It works! Okay, maybe it doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for us. I started working out at Orangetheory Fitness in 2017, about 3 months after the OTF (the standard abbreviation for Orangetheory Fitness) opened up in our market. I was in my late-40s and about 40 pounds over the ideal weight for someone my build. I was always tired, I had very little energy, and I hated to work out. I had tried so many gyms and nothing ever seemed to work. The issue I had was that I had no idea what to do with a gym membership and I certainly couldn’t afford a personal trainer to tell me what to do. Like many people, I would get to the gym and be lost in a sea of machines, free-weights, and options. I lost interest before I could even make an impact on my health.
Then it happened. I had a very close family member have a close call in a fairly standard procedure and I had to sit down with the doctor, post-op, to listen to how FAT made the surgery much more difficult than it had to be. I remember thinking, “I don’t ever want one of my family members to have to have that conversation,” so I took action. I had heard about OTF and one opened up just a few miles from my house, so I thought I’d give it a go.
I booked the free trial class and I showed up, terrified of what was to come. That first class was brutal, I remember ducking into the bathroom about 15 minutes into class and throwing up. I think I spent about 20 minutes of the 60-minute class in the bathroom, either sick or scared to go back and face the gauntlet (treadmills, water-rowers, and the weight room). I don’t even remember if I signed up for a membership or not that day, I just remember the drive home. While I was exhausted, all I could think of was, “I survived!” It was bad, but it wasn’t that bad. I knew I had to stick it out, so I did. I got a little bit better with each of the next few classes and by “a little better” I mean I spent less and less time hiding in the bathroom. Eventually, I could complete an entire class without stopping. I began to lose some weight and that triggered my decision to pair up a better diet with my newfound fitness journey. In about two months, I dropped 15 pounds and I felt like I was finally starting to understand why I felt so bad for so long. I was just unhealthy. Today, about five years later, I am down over 45 pounds of fat and up 15 pounds of muscle. Net weight loss is about 30 pounds, but that is deceiving (since 45 pounds of fat is gone). I’ll leave the issue of Scale Deception for another blog post, another day.
Jo Anna experienced a similar journey with OTF, though a bit later than I did. She joined about a year after I did, but had similar success. Losing a significant amount of fat and adding muscle, she is in the best shape of her life. I may be a little biased, but she is a badass that can lift more and work harder than most of the girls half her age at Orangetheory.
So what makes Orangetheory different from all of the other gyms? In my opinion, it is the coaches and the templates. Let me start with a brief introduction to what a class typically looks like. Most classes follow what is called a 3G Template, 3G standing for Three Groups. Our OTF has three sets of 14 stations; 14 treadmills, 14 water-rowers, and 14 weight benches. That means there are up to 42 people in the class at a time (plus the coach). Since the typical class is 60 minutes, in a 3G Template, you rotate every 20 minutes. I like to start on the treadmill, so at our location, I’ll do 20 minutes on the tread, 20 minutes on the water-rower, and 20 minutes in the weight room. The rotation is always the same, but the exercises are varied. Every day is different so some days you may emphasize strength and other days you may emphasize endurance. OTF is really good about changing it up and keeping the templates both challenging and fun. They have what they call ESP (Endurance, Strength, & Power). All classes focus on one (or multiple) of those elements.
Beyond the great templates and quality equipment, it is the coaches at Orangetheory that make it special. For each class, there is one coach that directs you through the template, telling you what to do and when to do it. They are there to guide you, assist you with your form, and make sure you are getting the most out of the workout. Our location has about 7 coaches, so you get a good variety of coaching and music styles in every class. As with anything, we have coaches that we prefer, but all of them have their moments. The templates that OTF corporate provide keep the coaches from going astray with things that just don’t make sense. The workouts are challenging and always changing so no two workouts are really the same, given the fact that the coaches and music are varied as well.
I can’t forget to mention the heart rate monitor. I am sure OTF wasn’t the first gym to use heart rate monitors, but the way they do it is what makes OTF unique. Each class participant straps on a heart monitor that syncs up with TVs throughout the studio, your name is up on the board, showing your current heart rate and how many calories you’ve burned so far. There are 5 zones (grey, blue, green, orange, and red). Typically you start out in grey and as you work out, your heart rate and zone change. The goal is to stay in green, orange, and red for as long as possible.
One other thing of note, OTF has come up with something they call Splat Points. Essentially a splat point is earned for every minute you spend in the orange or red zone. The “theory” is that if you stay in the Orange Zone for more than 12 minutes (12 Splat Points) you experience an afterburn, which means your body continues to burn calories well after your workout. I’m not sure I believe in the theory, but I love the workout regardless.
Over the years, several people have asked me how OTF is able to create a program that works for people at different fitness levels. How can Orangetheory work for a morbidly obese man and a fitness junkie in their 20s at the same time? Simply put, the program is adaptable to just about everyone. On the treadmills, for example, they coach the participants to either walk, jog or run. You do what works best for you. The same thing goes for the weight room. While I may be lifting 40-pound dumbells for a given exercise, the dumbells range from 5 pounds all the way up to 80, so you have options. If you have injuries, the coaches can adapt to those as well. Personally, I have knee issues, so when we do squats or lunges with weight, I just do them without the weight. Modification is the key to making Orangetheory work for so many people.
As you can probably tell by now, I am very passionate about Orangetheory Fitness, and with good reason. It has changed my life for the better, much better. For me, OTF is my daily therapy. We attend 6 – 8 classes a week and I am without a doubt, in the best shape of my life. My blood pressure is down (it used to be astronomical), my weight is in check, and I have the energy I craved a few years ago.
If you have never tried Orangetheory Fitness, I highly recommend you give it a shot. Your first class is free in most markets (if not all), so you really have nothing to lose. If you have your own personal OTF experience, we’d love to hear from you.