Orangetheory Fitness review — a 60-minute workout that combines treadmill interval training (HIIT), indoor rowing and weight work.
I LOVE living in Richmond, but for whatever reason we always seem to be a little behind when it comes to health and fitness. I’m still waiting on an epic juice bar + salad shop to open and while many of my friends have been raving about Orangetheory Fitness for over a year, I still hadn’t had a chance to try it because we didn’t have a studio. Well, things are a-changing my friends because this week, our first Orangetheory studio is opening! Cue the confetti.
I found out they were opening a few months ago and signed up for an early membership so I was invited to come take classes during the mock-period this past week. So far I’ve only been a handful of times but I’m already hooked! It’s unlike any other group fitness class I’ve taken and it’s an awesome workout. Before I go into details about my experience, let me give you a little background info about what Orangetheory Fitness is.
It’s a 60-minute workout that combines treadmill interval training (HIIT), indoor rowing and weight work. It kind of reminds me of a bootcamp, group personal training or CrossFit style workout, but it’s not exactly like any of those.
During the workout you wear a heart rate monitor (calibrated to your age, height and weight) and your stats are projected on screens throughout the studio so that you can see what zone you’re in.
There are a five heart-rate zones, which are color-coded based on this chart.
Throughout the workout, you perform multiple intervals designed to produce 12 to 20 minutes of training at 84% or higher of your maximum heart rate, which translates to zones 4/5 (the orange and red zones). The theory behind the Orangetheory Fitness workout is that the program is designed to produce “Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption,” or EPOC also known as the “afterburn” effect, which is an increased metabolic rate for 24 to 36 hours after the workout. This means you burn additional calories after your workout — even if you go home, sit on the couch and marathon-watch Bloodline… not that I did that or anything.
The workouts are different every day so you’ll never do the same workout twice, but each class always combines the three main components — treadmill, rowing and weights. The intensity is based on your heart rate and the workout is customizable based on your fitness level and goals. For instance, on the treadmill the trainer gives options for power walkers, joggers and runners and you’re in control of increasing and decreasing your speed, incline and effort.
How an Orangetheory Fitness class works:
When you enter the studio you strap on your heart rate monitor and decide whether you want to start with the treadmill or resistance group. The resistance group warms up on the rowers then does a combo of rowing and weight training exercises for the first half the class while the other group rocks it out on the treadmills. Each group switches halfway through class.
I’ve been in the treadmill group first twice and did the rowers first once. I think I like doing the treadmill first because I have plenty of energy to do the all-out sprints, but it’s totally up to whether you like doing your cardio or weight work first.
While on the treadmill the trainer uses several key words so you know what to do. They’ll say BASE pace, PUSH pace and All Out Sprint.
- For power walkers, base pace = 3.5-4.5 mph with a 1-3% incline // push pace = incline greater than 4% (or whatever the coach says) // sprint = 10-15% incline
- For joggers, base pace = 4.5-5.5 mph with a 1% incline // push pace = 1-2 mph faster than base // sprint = 2 mph or more faster than base
- For runners (10 min pace or faster), base pace = 5.5+ mph with a 1% incline // push pace = 1-2 mph faster than base // sprint = 2 mph or more faster than base
The trainer gives you these cues as a guide but just like in a cycling class, ultimately it’s your workout and you’re in charge. This can mean pushing yourself harder than you thought possible or it can mean listening to your body and taking it easy if necessary. The trainers always stress that if you’re in the red zone (90-100% of your max heart rate), you must be in control.
For the resistance piece of class, there’s a weight room area set up and when you’re not rowing you’ll be given weight circuits to do. The trainer demonstrates each move and gives modifications for making it easier or harder. There’s also a screen with the exercises on it so you don’t forget what you’re doing. During the classes I’ve taken so far we’ve done some body weight exercises (like push-ups), plyo moves (like jump squats), worked with the TRX bands, used dumbbells and medicine balls. During this part of the class the trainer will let you know how many reps and sets to do and when to switch back to rowing if that’s part of the set.
As I mentioned, the whole time you’re working out, your stats are projected on screens throughout the studio so you can always glance at the screen and see your heart rate, what zone you’re in, how many Splat Points you’ve accumulated and how many calories you’ve burned.
The treadmill work is where you get most of your “Splat Points” (which are the total number of minutes you spend in the orange and red zones combined). When you’re doing the rowing and weight work you’re heart rate usually drops so you’ll likely be in the blue and green zone. Most people spend the majority of their class time in the green zone. For this reason Orangetheory calls it the “Big Green.”
After class you get an email with your performance summary which shows your heart rate levels throughout class, your Splat Points and calorie burn. Here’s mine for my second class:
I’m a numbers girl so it’s fun for me to get this report! I especially like knowing what my max heart rate was, how many calories I burned and how long I stayed in the orange and red zones. Oh, and I was super excited to realize that the Orangetheory Fitness HRM works with my Polar Loop so I get activity points for the workouts!! That said, even if there were no numbers involved you can tell you got in an epic workout because you leave the studio feeling awesome — you worked hard and you’re a sweaty mess but you still feel energized from all the endorphins. And I’ve been sore — not in a painful way at all, but in that “I know I just worked out” kind of way!! I know being sore isn’t the end goal but if I’m doing a workout and I’m never sore I tend to think it’s not doing much to change my body.
A few additional things to think about: 1.) Like any boutique studio, you have to pay for a class package which can get pricey if you’re also paying for a gym membership or other fitness studio memberships. 2.) The workouts are pretty intense and probably shouldn’t be done every day. Your body needs time to rest and recover. 3.) Although Orangetheory Fitness is a franchised business and the daily workouts are the same all over the country, the trainers and clients are different so my experience here in Richmond could be a little different than you’re experience elsewhere. I find that with group fitness classes, having a good instructor is crucial. Make sure you try a few different trainers and find one that you really like. 4.) If you hate running on the treadmill, you’re pretty much out of luck because you’ll be on the treadmill for a good portion of class. The studio does have a stationary bike and elliptical so I’m sure you could request to use one of those if you’re injured or simply can’t do the treadmill or rowing machine.
All that said, I’m officially hooked! Orangetheory is everything I want out of gym workout (HIIT + weights) but with the guidance and encouragement from a trainer, a friendly group environment and AWESOME music. Our studio plays upbeat music — everything from older hip-hop to top 40’s jams. I’m all about good music while I’m working out so I really like this piece of it. And I definitely find that I work way harder in the Orangetheory classes than I would on my own at the gym! I’m excited to see how things go as I do the workouts regularly and I can’t wait to bring Isaac to a class with me soon.
If you’re local to Richmond, the Orangetheory studio in Short Pump is open for regular classes on Friday, October 9th. I’m pretty sure your first class is free so come check it out! If you’re not local, have you tried Orangetheroy or a similar group fitness class? What did you think?