What It is: Orangetheory Fitness (OTF) is a trainer-led group class that combines rowing, strength exercises and running or walking on a treadmill. The goal is to rack up 12 to 20 minutes at a high intensity (what they call splat points) to boost your metabolism long after the class is over.
What You Might Not Know: Right now, Orangetheory Fitness is the fastest growing fitness franchise in the world (Entrepreneur 2019). Founded by physiologist Ellen Latham, it was recognized as the fastest-growing women-owned business in the U.S. by the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) two years ago.
Feelin’ the Love: At a previous media event, the company gifted me a 30-day complimentary pass, which I recently redeemed. During this time, I was also teaching my own fitness classes and seeing a personal trainer once a week, which has always been my routine.
So I didn’t attend Orangetheory Fitness on all 30 days (nor would I even recommend that—variety and recovery are also important). I went 2-3 times per week for a total of 10 workouts over the 30 days. Did it make a difference? Here’s what happened:
Burned a Bunch of Calories
My average calorie burn was close to 500 in each class, so based on 2-3 visits per week, that’s an extra 1,000-1,500 calories zapped over a week. And that doesn’t include any additional afterburn, where metabolism is higher after intense exercise—afterburn is what the entire OFT program is designed around. My trainer says I leaned out a bit, which I wasn’t even trying to do, so (bonus) I had to start eating more.
Felt Like a Rockstar Runner
I was pleasantly surprised at how little time it took to become a better runner. In my first class, my running pace was mostly moderate and my heart rate was higher than I would have liked at times. Halfway through the 30-day pass, running felt a lot more comfortable, and I was selecting higher speeds with relative ease. By the last class, I was running all-outs much quicker than I had just a few weeks earlier.
In fact, toward the end of my 30-day membership, I ran my fastest 1K ever outdoors, according to my Vi AI running coach. I credit this to the treadmill time I logged at Orangetheory Fitness.
Met a Few Friends
As an introvert, I generally keep to myself, which is easy to do when everyone’s working on different equipment. Besides, if you’re able to strike up a convo during OTF cardio, you’re not working hard enough! Having said that, there’s plenty of opportunity to socialize because the area that people occupy before and after class is pretty tight. I ended up serendipitously reuniting with three people I hadn’t seen in years because the gym’s layout makes it easy to cross paths.
Got a Tad Competitive
Orangetheory Fitness is a haven for competitive people like me. A common OTF format is to move back and forth between multiple sets of floor work and the rowing machine. You’re supposed to complete a specified number of floor work reps before you row. My secret goal was to be the first person to the rowing machine, especially when the other exercisers appeared younger than me (I know, it’s soooo petty). Did I make it? Most of the time, and that’s one reason why I consistently got a kick-ass workout. Of course, not everyone is as
petty competitive as me; OTF encourages people to go at their own pace.
Finished Strong at Orangetheory Fitness 💪
In just 30 days, I noticed a definite change in my ability to exercise more intensely and feel stronger doing it. This was reflected by how I felt (#beastmode) and by the metrics Orangetheory Fitness emailed after class.
As I got used to the workouts, I was able to better control how and when I accumulated splats (they tell you to aim for 12-20). In my first class, I had 30 and was surprised it was that high; in my last class, I scored just 12 and burned exactly 100 fewer calories but ran faster than in any previous OTF workout. That was an accomplishment for me.
If I Could Change One Thing: Not every OTF coach explains how to row properly (did you know it’s actually a pushing activity more than a pulling activity?) Wishing I’d started with the correct technique from day one—and with a hunch that other OTF’ers might be in the same boat—I called my friend and colleague Josh Crosby, a Boston-based World Champion rower and top rowing advisor to Orangetheory Fitness.
He cut right to the chase: Most people make the mistake of simultaneously pushing with the legs and leaning back. (Oops, that might have been me.) “It’s inefficient and strains the low back,” he told me. (Oops.) Here’s what to do instead: “Push first with your legs. Then lean back with your core/back. Pull in with your arms at the very end,” he instructed.
On the stroke’s return phase, do everything in the opposite order. “Extend the arms first, then hinge forward with the core, bringing your shoulders in front of your hips. Finally, once the handle is past the knees, bring the legs up slowly to take another stroke.” Did you get all that? Watch Josh in this video to see a pro in action:
I was surprised when Josh told me it should take twice as long to come forward in the stroke as it does to push, lean and pull back. But doing it that way helps you avoid tiring out too quickly, which means a better overall Orangetheory Fitness workout.
“Rowing can be your secret weapon in Orangetheory Fitness,” Josh said right before we hung up. “The correct technique not only helps you avoid aches and strains, it can earn you more splat points during every workout.” For more rowing tips you can use to your advantage in OTF, check out Josh’s website.
Should you Try It? Yes! Your first class is free, and with 1,100 locations worldwide (including numerous in Canada), there’s no reason to put it off any longer. Get thee to an Orangetheory.