There’s a good chance that you’ve heard of Orangetheory Fitness before, and that’s because this studio-gym chain is growing like crazy. It’s been called “The Ultimate Workout,” “The Best One-Hour Workout in the Country” and a “Plateau-Busting Workout,” and there is a reason for those awesome accolades …
Last month, I joined the team at a brand new Orangetheory Fitness in the Bay Area as a Fitness Coach, but before that, I took the class at two different studios as a participant. I’m a big fan of the workout and believe it is something that everyone can do. And it’s different. It’s unlike any other workout that I’ve done in my many years as an exerciser and fitness professional, because it incorporates science-backed heart-rate training principles and technology.
Today, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know before you go take your first class. And if you’re a regular Orangetheory Fitness member, you may learn something new that will make you love the workout even more than you already do.
What is Orangetheory Fitness?
Orangetheory Fitness is a franchised chain of studio gyms, which offer nothing but classes broken up into both cardiovascular- and strength-training intervals. The company is headquartered in South Florida and was created by a trained physiologist named Ellen Latham. The actual studio space at each Orangetheory Fitness location usually includes a lobby with retail, a couple of bathrooms and showers, lockers and the main studio, where the action takes place. People can pay to take drop-in classes one-at-a-time or join a studio as a member, by purchasing packages of anywhere from four-to-unlimited classes per month. The class includes work on the treadmill, the indoor water-rower and the weight-room floor with various equipment. And all participants wear a heart-rate monitor, with real-time readings showing on monitors in the studio during class. This is not-your-average corporate gym. Orangetheory Fitness locations are small enough to provide a very community-feel, where members, Fitness Coaches and Orangetheory Fitness (OTF) associates get to know each other very well. Most classes have no more than 24-26 participants.
What are the benefits of an Orangetheory Fitness workout?
- Improved total-body conditioning
- High caloric burn
- Improved muscle endurance, strength and power
- Improved agility and coordination
- Improved speed
- The chance to work with and get familiar with different types of equipment
- The energy of group training, with the special attention of personal training
What does an Orangetheory Fitness workout consist of?
A typical Orangetheory Fitness workout is about 55-60 minutes in length and includes both cardiovascular- and strength-training intervals broken up into blocks with breaks in-between. Participants are split into two groups, with one group beginning on the treadmills and one group beginning on the indoor water-rowers. Although participants start in different places, they will each get the chance to experience the same total workout throughout the one-hour class.
Each workout usually amounts to about 26-28 minutes on the treadmill (or the bike or strider, if you’re not a fan of the treadmill), and about 26-28 minutes on the weight-room floor, using a variety of equipment.
On the weight-room floor …
Participants work in a personal station and may do exercises using TRX straps, dumbbells, medicine balls, an Ab Dolly, a BOSU Trainer, as well as tried-and-true bodyweight work. Isolated and functional moves on the floor range from burpees, to TRX chest presses, to knee tucks using an Ab Dolly, to dumbbell Arnold Presses, to medicine ball push-ups and more. The Fitness Coach demonstrates the exercise, coaches participants how to move better, and then a TV monitor displays the name of the exercise, the suggested rep range and a video demo for each set as well, providing both audio and visual learning opportunities. Floor work is usually broken up into three-to-four blocks, ranging from four-to-seven minutes. (I happen to LOVE using the TRX straps and the Ab Dolly on the floor, two modalities that I never seemed to incorporate enough until taking OTF classes. But that indoor rower? It’s the one machine that is TOTALLY changing my fitness level. So good!)
On the treadmill …
Participants will be asked to increase their incline or speed for short blocks of work on the treadmills. Each participant has the option to work as a Power Walker, Jogger or Runner throughout class, depending on their fitness level. Ranges are given for a “Base Pace,” “Push Pace” and “All-Out Pace.” (Even though I don’t really enjoy running, I actually LOVE to push myself into top speeds during the All-Out work and love to surpass double digits in my miles-per-hour. Somehow, OTF makes the treadmill so much more fun than usual. And that feeling when you finish a tough sprint? It can’t be beat!) Treadmill work is usually broken up into three-to-four blocks, ranging from four-to-seven minutes, with a walking recovery between each. *If a participant has bad knees or does not enjoy the treadmill, most studios offer a cycle or a strider as an option as well.
In some classes, participants will switch from the treadmill to the floor (or vice versa) after each block called a “Switch,” and in some classes, participants will switch from the treadmill to the floor (or vice versa) after the first half of class called a “30/30.”
The workout is different every single day, not only so participants don’t get bored, but also so participants’ bodies are continually challenged. Workouts can also have a different focus, such as Power, Strength or Endurance, depending on the day. In addition, there are special events, extended 90-minute sessions and even “tornado-style” classes in which there are three groups of participants in the room for one high-energy class.
What is different about Orangetheory Fitness than other group fitness classes?
- TECHNOLOGY! First and foremost, all participants in an Orangetheory Fitness class must wear a heart-rate monitor. First-time students are able to borrow one from the studio, but regular members must purchase an Orangetheory Fitness strap and heart-rate monitor, which they can keep as their own. This totally changes the tone of class, because everything is backed up by data. And even better, you get an email with your results automatically after each class.
- SCIENCE-BACKED HEART-RATE TRAINING! During the class, participants can watch their heart-rate and see how many calories they are burning throughout the class on big TV displays in the studio. The Fitness Coach will talk participants through what heart-rate training zones they should be in at a certain time and what that should feel like. With research, the team at Orangetheory Fitness has proven that training for a specific amount of time in particular zones will give you the best results.
- EXCESS POST-EXERCISE OXYGEN CONSUMPTION: EPOC is a common term in the fitness world, and it is super important in Orangetheory Fitness. Participants are coached to work about 12-20 minutes in the fourth and fifth heart-rate training zones, which is where high-intensity interval training takes place in the anaerobic state. Based on this exertion, participants will continue to burn calories at a higher rate after they walk out of class, 24 to 48 hours later, which is a totally awesome benefit!
- GROUP, PERSONAL TRAINING! Because the class sizes are kept small, Fitness Coaches in Orangetheory Fitness are able to spend time correcting form, coaching and working with every single participant in class, so you get the benefit of personal training, along with the energy of group training. A win-win!
- VARIETY! No workout includes such variety of equipment than Orangetheory Fitness. One day you could be using a treadmill, an indoor water-rower, a TRX strap, a BOSU Trainer, medicine balls, dumbbells and even an Ab Dolly, just in the course of an hour. You will never get bored in an Orangetheory Fitness workout.
- SAFE FOR ALL LEVELS! This class is designed for all fitness levels and anyone can do it. Because Orangetheory Fitness offers a variety of options for participants to be a Power Walker, Jogger or Runner on the treadmill and work at their own pace on the weight-room floor, people of all exercise backgrounds can benefit and get a great workout in the same class.
- IT’S ADDICTING! People are falling in love with Orangetheory Fitness for the results it brings them. It’s not uncommon to see a bunch of participants in class sporting their Orangetheory pride in the form of branded gear. Each studio also hosts weight-loss challenges and special events to make working out even more fun, so you really feel like you’re part of something big.
And to top it off, when you walk out of class, you see this …
After every single Orangetheory Fitness class, you’ll get a “Performance Summary” emailed to you. Shown above is one of my recent readings. I typically burn between 475 to 600 calories per one-hour class, with 25-35 minutes in the Green zone and 12-20 minutes in the Orange and Red zones (the “after-burn” zones) combined. Good stuff!
And if you’re heading to class for your first time, here are some things to note …
Tips for your first Orangetheory Fitness workout
- Don’t be scared! It’s truly a workout for everyone!
- Please arrive at least 15 minutes early, so an OTF team member can help you get your heart-rate monitor strapped on properly and show you how to use the rower and the treadmill in the studio.
- Wear comfortable shoes and athletic attire, preferably a tighter top and bottoms, so your clothing doesn’t get caught on the rower or weights.
- Bring a water bottle and your own sweat towel.
- If you want to shower, most studios have showers available, but you need to bring your own towel for this.
- Be extra attentive and listen to everything your Fitness Coach tells you, because there are many things you’ll need to do during the one-hour workout, and you get that information primarily in the first five minutes of class.
- Work at your own pace, and don’t worry about staring at the heart-rate TV monitor screens the whole time, instead, listen to the cues from your Fitness Coach on how your body should feel.
- Enjoy your breaks. Take your breaks. And NEVER jump off a moving treadmill on the rails. If you need to stop, pull the emergency cord or press the red stop button and walk down the pace until you’re no longer moving before exiting your treadmill.
- Just make it a goal to finish the workout safely and have a little fun.
The first time trying anything new can be overwhelming, but the great thing about Orangetheory Fitness is that it allows you to work at your own level and pace, the entire class. You don’t have to keep up or compete with anyone at all — it’s all about you. There’s a lot going on in a class, but you’ll become a pro in no time.
Quick snapshot of an Orangetheory Fitness class
- Duration: Most classes run 55-60 minutes, called the “Orange 60”
- Format: Warm-up on the rower or treadmill, spend about 26-28 minutes working on the treadmill in short blocks, and about 26-28 minutes working between the indoor rower and weight-room floor in short blocks, with a 3-4 minute cool-down and stretch at the end. Participants can choose whether they start with treadmill work or floor work each class. Some classes have more work with the indoor rower than others.
- Equipment needed: Bring a towel and a water bottle. Treadmill, mats, rowers, dumbbells, TRX straps, BOSU Trainers, Ab Dollys and more are provided. Heart-rate monitors are required. First-timers can borrow a studio heart-rate monitor, but members will be asked to purchase an OTF heart-rate monitor to wear and keep.
- Difficulty level: Because this class is so personalized to your own fitness level, I’d rate it a strong 8. Everyone has to work hard.
- Suggested attire: Wear running shoes, shorts or capris and short sleeves, because you will get hot. It’s better if your clothing is tighter-fitting to the body, so it doesn’t get in the way when you’re using equipment.
- Major benefits: All workouts are designed to take participants through specific amounts of time training in certain exertion intervals, like the Green, Orange and Red zones. Time spent working in these intervals, helps you to get fit quickly and even continue burning calories when you leave the class, thanks to the science of the “after burn.”
- Frequency: It’s ideal to attend three-to-four classes each week, with a rest day in between. (Which, of course, could change depending on your fitness goals and other workouts.)
If you join an Orangetheory Fitness studio, you too can be a proud owner of one of these OT Beat heart-rate monitors, which also sync with other popular fitness apps. Blue-nail polish sold separately.
Find an Orangetheory Fitness class near you
If you want to try an Orangetheory Fitness class, check out this studio locator. Most locations will let you try your first class free if you call, so don’t be scared, do it today! (And if you’re in the Bay Area, come visit me at Orangetheory Fitness Walnut Creek.)
That’s it, folks. Thanks for letting me share my love of OTF with you! As I continue teaching the classes and taking the classes, I’ll share more tips, tricks and insight. In fact, there’s so much to talk about, I just may have to do a full post on how to get the most out of your Orangetheory Fitness workout in the future. Have an awesome day!
P.S. For more class reviews, head on over to my Fitness + Workouts page.
Questions of the day
Have you ever tried an Orangetheory Fitness class? What did you think?
What’s your favorite piece of equipment to use during a workout?
Do you ever wear a heart-rate monitor when working out?