So many buzzy new workouts, so little time. But we promise, Orangetheory Fitness deserves a spot near the top of your list of sweat tests this year for its smart system and crazy calorie burn.
While it's not brand new—Orangetheory is close to celebrating its sixth anniversary with more than 330 studios in 28 states, and more overseas—the company only recently opened in big cities like New York and Los Angeles. And it has quickly become a known name (and color) in even the most competitive fitness-focused metropolises. (According to Google, it was one of the 10 Biggest Workout Trends of 2015.)
The model is smart and simple: Enthusiastic, experienced instructors plus a heart-rate monitored cardio and strength session equals max results in just an hour. Here's everything a first-timer should know before joining the "orange nation."
It's a perfect option for gym-goers who hate group exercise classes
The hour blends the perks of traditional workout classes (think good music and an energetic leader) and the one-on-one benefits of small-group personal training.
The instructors remember every client's name, make an effort to cheer you on and give you constructive feedback during class, and urge everyone to work within their personal fitness level. This means you won't be overwhelmed by confusing choreography, annoyed by close quarters, or trampled by the stampede rushing to grab the last medicine ball. Everyone goes to work within their own station, complete with various sets of weights, TRX straps, a step, and more.
You need to get there (really) early
You'll receive a welcome email or text message a day or two before your scheduled class, and the message will instruct you to arrive 30 minutes before the start time. Even if you're experienced using just about any gym tool and have tried every workout under the sun, that half hour is crucial at Orangetheory.
You need about 10 minutes to introduce yourself at the front desk and fill out paperwork. Then, the trainer will chat with you about the types of workouts you do and your fitness goals (as a top-tier trainer should). Are you an Olympic rower? It doesn't matter; your instructor will want to check out and assist with your form on the WaterRower and also give you a rundown of class lingo (you'll hear terms like "base push" and "all out" throughout the hour).
You don't have to memorize everything; there are television screens around the studio that show both a graphic of the move and number of reps per set while you're doing strength on the floor and treadmill signs hanging on the mirror to guide your speed choices.
It helps to have an understanding of HIIT
High-intensity interval training focuses on working at an all-out effort for shorter intervals of time in order to shoot your heart rate up, followed by brief periods of active recovery. Studies have continuously shown that HIIT is an extremely efficient way to maximize calorie burn.
That's the name of the game at Orangetheory: the fitness philosophy, or "orange effect," is based on maximizing excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), or afterburn. Each class has you bouncing back and forth between cardio and strength intervals in order to spike metabolism and boost your energy.
You may develop a love-hate relationship with the heart-rate monitor
Before you start class, a staffer will provide a heart-rate monitor that you strap right beneath your bust, directly on your skin. The goal is to work in your "orange zone"—which is 84-91% of your max heart rate—for 12 to 20 minutes during the class. How do you know where you stand? There's an overhead screen that displays a chart with everybody's name, vitals, and progression between the five "zones" (grey, blue, green, orange and red) in real time. This is both good and bad (depending on how much you like a competitive atmosphere): it means if you start slacking off, everyone in class will know it.
The major pro, however: Wearing the monitor makes you much more in tune with just how hard you're working at any given time, and your results are emailed to you after class so you can see how you did and track improvement over time.
Don't expect to do the same workout in your next class
The instructors switch up the routine every time, offering a unique challenge every time you show up. In general, though, you can expect the 55-minute session to involve a combination of treadmill, indoor rowing, and strength training (with weights, body-weight exercises, or possibly TRX moves).
With folks rowing, running, jumping around on the floor, and screens holding your cue cards all around, it may feel as if there's a lot going on in the room. But just focus on your movement and form during your first class; the trainer can walk you through your results afterward—then help you set new goals for when you return for round two.