Everything you need to know about the Orangetheory Fitness workout

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 …

For almost a year, I was part of 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. (And when you’re ready for more, check out How to get more out of your Orangetheory Fitness workout.)

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 you need to know about an Orangetheory Fitness workout via A Lady Goes WestYes, everything is orange in an Orangetheory Fitness studio, even the indoor water-rowers and the lighting.

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 …

OTF reading via A Lady Goes WestAfter 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.)

OT Beat HR Monitor for OrangetheoryIf 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 when you’re ready to kick it up, here is how you How to get more out of your Orangetheory Fitness workout.

That’s it, folks. Thanks for letting me share my love of OTF with you! Have an awesome day!

P.S. For more class reviews, head on over to my Fitness + Workouts page.

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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?

 

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88 Comments

  1. This is super helpful! We are getting an OTF here in Chicago, and are starting to get emails and such about it–I need to see when the opening date it. I like the approach to it (I heard about it first from Sue), and I am curious to try it!

    1. Hi Susie! Yes! You will have to try it. If you join a new studio early, sometimes you have the chance to take a week of free “mock” classes while they soft open. Totally go for it! πŸ™‚

  2. Thanks so much for all this great information! I just found out they have Orange Theory in Austin, and you’ve made me really want to try it out! My expensive bikram membership ends in a couple months, and I think I’m about ready for a change!

    1. Hi Carissa! Well OTF is a world’s different from Bikram heheh. And yes, you should definitely give it a shot! It’s such a balanced workout, best done about 3-4 times a week!

  3. There is an OTF literally steps from my apartment. I am definitely going to sign up for a few classes soon!

    I feel compelled to say that a couple of weeks ago I checked out the main OTF website. And I didn’t feel nearly as informed or excited as I did from reading your post here. They should hire you to write for them too!

    1. Hi Courtney! hhaha thank you! I’m glad my writing is relatable, while exciting for you. And yes, I definitely think you should check out the OTF near your place. It should hopefully be free for your first class. And you’ll LOVE the variety!! Sending a big sweaty happy Thursday to you! πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Lisa! I hope so! I think you’d really like the variety in the one-hour class — especially the running. Happy Thursday!

  4. I love OTF! I live in South Florida and we have a lot of studios. I’ve been taking it for about a year, 4-5 times a week. I have gone from a 4.5 base pace to a 5.5, from a 6.0 push pace to a 7.0-7.5, and all out from 7.5-9.0! It has really increased my endurance! I have also lost a few % body fat, which I didn’t know I needed to lose. πŸ˜‰ All in all it is an amazing workout!

    1. Hi Karen! Hello to you in Florida!! Yay! The ORIGINAL OTF is in Fort Lauderdale, so you should check it out. And that’s so awesome how you’ve increased your running paces. Nice work! Keep it up, lady! And say hello to the South Florida sunshine from me. I hope to be back in it one day, but I won’t be making it to that side of the state on my next trip to Florida. Have a lovely day!! πŸ™‚

    1. YES, Gretchen! You will love it! Especially the running portion. Let me know what you think when you finally get to try it out! And if you join the studio early, you may have the chance to take free soft-opening classes too!

  5. Great info Ashley! I think I’ve mentioned to you before I’ve always wanted to try an OTF class. Honestly I’m intimidated by the treadmill. So can’t run and who knows if I ever will again. What options are there other than running?

    1. Hi Megan, You can choose to be a Power Walker, working only inclines and not speed, or you can use the bike or strider rather than running. Plenty of people get an AWESOME workout without running in Orangetheory! Hope you try it one day!

  6. Hi Ashley! I live in Oakland and my boyfriend and I are trying our first class together this Saturday at the OrangeTheory in Walnut Creek at 10am! I am so looking forward to it and my BF is super excited about the rower! Thanks for the tips, this was perfect timing and maybe I will see you there!

    1. Hi Amber! Yay! I will not be there this weekend or next, due to a training and some travel, but I normally teach on Saturday mornings at 7:30 a.m. and 8:45 a.m.. Looks like you’ll be taking Betsy’s class, and she is great! I hope you have a fabulous experience, and you can come back and take my class very soon! Enjoy!! πŸ™‚

  7. Orange Theory definitely scares/intimidates me a little but also seems fun! This post is super helpful. I definitely am going to try it. At this point it’s too soon with my knee as sprinting or high intensity is out of the question but I hope to soon!

    1. Hi Hayley, You could also start as a Power Walker on the treadmill until you’re ready to run! Don’t be scared! It’s fun, challenging and goes by very quickly! Have a fabulous Thursday, lady! πŸ™‚

  8. Thanks so much for this awesome overview! There is an Orangetheory Fitness in Madison and I would love to go try it out. My best friend who just moved here is also looking for something like this, so I sent her your post! Thanks again!

  9. Wow! Great Review- Im already looking up the nearest Orangetheory Fitness near me. As an instructor I love the video showing the exercises. Sometimes it takes students more than just the time I demonstrate a move.

    1. Yes Samantha, it totally helps to have that visual after you walk away. I’ve never had such support in teaching before, and it helps people to be more successful!! Hope you give OTF a try!! Happy Thursday! πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Heather, It’s really cool to see how your body is responding to exercises and walk out with real-live results from a class. I wish I wore one in all of my other classes outside Orangetheory now hehe! Hope you get to try the workout one day!

  10. Very informative post! I hear about Orangetheory a lot from my brother, but I have yet to get in there and try a class. One of these days I plan on it because it sounds like a blast and something I know I’d enjoy since I love the high intensity stuff.

    1. The variety is the best part, Ash. I mean using TRX, the rower, the treadmill all in one class? You never get bored! You’ve got to go try it!

  11. I’ve never heard of OrangeTheory but I just checked their website & see that one is opening soon here in Omaha! I’m definitely looking to switch up my routine & this seems like an awesome change! I’m terrible at running though, even on a treadmill. I like to think I’m in decent shape but running just kills me! I’d probably have to opt for something else during that time, haha. Great post, thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Megan, Well you can always choose to be a Jogger or a Power Walker on the treadmill portion, or use the bike or strider. But the blocks of work are short and doable, and Orangetheory would TOTALLY make you a better runner! So glad you’ll get to experience it in Omaha! Have a great night! πŸ™‚ Oh and YAY Garth Brooks! Always wanted to see him in concert!

  12. I so very much miss the bay–it seems like there are so many awesome opportunities + cool classes there! (I’m glad I get to live vicariously through you though! <3) I think the closest one to me is 5 hours away! 😑

    1. Hi Farrah! The Bay misses you! Hopefully one day you’ll be able to move back. Until then, I’ll share pictures and ramblings so you feel connected heheh!

  13. We don’t have an Orangetheory, but I’ve heard great things about them! I love wearing a HR monitor when I workout – I’ve noticed that I work way harder when I can see how hard I’m working, haha.

  14. Hi Ashley!

    GREAT review! I too just recently joined my local Orange Theory Fitness as a coach and love it! I really like your review, it’s very thorough. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind if I re-post it on my own blog? Go team orange!

    Ayesha

    1. Hi Ayesha! Thank you so much! So glad your part of the Orangetheory family too! Do you mean you want to share a link to this post on your blog? OF COURSE! Hope you’re having a lovely weekend!

  15. This sounds SO awesome and I can’t wait to try it! Though I think I will probably DIE given the low intensity workouts I’ve been focusing on the last few months. Gahhh!!! I can see why people get so addicted to this!

  16. Hi Ashley! I have recently started OTF and I love it! I am a consistent runner/HIIT style class participant and consider myself in pretty good shape! My heart rate is generally high when I workout (always has been) and I hope it’s just because I push myself extremely hard! I tend to spend about 25 minutes in the Orange zone and burn around 600 calories whereas others are not near as high. Do you think it’s as accurate as it says? This happens to me in other places than OTF as well….
    Thanks!
    Amanda

    1. Hi Amanda! Yes, I do think it’s accurate. And yes, it’s fine to be in the Orange zone for 25 minutes. Everybody is a little bit different, and if you have a higher resting heart-rate, you’ll get into those zones quicker than others. 600 calories is on the high side for women, so you should be proud of that! Glad you’re an OTF fan! Nice work!!!

  17. Thanks for this awesome, thorough, and honest look at OTF! My husband and I are about to give it a try and may sign up! Is there a way to share the HR monitor between us (we have a child so would have to alternate classes anyway) to save money? I get the sense that the answer might be no, since that data is backed up, but would love to know the inside scoop on it! Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Lyn! So glad you are going to try OTF! Which location? You cannot share the HR monitor, because it is synced to one account and email and readings – with your weight/age/etc. You can usually borrow a HR monitor at first when you are trying class, then you have to buy one as a member. Go for it!! πŸ™‚ Let me know if you have any questions.

  18. Checked out a free class and enjoyed it! I am confused about purchasing classes. Do you have to sign a membership contract or can you simply buy the class packages through mind body? Thanks!

    1. Hi Alana! You have to purchase on the phone or at the studio you want to join. And you can select from a monthly membership with a certain amount of classes allotted (which means a discount per class) or you can buy a package and take as long as you want to use it. Both are good options! So glad you tried it! πŸ™‚

  19. Hi Ashley! I just took my first orange theory class and am wondering how I read my performance summary. What would the goal be? Is it ok that I’m over 20 in the green and orange zones? Is it more ideal to be closer to 12? Mine was gray-1 blue-5 green-25 orange-23 red-1 605 calories burned.
    I don’t know if that’s a good spot to be or if i should aim for different results and how to do that if so. Just curious as to what To shoot for for my next session! Thanks!

    1. Hi Ande! You should definitely stay after your next class and ask the coach at your studio! They will be able to watch you and help you. πŸ™‚ I’m not working at OTF any longer, but the goal used to always be 12 minutes and MORE in the Orange/Red. So you’re doing well!

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    1. Hi Wanda, Yes! You’d have to ask at your local Orangetheory, but you can walk on the treadmill, keep the incline low and do just bodyweight workouts on the floor. Don’t be scared! πŸ™‚

  22. Hi, I’m curious about the accuracy of the caloric burn. I’ve gone for a year now and do wear the chest strap but sometimes, these are not so accurate.
    Can you share how accurate the calorie burn actually is?
    I did put my weight in a year ago.

    1. Hi Cliff, Thanks for reading. If you’ve put in your age and weight, and it is accurate, you’re likely going to get a fairly accurate caloric rate, as long as the strap continues to read your heart-rate during class. If you find that your strap sometimes doesn’t read, then — of course — it could be missing some of the work and thus under-reporting the calories. I’m not working for OTF any longer, but I’m pretty confident in the technology when used properly. Good luck!

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  24. Do you recommend eating anything before hand? How do you get ready, especially if it’s a morning exercise? I generally do BodyAttack at 6AM and just have coffee and a banana and a little bit of granola (sometimes) like about an hour before.. (trial and error haha). But I’m not sure how to prepare for OrangeTheoryFItness….

    1. Hi Joanne, Everyone is different — but I would definitely recommend eating about an hour before Orangetheory workouts in the morning — the running and intensity requires some fuel. You could eat the same as you would for BODYATTACK — knowing there will be impact and some strength for an hour. Here are more details on preparing for an reasoning behind early morning workouts … https://aladygoeswest.com/what-you-should-know-about-working-out-in-the-morning/ πŸ™‚ Good luck!

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