfectly absorbent and cheap.) There are places to change and each location usually has a shower or two you can use after class. There are also lockers to store your stuff while you workout. Each location also has a place to fill up your water bottle. The staff is super friendly and can answer any questions you have. Also, make sure your heart rate monitor is charged before class. You won’t feel as motivated in class if you can’t see your real-time stats. You don’t need music or earbuds, the class is done to loud music.