Baby’s First Orange Theory
Guys, I officially have splat points.
For the unannointed, these are the points you accumulate in Orange Theory classes based on how much time you spend in the “Orange” and “Red” heart rate zones (83% of your max heart rate) during the program’s hour-long heart rate-based interval training workout.
The more time you spend in these zones (at least 12 minutes or more), the more calories you continue to burn after the actual class. This is what they call the “after burn” and their hook to the program.
After a bit of a scare (and a walk to the ER) last week with what I thought were heart palpitations (it was actually an anxiety attack), I thought it could be wise to ease back into my routine with a heart rate-based class. Also, I decided to kick my coffee habit. I still can’t believe I made it through this class on Day 2 of no coffee. The workout WAS the coffee.
Now, most know I’m a Barrys Bootcamp evangelist. For this reason, most also have recommended Orange Theory to me.
I want to address two things in this post:
1) My general sense of the class
2) the fact that this is not a supplemental workout to Barrys. If you love Barrys, I don’t think you will find OT equally satisfying. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its positives, but it’s not Barrys.
Now that we’ve addressed #2, let’s go back to #1.
SIGNING UP: Mediocre
Orange Theory is free to first timers. Great right? Sure, if you call the exact studio you want to go to during business hours and they can set you up and start the (agonizingly painful) up-sell process that begins after your first class.
But what if, like any burst of motivation for fitness, you decide at 9pm that tomorrow is THE DAY. You’re finally ready to get back on the fitness saddle after months of demotivation and sluggishness. Unfortunately for you, you’re stuck paying the full price tag ($28) through MindBodyOnline’s booking platform because they don’t offer the first time class online. So now either one of two things happens: you give in to defeat, “working out is too much effort” “it’s clearly not for me” “why do they make it so difficult” go through your head and the burst of motivation you had at 9pm is now gone by 10, you’re hitting the ice cream, and everyone who maybe just needed a little “push” is once again intimidated by the concept of group fitness, or just taking that initial leap.
Or, you decide, “hey it’s fine, I’ll spend the $28 on the class and register on MindBody! If i don’t like it, at least I’ll have tried it. Wait, you know what would be a great idea? I’ll take a friend! Fitness is always easier to conquer when there’s a buddy! I’ll register the two of us together.”
Except Orange Theory doesn’t allow this, so when I went to register my mom and me together, I couldn’t add a guest. (Clearly I am spoiled by the fitness studios who prioritize actually working out over selling memberships ). I had to register us separately. Except when I went to recover her password from her OT time in Virginia ages ago, it prompted me to call the studio. Again. Why do they want to speak to us so much?! So, I made a NEW account for my mom, which is annoying because now her “splat” points won’t aggregate.
Never the less, we were registered. Sound exhausting? It was! My heart rate was in the red zone and we hadn’t even gone to class yet!
ARRIVAL & SET UP: Satisfactory
As expected, there was paper work to sign. But there were also a million annoying questions to answer like “is your family supportive of your fitness goals?” WHO THE F CARES?! I swear all of this nonsense is done to get your heart warmed up so you get into the orange zone quicker
After we answered all the questions about puppies, kittens and unicorns we were introduced to our trainer, Matthew. This part was actually great. He brought us into the training room, gave us a private step by step of the class, asked about our personal experience as well as current routines/running paces/etc. It was highly personalized and attentive, right down to what size foot holder we should set our row machines to.
He also explained the different heart rate zones, how the heart rate monitors work, and how you can follow along on the screens to see your progress. This was cool, for someone who likes to monitor their progress, this is definitely a plus. But is also a plus to the wallet because you need to either buy their monitor ($99 I believe), or rent it each time. Insane.
THE WORKOUT: Good
The class is divided into two 30 minute parts. Treadmill; and floor. Similar to Barrys, you choose where you want to start. Unlike Barrys, you only swap once, 30 minutes in. This makes sense since the floor routine is all circuit anyway, so you’re changing up your routine (row machine, weights, medicine ball, TRX bands, etc) based on the instructor’s workout.
We started on the floor (#barrystaughtme) with a combo of upper body strength, rowing, body squats and planks. It’s not as dark as I’d like it to be in the room, but that also means the trainer had better visibility to assess (and correct) your form. It also means you should be prepared for him to take away lighter weights if he thinks you should be using heavier ones (Guilty!).
After 30 minutes of intense circuits, it was time for the tread. Unfortunately, my heart rate monitor hadn’t synched from the beginning of class. The staff outside at the counter realized this 25 minutes in when they saw that I was still in the “grey” zone (basically the lowest zone). Sad - crucial splat points I missed out on. Eventually I got into the orange zone, about 178-183 before heading to the tread.
Today’s prescription: hills. Ugh! I hate hills, but I know how crucial they are. Hills at Barrys are easier for me to mentally digest because I know it’s only 6-8 minutes and I get to head back to the floor. Not at OT. Depending on your designation (Runner/Jogger/Power Walker), the trainer tells you which incline to begin at. Power walkers are at a higher incline than runners, and you decrease it every few minutes as you “push” for 2 minutes, then go “all out” for 30 seconds and eventually recover. The point here being that your “push” and “all out” should be faster as your incline decreases (simulating down hill).
I loved this because it was straight uninterrupted running for 30 minutes with someone pushing me. This is where I saw my heart rate go into the red zone, which frightened me slightly due to the scare earlier in the week.
THE GEAR: so-so
All of the floor gear was great, including the rowing machines. The treadmills could be better. I’m really picky with treadmills. First, I despise using them. Second, if I must (like this winter) use them, I prefer Woodway. Once you run on a Woodway treadmill you’ll never want to run on anything else. OT please get better treadmills!
It could not be more clear that the staff is incentivized to sell memberships and packages after your first class. They would not stop. How many times do I have to say that I live in DC and am in New York a few days/week so for me, drop ins and bulk packages are better than memberships? My mom, who had not been to an OT class in years, simply wanted to think about it. And she said this a few times. And yet we were still asked, “so are we thinking about signing up for any memberships today? How are we feeling?” (Pet peeve: I despise usage of the word “we” when someone means “you”.)
We were starving after class and had time for breakfast so we went to The Turning Point which had the LOVELIEST fireplace that we sat in front of. I ate avocado toast (duh); Mom had a skillet. They have amazing chai tea and they give you the entire pot on the table (they also do this with coffee but, coffee love RIP).
Mom and I were both sore for days after. Swimming on Friday was not easy. Nether was blowing out my hair.
I would definitely go back because the actual workout was good and checks the box. It’s nothing compared to Barrys, but that’s because I have specific needs and a different training approach. I can see why people love OT. My recco would be to try it, and just try to ignore the annoying upselling. I wish they made it less difficult for people to get into fitness, but that is because my personal beliefs are rooted in fitness being accessible to everyone and any day is a good day to start. But hey, they are a business and they have a business model that works for them.
Heres a look at the email I received after class. Keep in mind that those 30 minutes in the grey zone are not entirely accurate.