Who likes getting their butts kicked? Not me. For all intents and purposes, that’s what happened to me when I went to my first OrangeTheory class last Friday. I’ve heard a lot about it – one of my good friends loves it, and ever since I realized my metabolism is no longer the efficient machine it once was (ah, I loved my early 20s), I’ve been pretty curious about what the crazy orange glow I see emanating from the studios can do for one’s body. But I wasn’t looking forward to getting my butt handed to me.
What is OrangeTheory?
OrangeTheory, founded in Fort Lauderdale, is based around the idea of doing circuit training to get into the “orange”* zone, basically where your heart rate is at 85 percent of its max rate for a solid 12-20 minutes. All this is monitored by being hooked up to a heart rate monitor and looking up at the flat-screen TV in the studio to see what zone you are in. The theory is when you’re in that 85 percent zone, called the orange zone, your heart rate will be kicking and feeling the burn, but not to the point where you’d fall over and be completely out of breath, panting and begging for life to end. The result? Burning 500-800 calories during the one-hour workout if you’re a woman and 700-1,200 calories if you’re a dude.
Then there’s the afterburn. Part of the thought process of OrangeTheory is that because your body needs more fuel and nutrients after this intense workout, your metabolism has increased. So after you’ve completed the one-hour workout, you’re still burning calories – even if you’re sitting on your couch and doing nothing. It’s been said participants continue to lose calories up to 24 hours after an OrangeTheory workout.
So I had to test this bad boy myself. I went to my first class on Friday, where I was skeptical I’d be able to walk on my own after completing the class or would need to call for assistance. Let’s put all the cards on the table: I’m an active person; I work out with a trainer twice a week in a boot camp-like class, I play flag football weekly, have a mean hook shot and teardropper, cycle once in a while, and if I’m lucky, I manage to get a sand volleyball game in here and there. I’m no marathoner nor an Ironman, but I can hold my own in certain physical disciplines. In fact, I like working out. I like being in shape and healthy (or at least pretending that I am). That said, I didn’t know what to expect with OrangeTheory. Except to be sore. Very sore.
I met two great guys with two completely different OrangeTheory tales. One, Sebastian, is a 47-year-old attorney who has been going to OrangeTheory for months. I think he logged in a few hundred sessions. The other, Pablo, is a 29-year-old whose inaugural session at OrangeTheory was – drum roll, please – the same day as mine.
Let’s start with Sebastian’s story. He swears by OrangeTheory. Like, swears by it. Changed his life, he says. He’s a former college basketball player who’s still in pretty darn good shape. He told me he used to do P90x, went through the whole way (the only person I know who went the full 90-day length), and went from 257 pounds to 227. Then, feeling the urge to stay active and fit, Sebastian took up OrangeTheory. And he hasn’t stopped after all this time. He’s lost another 20 pounds from doing this workout.
And for Pablo, his story is not unlike many others who have turned to OrangeTheory. He’s worked out in the gym and just really didn’t find it all too exhilarating. He was looking for a kick, a jumpstart to really enjoying and getting the most out of a workout. And alas, after getting a recommendation from a friend, he began his OrangeTheory trek.
From the get-go, I was told my class was “different.” Supposedly all OrangeTheory classes are “different,” but mine was really “different.” What did that mean? Well, I guess I was about to find out.
Every OrangeTheory class is headed by a certified OrangeTheory instructor. Today our class was taught by Corey “Hawk” Summers, whose background included training MMA fighters in Colorado (a far cry from the delicate Fort Lauderdale crowd). In my class there were about 20-some people (mostly guys, some girls sprinkled in) participating, with Hawk presiding over all of us.
Apparatuses we used included the treadmill, row machine, weights, Bosu ball and suspension straps. I’m not going to lie: The class was difficult. I found out the class was different because it was more about power and strength (things I largely lack) rather than dexterity and agility (things I like to think I possess, though probably don’t). We spent a lot of time on weights (ughhhhh, I hate weights), and on flailing on the suspension straps (at one point, we had to put our feet into the straps and do 50 modified push ups and knee bends – that is after doing 50 rows on the suspension straps, which already sucked every ounce of strength our arms had in the first place).
The beauty of OrangeTheory is that you can go at your own pace and you push yourself to achieve the highest level you physically can. “I can train marathoners and beginners all in the same class,” Hawk says.
The studio I went to, off Cordova Road off 17th Street in Fort Lauderdale, was the flagship one. Interestingly enough, this studio didn’t hook us up to a heart rate monitor. It’s apparently the only OrangeTheory studio to NOT do it. As Hawk explains it, since this was the guinea pig studio, where they researched and figured out what worked and what didn’t, the instructors here did not initiate nor require participants to use heart rate monitors. Because of that mentality, they didn’t want to force people who had been going to the studio for months to all of a sudden put one on. They felt it wasn’t right to force this on to people who now have a certain routine of not using the monitors.
So I’m not sure if I ever made it into the orange zone. I’d like to think I did. I mean, after all that pain I went through (not to mention the current pain I feel in my quads), if I didn’t get into that damn orange zone, I don’t even want to know the type of hurt I needed to achieve to get there.
* It turns out that the color orange is a rather arbitrary assignment. As our associate editor, Jennifer Tormo, found out, one could substitute any color for orange. It’s used more for marketing than scientific enhancement.