(Photography at Orangetheory Fitness: Brendon Purdy)
What It Is: Orangetheory Fitness is a franchise that offers one-hour workouts focused on endurance, strength and/or power. Some locations also hold 45-minute weekday lunchtime classes and 90-minute specialty classes on the weekend.
The workout changes daily, but all Orangetheory Fitness franchise locations—there are more than 1,100 worldwide—provide the same workout on the same day. This is a brilliant approach for building team spirit and community. A medical advisory board, which includes a cardiologist and physiologist, oversees every workout design.
Orangetheory Fitness is big on heart rate, so everyone in class wears either a wrist-based heart-rate monitor or a chest-strap monitor that sends real-time data to large screens throughout the studio. This means that, yes, everyone can see how hard—or not so hard—you’re working out. Your broadcasted numbers correspond to five color-coded intensity zones:
Grey is hanging out
Blue means you’re warming up
Green is challenging but doable
Orange is really challenging and uncomfortable
Red means full throttle
Since all the heart-rate zones are individualized based on age, one person’s green might read as red for someone else. The class coach helps participants appropriately manage exertion levels.
What You Might Not Know: Orangetheory Fitness uses the silly-sounding term “Splat points” to describe time spent in orange and red zones. Google their logo for a visual interpretation of Splat. It sounds like a bad word…but is it actually good? The answer depends on how much Splatting you do. (Can “Splat” be used as a verb?)
The goal is to tally up at least 12 Splat points so you benefit from the calorie-torching after-burn associated with high-intensity exercise. However, you still have to pace yourself so your body doesn’t hate you. Preferably, you’ll want to stay in the green zone for an accumulated 20-30 minutes. When you tip too much into the orange/red zones, spending most of the workout there, you’re probably overdoing it. The class coach can help you avoid that.
Feelin’ the Love: As a fitness instructor, I’d only heard good things about Orangetheory Fitness from my industry friends who take classes or teach them. So when I received an invitation to try a class for media folks and fitness bloggers, I was eager to accept. The class was held at Vancouver’s Davie Street Orangetheory Fitness location.
They had me at “free class,” but the deal got sweeter when New Balance Canada generously outfitted everyone with exercise attire, including Fresh Foam Vaadu cross-training shoes. These cute kicks performed beautifully during class. They’re remarkably lightweight.
On top of the swag—and as if I wasn’t nervous about the class already—Canucks hockey legend Trevor Linden was there to work out with us! When Linden helped me tighten the heart-rate monitor on my wrist, I was privately hoping my publicly projected heart rate didn’t reveal just how much Splatting I was up to at that moment—pitter-patter, pitter-patter, pitter-patter.
Overall, I loved the mix of activities, which kept the workout interesting throughout. The class started with treadmill walking/running, gradually increasing interval durations and speed. Our coach provided a good warm-up and ample time after each high-intensity bout to catch our breath at a basic pace, so the routine felt challenging but manageable.
Next, we headed to the weightroom for muscle-conditioning exercises using TRX, steps and dumbbells. A large screen showed us what exercises we were supposed to do, in what order and how many reps. The goal was to make it through as many rounds as possible in the time allotted without resorting to terrible technique.
The treadmill run we’d just completed was mostly coach-controlled—he told us when to amp up and when to back off. On the gym floor, however, the pace was more self-directed, which I liked. This was a good opportunity to settle into a moderate enough intensity to ensure I’d make it through the remainder of the class (while still aiming to complete all the exercises like a champion of course).
By the time we hit the rowing machines, I was tired and craving the cooldown. However, as the final segment was wrapping up—back to muscle conditioning in the weightroom—I gained a second wind and ended on a high note.
If I Could Change One Thing: Privacy is a hot topic these days, and I noticed you don’t get much of it at Orangetheory Fitness, considering your data are on full display. I can see how publicizing everyone’s zones could help people excel or at least avoid half-baked efforts. It worked for me, although at some point I forgot to even check the screens.
But the in-your-face comparisons might feel intimidating (possibly humiliating) for a new exerciser, or intrusive for anyone who’d rather sweat with discretion. It comes down to personality and preferences.
I started to wonder if there’s a way to use a fake name at Orangetheory Fitness, so I reached out to someone official from the company: Brandon Robb, the Regional Fitness Manager for Western Canada. He told me that while the brand encourages people to use their real names, Orangetheory Fitness is also sensitive to anyone who might require stepped-up privacy. Sounds like if it matters enough to you, they’ll accommodate.
Should You Try It? Most definitely, yes! The programming is smart, the atmosphere is high energy, and all the variety makes the hour fly by.
Find an Orangetheory Fitness franchise location in your area at www.orangetheoryfitness.com. Your first class is free.