If there’s one thing about me, it’s that I’m willing to try just about anything when it comes to exercise. I’ve thrown on sticky socks for hours of micro-movements at barre classes. I’ve nervously glanced around to see if I was the only one taking a modification of crow pose while drenched in sweat at hot yoga classes. I’ve subscribed to running programs, done lunges on Megaformers, and even momentarily hopped on the Chloe Ting bandwagon in the chaos that was 2020. And through it all, I’ve learned one lesson: I’m just not a low-intensity workout girl.
As much as I’ve fantasized about being someone who throws on a matching set and heads to a pilates class every morning, the exercises that make me feel the best mentally—and perhaps more importantly for a fitness journey, physically—are ones that leave me sweaty, tired, and feeling accomplished every time I finish them. For that reason, over the past six years, I’ve gone back to Orangetheory Fitness time and time again.
Since trying my first free* class in 2017 (a perk that they still offer to this day!), I’ve been hooked. Orangetheory Fitness has taught me to work out smarter, more effectively, and has ultimately helped me love the hour of the day that I put aside for exercise—not dread it. Here’s why I love it and how it works:
Orangetheory Fitness is a one-hour group workout that is based on five heart rate training zones: grey, blue, green, orange, and red. In the grey zone, you’re using 50-60 percent of your maximum heart rate, and in the red zone, you’re using between 92-100 percent. While rotating through the treadmill, weight floor, and rowing stations, the goal is to spend 12 to 20 minutes in “the Orange Zone” (84-91 percent of your maximum heart rate) to boost your metabolism, burn fat, and burn more calories. Don’t worry: You aren’t guessing which zone you’re in. You wear a heart rate monitor that connects to the machine you’re on and a studio screen that displays which zone you’re in at all times during the workout.
On the floor, you can expect a strength-training interval that focuses on resistance training and functional strength to help you get stronger and build lean muscle mass. Whether you’re a seasoned lifter or you’re someone who doesn’t know where to start when it comes to weight training, you’ll love this portion of the class. Not only is every exercise displayed on the studio screens, but your coach also demonstrates each move before you do them yourself. It makes weight training more approachable, and it allows you to learn about and improve your form consistently.
Just like the floor, the treadmill section of class accounts for all levels of experience. Throughout the entire tread workout, coaches will give instructions for three tiers: power walkers, joggers, and runners. They’ll give instructions like “30 seconds at your base pace” or “60 seconds at your push pace,” both of which you determine yourself based on the level you’re at. If you opt to power walk rather than run, you walk at a higher incline than those running to maximize the workout at your own pace. The rowing machine rounds out the class as a total-body exercise that’ll further help you strengthen your body and develop more power class after class.
While I was an avid Orangetheory-goer for years, I took a little break when I moved apartments before getting settled into my new studio. Now that I’m back, it’s hard to remember what working out looked like before. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve taken just about every workout under the sun, and by an absolute landslide, Orangetheory Fitness has the least intimidating environment to me. While I feel a pressure to dress a certain way or have certain abilities for many other classes (as a girl who can hardly touch her toes, perhaps this is why Pilates was a no-go for me), Orangetheory carries none of that. I frequently throw on a big T-shirt and bike shorts to head to my classes, and I don’t feel like I stick out or am misplaced. It’s very much a come one, come all environment that feels exciting to walk into—even on days when I’m less than stoked about my workout.
When you walk into the studio, you choose which station you want to start at and then connect your heart rate monitor to it (if you don’t own a monitor, you can borrow one for free on your first visit). I always go for the treadmill, as I like to get the cardio part done before the floor, but from there, you’re assigned a machine number that has your name. No matter which section you begin at, you start class with a five-minute warmup that helps get your blood pumping and get you ready for class. One of my favorite things about the class is the music—it always has a mix of songs that are the kind that would make you gasp and run to the dance floor if you heard them at a bar.
I fall under the “jogger” tier on the treadmill, so I spend my tread portion of class working more with speeds than incline (unless it’s a power-focused day, which would have me using both). Rather than just grinding 30 minutes out at one speed (which IMO is what gives treadmills a bad rep), all of the workouts are broken up into easy-to-digest blocks that have you alternating between paces, which tends to make them absolutely fly by. While I used to be an outside-run-or-bust kind of girl, playing with speeds and sprints makes treadmill runs actually enjoyable—something I never thought I’d say.
I’m not going to lie: I find rowing to be the toughest part of class. Rowing is just inherently difficult, and it’s something I struggle to motivate myself to do on my own, so I love that I’ve gained so much experience doing it at Orangetheory. Just like the treadmill, rather than a 15-minute long row, the row portion is broken up into sets that vary by speed and power throughout the section. I feel rowing a lot the day after, especially in my chest and back, which is so satisfying given those are the most neglected areas of my body. Most of the time, bodyweight exercises are mixed into the rowing section, so you’ll take a break from rowing to do squats or medicine ball work between sets. As tough as it is, this section feels super rewarding once I’m done.
My favorite part of class? The floor. I absolutely love the strength work—especially when we get to work with TRX bands—and seeing how much more weight I can lift now than when I started a few months ago, which I can thank the coaches for. They push you just the right amount, which has been especially true for me on the floor. My coach will come up to me during a set and ask how a weight is feeling to me (this is code for “that looks too light,” and frankly, he’s always right), and when I admit I could lift more, he brings me a heavier weight to work with. I’ve gone from reaching for 15-pound weights to 30-pound ones, and have never felt stronger.
I love the flow of their standard classes, but I just found out they are offering two new class options, which I’m dying to try: Tread 50 and Strength 50. It’s nice to have the option to change it up and focus on either strength or endurance while still getting the same great coaches, community, and vibes that have attracted me to Orangetheory all of these years.
I’ve had my friends all echo the feeling that they’re intimidated to take Orangetheory Fitness classes, which is funny to me considering it truly is the least intimidating environment I’ve ever exercised in. Every class brings a team environment, with coaches who are judgment-free and fellow attendees who are in it with you. While Orangetheory classes are challenging, they’re the kind of challenging that makes me feel like I accomplished something every time I leave the room. I’ve never experienced a workout that accounts for all levels of fitness so thoroughly—I’d recommend it to my marathon-running friends as quickly as I would my mom—and for me, the results speak for themselves.
If you’re curious about trying Orangetheory Fitness, they offer a free* intro class, so you can see for yourself what the workout is like. They have many different locations throughout the country. And because the program is standardized, you know you’re going to get a great workout no matter where you live. As for me, I’m happy to say that I can finally stop my studio-hopping ways; I’ve officially found a winner.
*At participating studios only. Terms and conditions apply. Visit orangetheory.com/promotion-terms or see studio for details.
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This post is sponsored by Orangetheory Fitness, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.