I had a lot of fun trying different classes for the studio fitness article in our November/December issue, that I decided to try another popular one to review this week.

On its website, Orangetheory Fitness is described as “a heart-rate monitored, high-intensity workout scientifically designed to keep heart rates in a target zone that spikes metabolism and increases energy.” I have a few friends who have tried it, and told me it was a great cross-training workout for runners that incorporates the treadmill, rowers and weight lifting.

Seeing as I have experience in all three of those exercises, I thought the class would be pretty easy for me. As I sit at my desk today, though, every muscle is burning, and I admit I underestimated Orangetheory.

Let me start at the beginning: when I first walked into the studio (I went to the one on Golf Road in Schaumburg), I was reminded of the other studio fitness classes I took; like SoulCycle, Barre and Yoga, the studio was very modern and clean, with an area up front selling Orangetheory branded clothing, and locker rooms in the back. After filling out some paperwork, one of the employees came over and asked me a few personal fitness questions and showed me how to wear the heartrate monitor.


Then, the trainers went over the heartrate zones, which is what the entire class is based off of. Basically, each zone has a color that represents a different level of difficulty; from least amount of effort to most, the colors were grey, blue, green, orange and red, and we were told most of our workout should be in the green and orange zones, and for every minute spent in the orange zone (my “aha!” moment on the name of the class) we’d get a splat point. Our goal was to get 12 splat points which would ensure our workout would keep us burning calories for up to 24 hours!

TV screens were scattered around the room, and the trainer explained that our heartrates, color zone and splat points would be displayed on them next to our name. This made me nervous because everyone could see my data, and if I was doing everything wrong, everyone would know. But it was too late to back out, and I knew I needed to work off all the food I ate over the holiday weekend.

I’m glad I wasn’t the only newbie in the class – our trainer took the four of us around the room, showed us how to use the different machines, and put us on the rowers to start.  The rest of the class was split between treadmills and rowers, and the trainer had a timed workout ready for both groups.

We were only on the rowers for about five minutes, when she moved us to the weight section. First, we did a 10-minute circuit switching between various weighted arm exercises and a jumping move that was repeated in ladder repetitions (6, 8, 10, 10, 8, 6). We then did another circuit for seven minutes, that focused more on legs and abs. Finally, we moved back to the rowers to do another five-minute circuit at the same pace as the treadmillers.

The workout was only half over, I had zero splat points and we were moving to the treadmills. To say I felt discouraged would be an understatement – running is my thing, so how was I going to make up 12 points on something that was probably going to be easy for me?

Well, it wasn’t easy, and I was in the “orange zone” for 16 of the 23 minutes we were on the treadmills. The cardio portion of the workout was essentially different intervals on different inclines, and maybe it felt extra hard because we already did the strength portion, but man, was I sweaty and tired. But I got my splat points and a really good workout in!

If you would have asked me “do you like it?” halfway through the workout and again at the end, I would have had two totally different answers for you. I think what happened for me is I was overwhelmed by all of the things to pay attention to, and got flustered and frustrated with the workout. By the end though, I felt like I had pushed myself harder than I had in a while, and that’s a really good, accomplishing feeling. Next time, I’ll know what to expect and think I’ll be able to enjoy the entire hour-long class.

The first Orangetheory Fitness class is free for everyone, which was another reason I decided to try it. There are different packages, but it evens out to be about $15 a class, which compared to other studios, that’s pretty cheap! If every workout is like the one I did, then it’s definitely worth it, and I can use that extra money for massages when I’m really sore again.

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