Waking Up to An Orangetheory Fitness Workout

It’s seven o’ clock on a Friday morning and two dozen people are about to finish an hour-long, high-intensity workout at the Orangetheory Fitness studio in North Austin, Texas.

From inside the gym, bathed in bright orange light, a voice calls out over up-tempo ’80s music, “One last push; you’re almost done!” A line of treadmill runners starts sprinting harder, and on the other side of the room a phalanx of weightlifters finishes its final set of reps.

Moments later, the sweaty group files out of the gym, talking, laughing and recapping the past 60 minutes.

I watch them leave the glowing tangerine lobby with a twist of nervousness in my stomach because my Orangetheory class is next — my very first one — and I wonder if I too will leave with a smile on my face.

How did I get here? A few weeks ago, an Orangetheory rep contacted me about reviewing a class. I jumped on the opportunity and soon found myself chatting with Jim Potesta, the owner of several Orangetheory studios in Houston, Texas.

A runner and cyclist, Jim joined the Orangetheory journey from its roots in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and two years ago brought the brand to Houston, where he opened the studio’s first-ever Texas location. The five-year-old company now has 25 studios in Texas that are either open or in the development phase as well as 240 studios spread across 29 states.

Jim told me he was passionate about continuing to expand Orangetheory for its inclusive fitness philosophy and the sense of community it provides, which made me even more excited to try a workout. I registered for an early morning class and brought along my friend Harrison (a CrossFitter who is probably much more in shape than I) because I didn’t want to be the only novice there.

I shouldn’t have been nervous, though, because the Orangetheory staff gave us newcomers a warm welcome, including a detailed explanation of the heart-rate monitors we were to wear (an important component to Orangetheory’s philosophy) as well as a run-down of the morning’s workout, which varies every day. Then our instructor, Aaron, brought us into the studio to demonstrate how all the equipment worked before the rest of the class joined us.

What sets Orangetheory apart from other fitness classes? Using monitors, participants track their heart rate throughout 60 minutes of treadmill running, rowing and weightlifting. The goal is to train for 12-20 of those 60 minutes in the “Orange Zone,” or the level at which you’re training 84 percent or higher your maximum heart rate. The theory is that by doing so, you’ll achieve “Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption,” which increases your metabolic rate for 24 to 36 hours after you workout, allowing you to burn more calories.

Every Orangetheory class focuses on one of three fitness realms — endurance, strength or power — and the exercise combinations differ depending on focus. My first workout was power-based, so I spent the first 30 minutes of class on the treadmill and the latter half, rotating between rowing and weightlifting.

I’m a little ashamed to admit that I don’t lift very often — actually, ever — so the treadmill portion of the workout was more familiar to me. I liked that we did interval training and changed tempo from a comfortable “base pace,” to a more difficult “push pace,” to an agonizing “all-out pace.” I was exhausted afterward and definitely got a better workout than I do when I’m running on my own.

The lifting portion wasn’t too challenging for me, however, I think it’s because I don’t have a great grasp on proper form nor the right amount of weight I should be using. My only quibble with group exercise classes is that the instructor is unable spend a ton of time working with each student individually, which I could have benefitted from. My instructor, Aaron, though, did a great job encouraging everyone throughout the class and took the time to talk with Harrison and I before and after the workout to make sure we understood everything.

All in all, I had a great time at Orangetheory and would recommend it to anyone looking for a fun, unique workout, no matter their level of fitness. I left the studio sweating and smiling, and look forward to trying another class soon.