I survived my first month of Orange Theory! (I actually just finished up my second month, but it took me a while to get this post published) Here’s a look at how it works and what I find good/bad about it.
How Orange Theory Works
Each class is led by an instructor who calls out cues throughout the class. There are different stations around the room and the class is split up among these stations. Typically there are between 15 – 25 people in a class. You usually switch stations just once during the class, although I have been to a few unusual classes where we switched more than once.
- 60-Minute Classes: The class is split up into cardio (intervals on a treadmill) and strength training with weights and equipment. There are also rowing machines that are occasionally used in tandem with the strength training (usually to warm up).
- Tornado Classes: This class is split into three sections: treadmill, weights, and rowing. I just experienced this for the first time and it.is.tough.
- 45-Minute Classes: These are condensed versions of the 60-minute classes that are usually even more intense and fast-paced.
You wear a heart monitor and everyone’s heart rate is displayed on a screen during class. Your heart rate will be in a blue, green, orange or red zone based on intensity. The goal is to be in the “orange zone” for 12-20 minutes of the class. You get orange “splat points” for every minute spent in orange zone. You can look up at the screen and see how many splat points you have, which is helpful for knowing when you need to push yourself harder. So far my splat point record is 32!
I’m actually surprised how much I enjoy the treadmill section of the class, since I don’t like being on a treadmill on my own. The instructor calls out different cues such as “base pace,” “push,” and “all out.” You spend most of your time on the treadmill between your base and push pace, with occasional all out sprints. You can walk, jog or run on the treadmill. If you walk, you increase your incline on the treadmill for the push and all out pace (and it’s no joke — usually 8-15 incline). For joggers and runners, you increase your speed for the push and all out pace. You usually earn the most splat points from the treadmill.
The strength training is tough and always different. The instructor will show you a block of 3-6 strength exercises. You do a certain amount of reps of each exercise for each block, and then repeat the block until time is up. The goal is usually to get 2-4 blocks in before time is up. There are usually 2-3 blocks in a class, so you end up getting a ton of different exercises in. You use a mix of weights, TRX bands (these are fun), bosu balls, and more. I have even been to some classes where all we use is our body weight, and this can be very difficult (think: lots of push ups and core work).
The strength training blocks are sent over to the franchises from the Orange Theory corporate offices each day. So, in theory every OT is doing the same exercises each day. However, I have noticed most of my instructors go off plan or modify these exercises to be even more difficult. Someone told me the intensity of the strength training can vary greatly based on your studio location and instructor.
These are mostly used to warm up if you are starting in the weight room. However, sometimes you will switch between the treadmill and rower or jump on the rower in between weight blocks. The Tornado classes feature a lot more time on the rowers.
This video sums everything up well:
The Heart Monitor Keeps You in Check
Here is why I love the heart monitors: they’re a reality check. When I’m on the treadmill running and my mind starts saying I better slow down because I’m not a runner and I’m gonna die if I keep going, I can look up at where my heart rate is and see that I’m actually nowhere near death. This is a reminder that yes, my body can handle this and yes, I can push myself even more. I check in on my heart rate every time I want to stop doing one of the exercises because I’m certain I’m at my physical limit, and sure enough, my heart is not on the verge of exploding. You can’t argue with the heart monitor (unless yours is broken, like mine was one day when it told me I had a 0% heart rate — that’s when it’s time to worry).
You See Noticeable Progress From Class to Class
I should mention I still really suck at Orange Theory. I’m usually the slowest/most out of shape person in the class. I can’t do every single rep or every movement perfectly. As someone who likes to be good at things right away, this has been a good lesson in humility. But my progress after 4 weeks was insane. Seriously, things I never thought my body could do I am now doing pretty well. Example: I am now running on the treadmill (I do not run). After a month, I could tell a difference in my body. I didn’t have a significant weight loss, but things are definitely getting more toned, especially my arms and butt!
No One Gives a Crap How Much You Suck
They make it very clear when you sign up that no one in the class is going to pay attention to you. I thought my level of suckitude would surely draw attention, but so far I’ve gotten hardly a glance from anyone. Everyone else is trying not to die as well, so they are totally unaware of anything you do.
You Get a Fun Performance Summary Email After Each Class
Within minutes of leaving the class, you are sent one of these fun graphs that breaks down your performance. If you were so inclined, you could use this info to set up a spreadsheet tracking your progress.
It’s Expensive to Go Regularly
If you are used to paying the typical gym membership fee, Orange Theory is a steep hike. But it’s still cheaper than a personal trainer.
The rates vary based on location, but in Tampa it’s as follows:
- $25 for a drop in class
- $59 for 4 classes a month (plus $15 each for additional classes)
- $99 for 8 classes a month (plus $12 each for additional classes)
- $159 for unlimited classes each month
There are also packages available where you pay for a bundle of 10 classes, 20 classes, etc.
There are No Beginner Level or Intro Classes
You are immediately thrown into the gauntlet as a beginner. I really think they would benefit from having a beginner or fundamentals class once or twice a week. For someone like me who has very little experience weight lifting, I would have liked an introductory class that focuses on some basic weight lifting movements and how to perform them with correct form.
Class Space is Limited
You book classes online or on the phone. Some instructors and time slots are very popular, so you need to book a few days in advance for a guaranteed spot. This may be annoying for people with unpredictable schedules. They also have a strict cancellation policy and you will be charged for cancelling without sufficient notice (I think you have to cancel 10 hours before a class to avoid this fee). I don’t mind the cancellation fees — it’s good motivation to show up!
Not Enough Mirrors
This obviously will be different from studio to studio, so this is just a nitpicky thing about the studio I go to. In my studio, we don’t really have mirrors to check our form during weight lifting. I have found the one tiny spot in the weight area that has a sliver of a mirror and claim this as my spot so I can see part of myself while lifting weights. Maybe dancing made me too reliant on mirrors to check my form. Meanwhile, at my studio we have mirrors in front of the treadmill so I make awkward eye contact with myself and the people next to me in the mirror.
The good definitely outweighs the bad, which explains why I’m hooked! I’ll be following up with another post soon about beginner tips for Orange Theory.
Have you tried Orange Theory or have questions about it? Let me know in the comments.
UPDATE 1/2016: Since writing this, I have canceled my Orange Theory membership. Read my update to find out why.
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