Anyone who has known me for a while knows that I have trouble sticking to exercise programs. I get bored of routines easily. I physically tire easily. And, when push comes to shove, I prioritize other things easily.
However, as a professional student I need to take care of myself now more than ever. On my quest to find the ultimate fitness program, I stumbled upon Orangetheory.
Orangetheory is an exercise program founded by Ellen Latham in 2010. Originally based in Florida, it now has hundreds of franchises spread throughout the US and 11 other countries.
At its essence, Orangetheory workouts incorporate circuit training (running, resistance training, and rowing) with heart rate monitoring. Heart rates are divided into “zones”: gray, blue, green, orange, and red, each representing a BPM interval. The exact values for these zones are adjusted according to your weight, gender, and age.
During a workout lasting 55-60 minutes in duration, your goal is to spend about 12-20 minutes in the Orange Zone, which can be described as being an “uncomfortable” zone where you aren’t able to say more than 3 words in one breath.
Hitting that 12-20 minutes, which is measured in the form of “splat points” (1 point = 1 minute spent in the orange zone) sets your body up for “afterburn”. Your body continues to burn calories at a higher metabolic rate for the following 24-36 hours, which can shave off an additional 300-600 calories.
I’ve stuck with Orangetheory for 5 months–longer than I’ve stuck with any exercise routine after quitting organized sports a decade ago. I have found myself become stronger and faster, running at speeds and distances I haven’t since I was a teen, lifting weights heavier than any I’ve ever tried.
It works for me because Orangetheory combines the benefits of a personal trainer with a group class setting. In a traditional fitness class, people are coming in at all fitness levels, and it can be hard to gauge how hard you are “supposed” to be pushing yourself. Exercise is as much mental as it is physical. People who don’t consider themselves athletes can place mental blocks that limit their ability to push themselves. Wearing the heart rate monitor takes the guesswork out of it. I was amazed to see what I was capable of once I learned exactly how much I was supposed to be pushing myself. With constantly changing workouts, my body and my mind never got bored. I’ve also found myself become mentally stronger about working out, so that I revel in the “uncomfortable” feeling, rather than shy away from it.
Even with people of all fitness levels, the benefit of wearing the heart rate monitor is that you are only completing with yourself. During my first class, I remember glancing over at my neighbor’s treadmill and saw it was set 3mph faster than mine. In a normal class setting, this would’ve discouraged me–like when I fail at inversions in yoga. However, at the end of the class I found that we had actually earned the same amount of splat points. My in-shape neighbor needed to run at a faster pace to get her heart rate up to a comparable BPM, but in the end, we got the same amount of benefit from the workout.
At $18 a session, Orangetheory is much cheaper than a personal training, but is still a luxury many can’t afford. However, you can reduce the price significantly by signing up for a membership plan. These are monthly and take the form of 4-class, 8-class, and unlimited packages. You can try it out for free before you commit–some studios will only offer 1 free class, some offer 1 or even 2 weeks of classes! If a new studio is opening, they may offer discounted membership rates for “founders” that can be locked in for the rest of your time there. With the cost and frequency of my specific plan, I pay about $10 a class. Be mindful of the one-time cost of purchasing the heart rate monitor to use for classes–there are both chest strap and wristband options, priced at $79 and $99, respectively. This device can also be used outside of class in conjunction with a free app called OTbeat.
In addition to workout classes, studios have many extra clinics and activities that are usually at no charge. At my studio, there have been boot camps, stretching clinics, foam roller clinics, power lifting clinics, healthy diet clinics, outdoor hikes, and outdoor runs–all included in the cost of membership.
If you’re like me and you enjoy non-competitive group settings to exercise in, I highly recommend giving it a try!
With school getting back in session I will unfortunately be leaving my Orangetheory studio for the fancy gym included in the cost of my tuition, but I definitely plan on heading back as soon as school lets out for next summer!