If you read here regularly, you’ve undoubtably heard me mention my new workout of choice–one that I’ve actually stuck with regularly (2x/week) since August. While I had previously been decently disciplined about going to the gym, my workouts weren’t great in terms of intensity…as in if I could work out for 30 minutes and not break a sweat enough to have to wash my hair that night, it was a win.
So basically…not the most healthy approach to being active. I’ll spare you the rest of my health spiel since I wrote about it in this post, but am going to talk more about my workout of choice–Orangetheory (OTF). A lot of people have been asking about it so I wanted to share my personal experience…obviously everyone has a different takeaway, but I can safely say buying a membership is one of the best things I’ve done for my mind, body, and overall health.
Class background + getting started
You can read more about the workout on their website, but basically OTF a one hour interval training class that combines work on the treadmill, rower, and floor (weights, TRX, BOSU, etc.) You spend a certain amount of time on each station during every class. Each day, every class around the country is actually the same workout (or very similar–it can vary slightly depending on how many people are have signed up for that class.) There’s actually a Reddit forum where people who attend class early in the morning post the workout, so it’s kind of fun to check in if you’re heading to class later in the day and want to know what you’re in for. Workouts also have different focuses depending on the day…there are strength days, endurance days, power days, and so on!
When people hear me mention going to OTF, the typical first reaction is along the lines of “OMG, I could never do that, I’m so out of shape!” or “Yeah I’ve heard of it, it looks miserable.” Pretty sure my pre-class reaction was a combination of those two–two of my former coworkers swear by the workout so when J and I heard of one opening within walking distance of our place, I convinced him to try a free class at another location since your first class is always free. This was in June, and I was going into it in below decent (but not horribly out of) shape. J hadn’t regularly worked out in years, save for a few runs here or there, so unsurprisingly, the first class was really tough for both of us. We definitely pushed ourselves to the max for that hour without really taking into account what our bodies were used to…not that diving in head first is a bad thing, but we were in pretty rough shape after. Let’s just say it hurt to stand up from our chairs at brunch an hour later :)
And yet we both almost immediately decided to sign up for the pre-opening rates at the studio closest to us! We joked about getting in better shape to prepare, but that definitely didn’t happen because summer. And then, once the studio opened in August, it only took a couple of classes for us to hit a stride. We were no longer sore for days on end and finally understood how our heart rate monitors depicted our physical exertion; all of a sudden, the numbers on the board made a lot more sense. A lot of people have asked about this since the metrics portion is a large part of the class–basically, you wear a heart rate monitor (you do have to buy one, but then it’s yours) and your name + heart rate, BPM, calories burned, and splat points (I’ll explain that in a minute) show up on a large board during class. It’s basically anonymous since you wouldn’t know what numbers belonged to whom unless you know their first name. Heart rates are broken up into coored zones: gray, blue, green, orange, and red. The number of minutes you spend in the orange + red zones combined (when your heart rate is over 84%) is the number of “splat points” you receive in a workout. The goal is to get between 12-20 splat points per class. I typically get between 12-23, sometimes less and sometimes more. The coaches who teach the class do a great job explaining how this works so rest assured they’ll articulate this (along with the physical benefit) better than I just did!
The best part really is that you don’t have to be in great (or even good) shape to do OTF. Everything is very individualized thanks to the heart rate monitors, and the treadmill portion is broken into sections for “runners,” “joggers,” and “power walkers.” I’m typically a jogger but on some days, incorporate part of the “power walker” workout into my treadmill portion…you really just decide what’s best for you and the heart rate monitor is a good reminder that you don’t have to be sprinting for your body to be exerting itself.
Similarly, one of my biggest concerns about OTF was that it would feel too competitive–I wanted something high-energy, motivating, and total body, but didn’t want to overexert myself in an unhealthy way for the sake of trying to keep up with my classmates. Also, popular workout classes can feel really claustrophobic (looking at you, barre studio that always overbooks your Thursday at 5:30pm class) but OTF is broken into well-spaced out, individual, numbered stations. If you start on treadmill 6, you’re on rower 6 and floor station 6. This eliminates confusion and lets you focus on your workout rather than worrying about crashing into your neighbor. For any equally OCD folks out there, everyone is instructed to wipe down their stations throughout the class…something that I not so secretly love. The coaches are also wonderful, and are there to help with form as needed. Given my ongoing back issues, having someone there to offer some personalized help was really important. Despite most of the classes I attend being completely full attendance-wise, I’ve felt like I get assistance when I need it and am corrected when my form is poor.
How often I go
J and I both bought the 8 class/month membership package, so each go about twice a week. We’ll try and go to a class together once on the weekend (doesn’t always happen) and I get out of work earlier than he does so make it a different evening class during the week. I’ll also coordinate with my bff sometimes, and just go on my own the rest of the time. It’s definitely a fun activity to do with a friend or significant other, if you’re looking for that with your workouts, but is equally satisfying on your own.
I feel so much healthier than I did six months ago. I’m also sleeping better and feel like I manage my stress way better. While I could still do a better job balancing my diet, I’m really happy to have found a workout class that I genuinely look forward to attending–not to mention the hour goes by so fast every time. It’s also nice being in class with people of all ages and skill levels…some have worked out regularly for years, and others haven’t. I also feel physically stronger (can lift heavier weights), apparently have built up stamina on the treadmill (certain speeds on the treadmill won’t get my heart rate up as much as they used to) and as long as I stretch well (beyond just the five minutes at the end of class), have seen the benefits trickle down to help address my back pain as well.
The only downside for me is the cost (our “early sign up” rate is $145+tax/month for those 8 classes, and I believe it’s about $160 at our studio regularly but don’t quote me on that) but that’s unfortunately the reality of boutique fitness in DC. It still comes out less than other specialty classes (#Soul), which is nice. Another advantage is that since we’re in one of the “premier” markets, our membership allows us to take classes at any OTF studio around the country for no charge, except for NYC and San Francisco which are more $$$. That meant we were able to work out in Florida over Thanksgiving and I’m currently signed up for two classes while I’m home in Dallas! I like this package too because I tend to scoop up package deals at other workout studio when they have seasonal sales or whatever…like I’ve been alternating in a barre3 class over the past few months as well. Also, realistically, my schedule doesn’t regularly allow for workouts more than 3-4x/week max, so I wouldn’t utilize the “unlimited” option to its full potential. There are studios all over the country and most definitely cost significantly less than the DC packages, so don’t let my experience with the cost deter you!
IN THIS POST:
This kind of ended up being a bit of a ramble, but hopefully it answers most of the questions many of you may have about OTF! I’m curious–have any of you tried it or considered going? If you have, are you totally on board like I am? Feel free to leave any questions in the comments below or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Photo by Katie