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An Insider’s Look at Orangetheory Fitness by a Nonner {Non-Athlete}

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I’m going to out myself right off the bat. 

I’m turning 50 this year.  Fifty years old.  5-0. 

Enter Orangetheory Fitness.  Because I decided that the day I turn that calendar page is the day that I want to be able to look people in the eye and claim to be fit at fifty.  And have it be the truth. 

Due to my frequent check-ins after class on Facebook I get asked nearly every day what OTF is really like.  Here’s an insider’s view of what it’s like to go to Orangetheory Fitness.

Get an insiders look at what an Orangetheory Fitness workout is really like. A view of OTF through the eyes of a non-athlete. Results-driven personal training done in small groups that encourages you to compete against yourself.

A former coworker of mine, Sarah, stopped by my work one November with big news.  Orangetheory Fitness was opening a studio in the next town over and she was the head coach and did I want to join?

Stop right there.  Me?  What?  I’m a nonner.

A nonner, according to varsity college athletes, is a non-athlete.  Yep.  That’s me.

Now, full disclosure, I’m not a complete nonner.  My full-time employer offers lunchtime exercise classes that I have taken at least 4 days a week for the last 5 or 6 years.  Pilates, boot camp, yoga, barre, boxing and more.  And chill yoga.

(Can we just discuss chill yoga for a moment?  The real name of the class is Restorative Yoga but we renamed it.  You basically lay in twists and breathe for about 5 minutes per pose and leading up to shavasana (corpse pose) under a blanket for 10 minutes.  It’s heavenly.  Bliss.  We’ve all fallen asleep at least once or twice in class.  It’s the “never-miss Wednesday” class.  Namaste.)

But anyway… as far as the nonner thing… yes, I’m the person who can’t catch a ball thrown straight into my hands.  Can’t connect bat to baseball.  Misses most free throw attempts out in the driveway.

So tiny, fit, Sarah strides into my office, all 9% or less bodyfat of her, to tell me Orangetheory Fitness is opening nearby. 

I’d heard of it, it’s all over the news around here the past year as studios pop up in and around Charlotte and across the country.  But what is it?  What do they do that’s different?

What is Orangetheory Fitness?

Orangetheory Fitness is a “results-driven heart rate-monitored, high intensity workout.”  You’ve probably heard of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and might have wondered what it was.  Basically, it’s repeated short bouts of high intensity exercise followed by brief recovery periods.

HIIT workouts are an excellent way to burn fat and boost metabolism, plus they’re great for people who get bored easily.  You’re always moving and it changes frequently.  The biggest bonus is there actually IS a bonus… the afterburn.

Each of the Orangetheory Fitness classes are designed to maintain a target zone that stimulates metabolism and increases energy… the orange zone.  In our 55 minute class we are trying to achieve 12-20 minutes in the target zone.  Getting in this orange zone produces what exercise scientists call the “EPOC” effect.  That means Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption aka the afterburn.

Get an insiders look at what an Orangetheory Fitness workout is really like. A view of OTF through the eyes of a non-athlete. Results-driven personal training done in small groups that encourages you to compete against yourself.

What’s so special about the afterburn?  You continue burning calories up to 36 hours after your workout, but why?  After a HIIT workout, your body needs to replenish its stores of oxygen, ATP and creatine to recover.  It also needs to remove lactic acid and repair muscle.

These processes require oxygen, so oxygen consumption rises after exercise and additional calories are burned above the resting rate.  Therefore, you may find yourself burning up to another 20% of the calories you burned after each class!

Orangetheory Fitness says that you’ll likely burn 500-1000 calories per visit.  I usually burn upwards of the high 500’s, occasionally hit the 600’s and have seen men hit the 700’s-900’s+.  In a single hour!

Cool, but that’s technical stuff, what’s it really like?

Orangetheory Fitness takes place in small studios (as opposed to large gyms), typically with up to 24 participants per class.  (There’s a 3G tornado class on Saturdays that can hold up to 36 people).  In my 18 months I think the smallest class I’ve ever been in has been 11 people.

The lights are a dull orange which I LOVE. It kind of feels like you’re floating under water.  It fits the Orangetheory Fitness theme and they aren’t bright, which means you don’t feel like there’s a spotlight on you. 

Get an insiders look at what an Orangetheory Fitness workout is really like. A view of OTF through the eyes of a non-athlete. Results-driven personal training done in small groups that encourages you to compete against yourself.

And that’s one of the best things about OTF, no one watches you while you work out.  They’re all busy concentrating on their own workouts.  People never believe me before they go and always comment afterward on how freeing it felt that no one was watching or critiquing or judging them.

To book your classes, you’ll download an Orangetheory Fitness app on your phone.  (Trust me, don’t wait until the last minute, I like to book a week out to get my preferred days and times, but then again, I’m a Type A planner!)

Get an insiders look at what an Orangetheory Fitness workout is really like. A view of OTF through the eyes of a non-athlete. Results-driven personal training done in small groups that encourages you to compete against yourself.

Show up in shorts or yoga pants, supportive sports bra and shirt and a bottle of water.  (Water bottles are $1 if you forget).  Bring a small towel if you’d like, which I highly recommend, you’re gonna sweat.

The staff is friendly and personable and they’ll learn your name quickly.  Check in at the desk and go place your phone and keys in a locker.  OTF has showers and bathrooms available and they’re usually stocked with hair ties and deodorant and other necessities, which is nice touch.

Get an insiders look at what an Orangetheory Fitness workout is really like. A view of OTF through the eyes of a non-athlete. Results-driven personal training done in small groups that encourages you to compete against yourself.

Every class starts on the dot, with the trainer greeting everyone and spending 45 seconds giving you an overview of the next 55 minutes.  (Though I kinda like to NOT know what’s coming, kwim?)

You need to strap on your heart monitor while you’re waiting for class.  You can borrow a heart monitor on your first (free) visit, but regulars need to purchase one. You can choose one that straps around your chest or one on your wrist.  I tried both and prefer the wrist but the class seems to be 50/50.  This is how you’ll track your splat points, calories, heart rate zone, etc. during and after class.

Get an insiders look at what an Orangetheory Fitness workout is really like. A view of OTF through the eyes of a non-athlete. Results-driven personal training done in small groups that encourages you to compete against yourself.

Ready to learn what’s inside??  You’re looking like a pro already.

The Orangetheory Fitness Class

The class lasts one hour.  60 minutes. 

“They can’t keep me any longer than that”, I’ve been known to chant to myself during some particularly evil burpees or a dedicated leg day. 

There’s a screen in the center of the room that counts down the minutes and shows a live view of each persons stats.  In the below picture, the class is 17 minutes in and you can see heart rate percentage, splat points at the top right and number of calories burned underneath.

Get an insiders look at what an Orangetheory Fitness workout is really like. A view of OTF through the eyes of a non-athlete. Results-driven personal training done in small groups that encourages you to compete against yourself.

As we walk in, we split into treadmills (“treads” is what we’re called the next hour) or rowers based on the directive of our trainer.  At our studio, the people who like to do the treadmill first wait by the door and the rower-friendly wait on the benches.

Get an insiders look at what an Orangetheory Fitness workout is really like. A view of OTF through the eyes of a non-athlete. Results-driven personal training done in small groups that encourages you to compete against yourself.

The first two-three minutes are spent warming up.  I like the treadmill first because (I admit) I hate it.  I’d rather lift weights or row, so I get it over with.  I think I’m in the minority because there’s some happy, fantastically swift runners who always choose to glide or fly near me.  I just don’t look at them while I’m running!

The class is broken up into two parts… generally.  Loosely it’s a 3 minute warm-up, 26 minutes on the treads, 26 minutes on the water rower + weights, and then a blessed 5 minute cool-down.

However the cool, no, really cool, thing about Orangetheory Fitness is that no two classes are ever the same. So the first class you take might not resemble what I just outlined whatsoever!

I’ve been going to Orangetheory Fitness for 18 months and can attest that no classes are the same.  I love that, too.  The daily (there are classes 7 days a week) workouts are sent out from their corporate office so all the studios in the country generally do the same class each day.

It’s impossible to get bored because you don’t know what each day will bring.  This is also designed to make sure that your body is constantly being challenged.

My favorite treadmill day is when we do something along the lines of 2 minutes of push pace, a minute of base pace, 90 seconds of push pace, 30 seconds of base pace, 90 seconds of push pace, 60 seconds of all-out pace, 60 seconds of base pace, with some walking recovery time thrown in here and there to give you a breather. 

Uh, ok.  So what are base pace, push pace and all-out pace??

Base, Push, All-Out… what??

While on the treadmill you should have a chart in view, but you’ll always hear your trainer telling you which pace to get into:

Base Pace:  The lowest speed you set for yourself.  This is comfortable, a smidge challenging, but also a place you can recover.  You should be able to maintain this pace for 20-30 minutes, if asked.  You should be at a 71-83% max heart rate, which works out to about a 75% effort level.

Push Pace:  About 1-2 miles faster than your base pace.  So if your base pace is 4.5 mph then your push pace is anything between 5.5 -6.5 mph.  This should put you at 80-91% of your heart rate or an 85-90% effort level.  You’ll feel this!

All-Out Pace:  This is at least 2 miles faster than your base pace.  It’s hard.  It feels hard.  It sucks.  20 seconds into a 60 second all-out I’m casting your mind around trying to find something else to think about, like the steps in the recipe I made the night before for dinner.  You’ll do at least two of these every visit.  Sometimes you’ll do 10.  Your coach will tell you if you have anything left to push it up, even by .1.  Do it.  Even if it’s just by .1.  It’s all for you.  And there’s a firm end.  100% effort level. 

Get an insiders look at what an Orangetheory Fitness workout is really like. A view of OTF through the eyes of a non-athlete. Results-driven personal training done in small groups that encourages you to compete against yourself.

What happens on the Treadmill side?

So you’ll spend about 26 minutes on the treadmills OR on the treadmills/rowers aka “run to row”.  I kind of like these.  The row part helps stretch my calves after running but I think I may be in the minority.  (Even though I’ve been told the best piece of apparatus in the room for people is the rower, I don’t think many people love it.)

Get an insiders look at what an Orangetheory Fitness workout is really like. A view of OTF through the eyes of a non-athlete. Results-driven personal training done in small groups that encourages you to compete against yourself.

You always start on a 1.0 incline.  That’s your base incline and you’ll never go less than that.

The trainer will always give 3 directives to those on the treadmill in regard to incline and pace.  One is to power walkers, one is to joggers and one is to runners.  As you’re improving and trying to move up to the next level you might find yourself doing say, jogging for the first block and power-walking the next two blocks. I did that for awhile until I eventually realized that the inclines the power walkers were doing were tough!

Recently we spent the entire 26 minutes adjusting our incline (from 1.0 to 15.0 (OMG highest) alllll the way up and then allll the way back down again.  As of this writing I’ve only been asked to do 15.0 twice.  It’s tough.  But I did it and I love saying I did it and didn’t cheat on my pace, either.

You never spend a tremendous amount of time in any incline.  (Which is a help or a hindrance, as you may be asked to incline up… or incline down.)  Many a time we spend the whole time only in 1.0, which of course means we spend more time doing Push or All-Out paces.

If you have an injury and you tell the coach they will help you come up with modifiers.  There are bikes and an elliptical machine at my studio for those who can’t use the treadmill for any reason.

Get an insiders look at what an Orangetheory Fitness workout is really like. A view of OTF through the eyes of a non-athlete. Results-driven personal training done in small groups that encourages you to compete against yourself.

Always, the class focuses on E (Endurance), (P) Power or (S) Strength and sometimes it’s an ESP class… Endurance/Power/Strength.  I kinda like that one the best, because nothing awful lasts tooooo long, there’s a lot to do.

About 29 minutes in your trainer hands out wipes and it’s your cue that it’s time to switch to the other side.  You carefully wipe down everything you’ve touched and move over.  We nearly always end with an All-Out and I like it that way because I feel stronger and proud of myself after a tough sprint.

What happens on the Weights side?

You’ll spend another 26 minutes on the other side doing weight training or more commonly, weights/rowing.  Each person has their own numbered weight station (that matches the number on the rower and treadmill). 

Get an insiders look at what an Orangetheory Fitness workout is really like. A view of OTF through the eyes of a non-athlete. Results-driven personal training done in small groups that encourages you to compete against yourself.

Get an insiders look at what an Orangetheory Fitness workout is really like. A view of OTF through the eyes of a non-athlete. Results-driven personal training done in small groups that encourages you to compete against yourself.

On the weights side you’ve got a number of “toys” at your disposal.  Again, you never do the same thing twice, but while there you will use some combination of the weight bench and weights, BOKU trainer, TRX suspension training bands, Ab Dolly and/or mats for floor work.

Get an insiders look at what an Orangetheory Fitness workout is really like. A view of OTF through the eyes of a non-athlete. Results-driven personal training done in small groups that encourages you to compete against yourself.

 Insider tip:  In my studio the odd numbered weights are slightly lighter (8#, 10#, 12# 20#) than the even numbered weights (8#, 10#, 15#, 25#).  If your weights aren’t heavy enough they have a rack of heavier weights to choose from, in additional to medicine balls.

Get an insiders look at what an Orangetheory Fitness workout is really like. A view of OTF through the eyes of a non-athlete. Results-driven personal training done in small groups that encourages you to compete against yourself.

The coach fully demonstrates each of the exercises and there is also a “demo dude” on a TV screen demonstrating the exercises for you to glance up at while you’re in the middle of a block. 

The monitor shows you the name of the exercise, the number of reps and a quick gif in case you’ve forgotten anything the coach said, plus the length of the block. 

We usually do 2-3 blocks in the 26 minutes but hey, it might be 1 or 4 blocks tomorrow, we never know!

What the heck are Splat Points?

Get an insiders look at what an Orangetheory Fitness workout is really like. A view of OTF through the eyes of a non-athlete. Results-driven personal training done in small groups that encourages you to compete against yourself.

Splat points are a good thing!  Think “splat fat!” 

Splat points are the number of minutes you remain in the orange and red zones during your workout.  Your goal each workout is to hit 12 splat points or more.

The heart monitor you wear during class monitors your workout.  You’ll be tracked the entire class and will get a summary at the end of class both on the big screen and via email showing you how many minutes you spent in each zone.   The zones are color coded:  grey, blue, green, orange and red.

In the summary, an ideal workout would show your zones as a pyramid with grey and red the least number of minutes and green the most number of minutes + the magic 12-20 minutes in the combined orange and red zone. 

Get an insiders look at what an Orangetheory Fitness workout is really like. A view of OTF through the eyes of a non-athlete. Results-driven personal training done in small groups that encourages you to compete against yourself.

At the end of class your instructor will lead you through cool down, update you with any news and go over the results on the screen, while inviting you to ask any questions about your personal numbers and goals.  Take them up on their offer if you have any questions, they WANT to help you be your best.

All the questions I didn’t answer above:

Q- I hate being the newbie!  How do I get registered for my first class and look like I know what I’m doing?

A- If you have a friend who is a member, ask them to set up your first class for you.   My local studio offers members something each month for bringing a friend like an OTF t-shirt or entry into a raffle for a Yeti cooler, so I KNOW your member friend would love to help you!  Plus, I always think class is more fun when I have a friend sweating next to me.

If you’re doing this on your own, simply call your local studio and make a reservation.  A word to the wise is to never just show up and hope for a slot, Orangetheory Fitness is really on trend right now and classes fill up quickly.  A couple days in advance should suffice, with Saturday, Sunday and Monday being the hardest to get into, at least at my studio.

 

Q-  It’s been a long time since I worked out, I’m not in good shape, and I’m nervous I’m going to stick out next to a bunch of skinny athletes.

A- Everyone had a first day there!  This is a broad generalization but I’ve found OTF-ers tend to be a very supportive and very kind community.  You’ll actually get a lot of smiles of hello your first visit.

Your trainer will know you’re new because you arrived 30 minutes early to fill out paperwork, get fitted for your heart monitor, and they already spent 5-10 minutes showing you the ropes.  They’ll check on you frequently in class and you will never get publicly critiqued or scolded.

Plus, I’ll tell you a secret… my first three weeks I was so out-of-shape that I had to hold on to the handles of the treadmill to make it through to the end of the 26 minutes.  I mean, I wasn’t holding them like I needed balance, I was holding them kind of hunched over in desperation. The trainers allowed me to do what I needed to get through and I eventually moved from being a walker to a walker/jogger to a jogger.  Plus, my trainer Alison noticed the first time I jogged/ran instead of walked the whole class and came over later and told me good job.  They really do care!

 

Q- Ok, but… is everyone there really fit?  Do they all run marathons the rest of the week?

A- I promise you that you will find all levels of athletes (yes, I said athlete, you’re an athlete too, now) at Orangetheory Fitness.  I’ve seen people run like the wind at 10.0+ pace and I’ve seen people walk the whole time at 2.5.  You’re not competing against anyone in there, except yourself.  No one will glance over to look at your pace and then judge you with their eyes.

There are people who run marathons and people who are just starting to walk their neighborhoods and everyone in between.  What you will find is everyone there is always trying to get better.  One great piece of advice I heard was to add just .1 each week, or every other week and to never go back down or plateau from that.  Then you are always doing a little more and after a month you’ll look back and say, hey, I’m better than I was!

 

Q- What’s the breakdown of men vs. women?  It’s co-ed, right?

A- It is co-ed.  I’ve gone to some classes that were 100% women and some that were 50/50.  Generally it’s about 60-75% women, but it depends on the day of the week and time of the class at my studio.

 

Q- I’m really excited about trying this, but the big question is… how much does it cost?

A- First, there’s no sign-up fee or long term contract.  You have to give 30 days notice if you’re dropping your membership and that’s it. You have a couple different membership options to choose from, pricing shown is for my studio in the Charlotte, NC area.  Pricing will differ, especially in the metro areas.  Ask at your studio about other opportunities like corporate discounts, family add-on’s, etc., in case something pertains to you.)

First class – FREE!!!! (you need to be a local resident to that studio though)

Basic (4 sessions per month) – this works out to about once a week, $69 ($17.49 each class)

Elite (8 sessions per month) – this works out to about twice a week, $109 a month ($13.63 each class)

Premier (unlimited sessions per month) – this is great if you are committed to going 3 or 4 times a week, $169 a month (only $10.56 each class if you go 4 days a week)!

Orange 60 Min – Drop in Session – if you need more than 8 but less than unlimited you can add class by class, $28 each

Orange 60 Min 10 pack – $199  ($19.90 each class)

Orange 60 Min 20 pack – $359 ($17.95 each class)

Orange 60 Min 30 pack – $499 ($16.63 each class)

 

Q- How often should I go?

A- That, my friend, is entirely up to you!  I will tell you this, though.  I started 18 months ago and had really only done yoga, pilates and barre leading up to that so I know I wasn’t in good cardio shape.  I started with the 8 times a month option (2x a week) and I struggled going routinely because it was hard. (I’m not gonna lie, Orangetheory Fitness isn’t easy but repeat after me… it’s only 60 minutes!  And you WILL keep improving if you keep going.) 

Initially, I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted to see as quickly as I wanted to see them and it was my own fault.  I wasn’t consistently going AND working hard enough while there to make a difference.  I eventually woke up and upped my visits to 3-4 times a week and THAT made a difference in my body.  My husband commented almost immediately that he could see my body starting to change after that.  I also could feel the difference in the way my clothing was fitting.  But that’s me, your mileage may vary!!!

I still do yoga and pilates 4 days a week at lunch, but again, I’m almost 50.  I’ve got to attack being fit from multiple levels!


So that’s what Orangetheory Fitness looks like through my eyes, the eyes of a nonner.  I get a little teeny bit better every week, if I put the work in. 

Why?  Because I keep going.   #keeppounding, #keepburning, #keepreturning. 

I like competing against myself.  I’m my own best competition. 

Orangetheory Fitness also does fun programs throughout the year.  There’s a few Weight Loss Challenges with cash prizes, Marathon Month, sign-ups for local 5K’s and even First Friday Socials.  I participate as they interest me.

A couple months ago they hung the Century Club poster.  (I started at my studio the week they opened so they knew when people were getting to that 100 class mark).  I think I was the 7th person to sign it and I was THRILLED.  It really motivated me to know I’d been there 100 times already.

Get an insiders look at what an Orangetheory Fitness workout is really like. A view of OTF through the eyes of a non-athlete. Results-driven personal training done in small groups that encourages you to compete against yourself.

My favorite program so far was Hell Week, which takes place during the week leading up to Halloween.  And I’m actually looking forward to the next one after being nervous as…  HELL going into my first one! 

Hell Week, btw, is a week that you have to take 5 classes within a set period.  The workouts are themed with Halloween-esqe names such as “The Hills Have Thighs”, “Jack the Chipper”, “Silence of the Limbs”, etc. 

You don’t get the t-shirt if you don’t attend the 5 days and there were a ton of people who stayed with it to earn that shirt.  The camaraderie was great that week and the attitudes and atmosphere were pumped.

I survived Hell Week and have the t-shirt to prove it!

Get an insiders look at what an Orangetheory Fitness workout is really like. A view of OTF through the eyes of a non-athlete. Results-driven personal training done in small groups that encourages you to compete against yourself.

So, I started off this post claiming to be a nonner {non-athlete}.  I’m happy to say that that is probably no longer 100% true.  I’m meeting my goal of 4 days a week for the most part (in addition to the yoga/pilates during the day).  I’m not addicted to exercise but on the nights that I’m not going, I find myself kinda feeling left out and wishing I was there, believe it or not.

I sleep deep and hard the nights that I go to Orangetheory Fitness.  I don’t find myself pulling into fast food places unless I have to (I do have those 5 teens!) because it just doesn’t appeal to me the way it once did. 

Why work that hard and undermine yourself?  There’s that 80/20 rule, you know!  (Getting fit is two-fold and a whopping 80% of your success is attributed to a healthy diet with the remaining 20% to exercise.)

As I said above, your mileage might vary, but give Orangetheory Fitness a shot if you’re interested.  Your first class is free so what could you possibly have to lose?  Your body will thank you and you’ll smile at yourself in the mirror instead of looking away from your reflection. 

Let me know if you go!  Comment below or tag @TTOTTblog on Instagram and hashtag #thetoastofthetown with a picture of you at OTF or of your studio so I can cheer you on!

Fondly, Kristen

 

 

 

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