January 27, 2015

Best One Hour Workout in the Country

If you don't know what Orangetheory is, don't worry; every single person I told about the free introductory class I took last week had no idea either.

In my mind, Orangetheory is like CrossFit meets the Jetsons. If you ask Derrick, it's a gym full of hipsters.

In reality, it's probably both.

To sum it up in one sentence, Orangetheory is the trendiest new "gym-ish" thing that brags about having the "best one hour workout in the country."

In a few more sentences, Orangetheory is not exactly a gym (but in fact a gym-ish thing) because you can't just go there and work out; you have to sign up for one of their hour long, slightly overpriced (in my opinion) classes that they run throughout the day. Luckily, however, they do let you try out a free introductory class at the much more reasonable cost of... free. (Which is how I came to be there last Monday.)


The class format is pretty simple. For an hour, you are in an alarmingly orange glass room with an instructor and your classmates. The room is split up into two sections: the treadmill section and the "floor," which is filled with all sorts of weights, row machines, ropes, boxes, dangling things, and other various torture devices.

You spend half of the class on the treadmill as the instructor instructs you when to speed up, when to slow down, when to add a hill, etc. The other half of the class is spent on the floor, where you submit yourself to said torture devices. For example, for my class, we had to do a combination of jump squats, lunges, push-ups, rows, burpees, and other things that hurt.

So where does the Jetsons thing come in?

Well, that's the closest thing I can think of to describe the heart rate monitor that they give you to place snugly under your left boob and that communicates with the big TV screens around the alarmingly orange room. On the screens, everyone's name is in its own box, which shows your heart rate, your calories burned, your max heart rate percentage, and what "zone" you're in.

The "zone" is determined based on what percentage of your max heart rate you're working at. For example, the green zone means you're working, the orange zone means you're really working, the red zone means holy sh*t you're about to explode, slow the eff down, while the blue zone means you're watching TV.


It's a pretty cool concept and I definitely got a great workout in. However, Orangetheory falls about half a Zach head short from a perfect rating.


The reason I didn't love the class is because I could never get myself into the orange or red zone. And as someone who thrives off of the competition of non-competitive events with total strangers, this drove me nuts; to anyone else looking at the board, everyone in the class was killing it in the orange while "Nicole C." was presumably picking her hangnails in the green zone.

I was working hard, but the thing is that I have a very low heart rate, partly because of genetics and partly because cardio exercise is my drug of choice. The average resting heart rate for adults is anywhere between 60 and 100, whereas I hover in the range of 35-45 depending on how nervous I am.

But Orangetheory doesn't calculate your heart rate zones from your individual heart rate, as far as I can tell. Instead, their zones are calculated based on the average for your height, age, and weight. Which is why I assume that I could never make it to red even when I felt like a heart attack was one treadmill incline percent away. I was most likely in "Nicole's Red Zone," but that probably corresponds to a lower heart rate than the average red zone.

Other than hurting my ego, it also was a little frustrating because I wasn't able to really gauge how hard I had worked. After the class, they send you a personalized email that breaks down how many minutes you spend in each "zone,."

Which wasn't really helpful to me because I spent a total of 4 minutes in the orange zone.


Basically, according to my performance summary, I spent an hour leisurely strolling around a bright orange box. However, my legs the next morning told me very differently.

But regardless, I would still recommend at least giving Orangetheory a try. First of all, it is a great workout and second, because who doesn't like free things? And you never know, maybe I'll end up caving and buying myself a membership. I've spent money on more foolish things, after all.

(But then again, who's to say my life would be the same if I didn't buy that "Owl Wearing a Suit" bust last month that's sitting on my living room table?)