Have you driven by the bright orange studio on the 2nd floor in the Whole Foods shopping center and thought, "Is it like Weight Watchers but with oranges? Like maybe they meet there to pick up their freshly squeezed orange juice and then they all go for a run around the parking lot?“ Nope. Not like that at all. Keep reading to find out what it's actually like.
A LITTLE ABOUT ME FIRST
Hi there :-) My name is Laurelyn Morley. I have lived in and around Huntsville for my entire life. My husband and I run a real estate business together, The Morley Group at Keller Williams, which I do all the marketing and admin for. I also blog about all the cool places to go and things to do in Huntsville that I think you should know about. In this blog post, I'll give my thoughts and experiences, pro tips and things you should know, and I'll answer all of your questions about Orangetheory Fitness in as much detail as possible, so let's jump in!
WHAT IS ORANGETHEORY?
You've probably heard the hype surrounding it, but how is it any different from all the other trendy workouts that have popped up out of nowhere?
Orangetheory is a 1 hour full-body workout that changes daily and utilizes science + technology to guide your entire experience. You'll never do the same workout twice (unless of course you're a 2-a-day type of maniac, I mean... person), and you'll wear a heart rate monitor during every class to track your progress. For people like me who get bored really easily and who thrive on data, this is crucial to keeping me consistent.
HEART RATE MONITORING:
Orangetheory's workouts are based on the science-y term, "Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption" also referred to as "the after-burn". Essentially, this means that if you challenge your body at the right intensity level for the right amount of time, your body will work harder to get back oxygen that was lost during exercise. This kicks your metabolism into high gear and gets your body burning calories for up to 36 hours AFTER your workout is over. Basically, I see it as a 2-in-1 so that I don't have to do 2-a-days to get the same results. I'm not a maniac...
To track this data, you'll wear a heart rate monitor that streams your real-time heart rate metrics on the flat screen in class for you to see. Those metrics include your heart rate, heart rate zone (notated by color), number of splat points (more on this below), and calories burned. Some may read this and think, "Pump the breaks, sister. I do NOT want the whole class to see my numbers." Don't worry, no one else cares or even notices what you've got going on in your tiny square on the screen. We're all focused on our own splat points and calories burned. And most people are competing, yes, but not with each other. The competition is with yourself. I have found that this is the driving force behind my motivation to push past the limits I tend to get stuck at during at-home workouts.
Every class focusses on either endurance, power, strength, or a combination of the three using rowing machines, treadmills (or bikes & striders) floor weights, TRX straps, and bosu balls. Everything is grouped together, so all the treadmills are aligned side-by-side, same for the rowers, and the rest of the equipment is organized nicely at each station in the weight room at the back.
You'll start with a warm-up at your chosen station, then you'll move into the actual workout guided by your coach. Depending on your class size, you'll complete 1-2 blocks of time at each station, and then the whole room rotates until you've been on the treadmill, rower, and in the weight room the same number of times.
BASE, PUSH, AND ALL-OUT PACES:
One of the best parts about Orangetheory is that each workout is as hard as you make it. You can walk, jog, or run during the treadmill block, and there are three different levels of intensity:
This is what I like to call the "I can do this all day pace." If I'm on the treadmill, I pick a pace where I could jog yet still hold a conversation if I had to. This should be more challenging than a breezy walk, but not so challenging that you're begging for a break.
This is pushing yourself to the point of discomfort, but not complete exhaustion. You won't be able to hold a conversation for long at this pace, and you'll definitely start to sweat if you haven't already.
This is the pace at which you go as fast and as hard as you can. You'll never go at this pace for more than 1 minute, and you always get a "walk and recovery" period after your all-out.
To move from pace to pace, runners/joggers on the treadmills will increase their speed and sometimes incline, and power-walkers will increase their incline. Bikers and striders will increase their speed and/or resistance, and rowers will increase their power and/or speed.
Your coach will guide you through these paces and they'll help give you an idea of what to shoot for during your push and all-out paces. Depending on the type of class that day (endurance, strength, or power) you may be doing several short bursts of high intensity with periods of recovering in between, or it could be a steady push pace with shorter all-out paces dispersed between them. It changes daily, which is another one of my favorite things as it keeps you (and your body) guessing.
THE ORANGE ZONE AND SPLAT POINTS:
Like I mentioned earlier, you'll be able to see your heart rate and heart rate zone during the workout via your heart rate monitor. The goal is to spend at least 12 total minutes in the orange and red zones combined (zone 4 and 5 below). I typically hit the orange zone during my push paces, and red during my all-outs.
The total number of minutes you spend in either the orange or red zones are referred to as "splat points", meaning you get 1 splat point per 1 minute spent in the orange or red zone. Your goal is to get to 12 by the end of class. During a typical class, I get anywhere from 20-30 splat points, and when I'm really on my game and feeling great, I can get up to 39. If you're new to high-intensity interval training, you'll probably get a higher number of splat points during your first several classes since your body isn't used to working that hard. This will level off the more you build your endurance. But, treat the splat point system as a guide and not a judge and jury as to how your workout went. I used to get really caught up in getting my splat points when I first joined, and would get really frustrated when I couldn't hit my target. But as I've become stronger and more in tune with my body, I tend to pay more attention to how I feel walking out of class rather than how many points I'm going home with.
THIS IS NOT A BOOTCAMP:
One of my absolute favorite things about Orangetheory is that none of the coaches take the "yell at you and shame the Dunkin' Donuts from last weekend right out of your pores" approach. I've gone to those classes. I've felt the Dunkin' shame. I don't like it.
The coaches here are more instructional than anything. They truly care about making sure that everyone in the class is performing each move correctly, and that everyone feels encouraged and focused.
WHAT ABOUT BEGINNERS?
Before I joined Orangetheory, I had never been on a rowing machine or used TRX straps. I was a total beginner and relied heavily on the coaches there to help me with my form. I can see how all of this would be incredibly intimidating if you've never done any of this at all, but I promise you, you will not be the only one at a beginner level. Everyone has to start somewhere, and most people going to Orangetheory are not seasoned weight-lifters and champion rowers.
The great thing about the Huntsville location and its layout is that the coach can see everyone at all times. If you need help in the middle of class it's easy to flag down your coach and ask for help.
Aside from that, let me remind you that each workout is as hard as you make it. You set your pace and choose how hard to push yourself.
WHAT TO EXPECT FOR YOUR FIRST CLASS:
Arrive 30 minutes early for your first class. There are private bathrooms and single shower rooms for you to change in if you need to. Your trainer will go over proper form with you on the rower before class, and then you'll stay after class to go over your splat point performance and results.
PRO TIP #1: Don't go on an empty stomach. This is NOT a cardio-only workout and if you go without eating anything at all for hours beforehand, you WILL get fatigued and possibly nauseous. During the workout your body will be burning upwards of 500-600 calories or more. You NEED the fuel to support that deficit.
For a while there I was having trouble with getting sick during the last leg of the class. After a lot of trial and error, I figured out that I needed to eat my last meal 2 hours before class, and then have a spoonful of peanut butter about 45 minutes before class. You may have to play around with what works best for your body. Don't go to class right after eating a huge burger from the Farm Burger downstairs though. That would also be bad news bears for you...
PRO TIP #2: Drink plenty of water before, during and after class. I repeat... water is your friend. I went ahead and made all the mistakes you could possibly make with nutrition so that you all could read this blog post and benefit from my embarrassments. If you don't drink enough water before class, guess who's getting sick on the treadmill and running to the trash can in the middle of class? You are.
Story time... I did that. A few times. I was so confused because I had figured out the timing of my meals, and at that point, I was very much in shape, so it really didn't make sense to me why I was getting so sick. Turns out I was dehydrated in a major way. Being a mom and business owner, I spend most of my days running from one thing to the next. It was really easy for me to totally forget to drink any water before class... thus leading to a rough treadmill block and a few embarrassing moments at the trash can. Learn from my mistakes and drink. your. water. You're going to feel like you're consuming inhumane amounts of h2o, but trust me, it's necessary.
PRO TIP #3: Wipe down your station. There are wipe dispensers near the weight room and the treadmills for you to use to wipe down the equipment that you use after each block. The coaches typically hand these out so that you don't forget.
PRO TIP #4: Stick with your same number. Each treadmill, rower, and weight room station is numbered. Pay attention to the number that you start on and stick with that number throughout each block. For example, if you start at treadmill #5, you'll go to rower #5 and weight room #5 for those blocks.
PRO TIP #5: Book your classes in advance. Once you're a member (because all of you are going to run out to Orangetheory and snag a membership after reading this, right?), book your classes early because they fill up Sonic-The-Hedgehog-level fast. Once I get my class credits at the beginning of each billing cycle, I go ahead and schedule out my entire month's worth of classes. This keeps me organized, on schedule, and ensures that I get into the classes at the times that I want. You have 3 options that I know of to do this: 1. Use the app (search for Orangetheory in the app store). 2. Book online at https://huntsville.orangetheoryfitness.com if you're a member at the Huntsville location. 3. Call the studio at (256) 534-4344 (do this option if you're a first-timer).
SHOULD I GET IN SHAPE BEFORE I TRY A CLASS?
The short answer... no. The longer answer... absolutely not. Let me explain: In my opinion and experience, no at-home workout is really going to prepare you for an Orangetheory class. Not because it's that difficult, don't get me wrong it can be very challenging, but mainly it's because the environment, the equipment, the format, and the technology provided at Orangetheory is far more robust than any at-home workout. Unless you have your very own rowing machine, treadmill, a wall of free weights, TRX straps, a coach, and a heart rate monitor... you just won't get the same bang for your caloric buck at home. Aside from that, I've always had a very hard time pushing myself at home to burn 600+ calories. If that's true for you too, sessions at home could actually be prolonging your fitness journey to your goal weight/physique/fitness level.
CAN I STILL DO THE WORKOUT WITH AN INJURY?
In general, yes. I see people in every class I go to modifying their workouts to work around injuries. I've even done it myself. I tore my rotator cuff 10 months before I started Orangetheory (freak inflatable accident at my daughter's birthday party, no joke), and was still very much nursing that injury by my first class. Let your coach know what it is you're dealing with, and they'll either help you find ways to modify the workout to fit your needs, or they'll tell you to try something else completely (like switching from the treadmill to the strider for bad knees, for example). Your safety is everyone's top priority there.
CAN I BUILD MUSCLE AT ORANGETHEORY?
A topic of hot debate. Do I think you could build Schwarzenegger level biceps doing Orangetheory alone? No. Do I think you can build a normal human amount of muscle mass doing Orangetheory alone? Yes! I know, because I have! Before Orangetheory, I had no triceps. I really don't think they existed at all. My pushup game was WEAK.... I hated them. My shoulders were incredibly weak too (hence the rotator cuff injury) and my abs were nowhere to be found. Now? Boom! I've gained muscle mass in all three areas (human-level, not Schwarzenegger) which I'm very happy with. I'm not going to throw up a picture of my abs on my professional real estate blog, but I will say that I've had to size down my clothes a couple of times since starting Orangetheory 1 year ago, and I now enjoy doing pushups. Who woulda thought?
THIS SOUNDS AWESOME. HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Membership fees vary by location, so if you're reading this and wondering specifically about the Huntsville location, I can tell you that individual classes range from $8-$13 per class, and memberships include 4, 8, or unlimited classes per month. Interested in trying it out? Get your first class for FREE! Just call (256) 534-4344 or visit https://huntsville.orangetheoryfitness.com
FINAL THOUGHTS/ FORMAL REVIEW
If you haven't gathered as much by now, I absolutely love going to Orangetheory Fitness Huntsville. I've gained so much strength, stamina, and confidence since joining last March, and I've seen incredible positive changes in my body that I know without a doubt I could not have achieved on my own. Aside from that, the stress of running a real estate business + momming can really take a toll, and the relief from that stress that Orangetheory provides is priceless. You can catch me there twice every week, and if you plan on trying a class after reading this blog, please email me to let me know! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
It's about time for my next class now, actually. So I'll wrap this up here. Thanks for reading! :-)