Health and Fitness

5 Things to Know Before Your First Orangetheory Fitness Class

When I decided to give Orangetheory Fitness a try by signing up for a free trial class, I wasn’t quite prepared for the level of preparation they required. The front desk staff instructed me to arrive 30 minutes early, which seemed a bit excessive to me at first.

I expected there to be some paperwork to fill out, perhaps some waivers to sign, and maybe a quick tour of the studio. But half an hour for orientation? It felt like overkill.

Nevertheless, fueled by curiosity and encouraged by the glowing reviews from friends who were avid fans of the workout, I decided to trust the process and see what all the fuss was about. With a new studio opening up in my neighborhood offering a free trial class, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to dive in and experience it for myself.

The onboarding process started off fairly standard — I filled out the requisite form with my height, weight, age, and gender. I also detailed my current workout routine, which admittedly was sporadic but well-intentioned. Additionally, I outlined my fitness goals, which mainly revolved around challenging myself after nearly two years of lackluster at-home workouts.

Once I completed the paperwork, I was handed a heart rate monitor, known as the OTBEAT Burn. Our coach explained that this monitor would calculate our maximum heart rate (MHR), which is the highest number of beats your heart can achieve in a minute. This metric is crucial as it helps gauge the intensity of your workout.

For instance, the American Heart Association defines moderate-intensity aerobic activity as roughly 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate, and vigorous exercise as about 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. Therefore, it’s important to note that MHR varies from person to person.

Indeed, the concept of “different for everyone” is a defining feature of Orangetheory workouts. The program prides itself on its high level of personalization, from the use of advanced heart rate monitors to the unique motivational techniques employed by coaches.

This level of customization ensures that participants of all fitness levels can experience a challenging and effective workout tailored to their individual needs.

Stepping into a treadmill-lined, orange-hued studio for the first time may feel daunting for newcomers. However, it’s worth noting that Orangetheory coaches and staff members are trained to create a welcoming and supportive environment for all participants. Nevertheless, having a better understanding of what to expect can help alleviate any apprehensions about embarking on this new fitness journey.

Here are six key insights that I wish I had known before signing up for my first Orangetheory Fitness class:

5 Things to Know Before Your First Orangetheory Fitness Class

5 Things to Know Before Your First Orangetheory Fitness Class

1. Arrive 30 Minutes Prior for a Comprehensive Orientation

Even if you consider yourself a seasoned fitness enthusiast, Jesse Milleson, owner and trainer at Orangetheory Fitness in Astoria, NY, emphasizes the importance of attending the onboarding session without skipping.

During my orientation, Milleson provided a detailed explanation of the science behind the heart rate-based technology utilized in the workouts, highlighting its significance in helping participants track their performance effectively.

“Our aim is to ensure that participants neither overtrain nor undertrain, which is why the heart rate monitors and their resulting data play a crucial role in the workout,” Milleson explains, noting that these statistics would be prominently displayed on TV monitors throughout the studio.

Throughout the workout, participants encounter five distinct heart rate zones, each serving a specific purpose. Here’s a concise breakdown of each:

  1. Grey and Blue Zones: These zones represent your heart rate upon entering the studio and beginning to move on the treadmill, providing a baseline measurement.
  2. Green Zone: Falling between 71 to 82 percent of your maximum heart rate (MRH), the Green Zone signifies a challenging yet manageable aerobic pace. According to Milleson, this zone typically serves as an exerciser’s home base, with the goal being to spend approximately 20 minutes of the hour-long workout in this zone.

Jesse Milleson underscores the significance of the Orange and Red zones, describing them as the catalysts for transformative results. Once your heart rate surpasses 84 percent of your maximum heart rate for a duration of 12 minutes or more, you transition into the Orange zone, triggering what Milleson refers to as the body’s Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) effect.

“EPOC refers to the increased oxygen consumption that occurs during the recovery period following exercise,” Milleson elucidates. “This heightened oxygen consumption leads to an elevated metabolism, resulting in continued calorie burning even after the workout has concluded.”

Notably, studies indicate that EPOC can augment your total caloric expenditure from a workout by an additional six to 15 percent, making it a valuable tool for maximizing the effectiveness of your exercise regimen.

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Each minute spent in the Orange zone contributes to your “splat point” tally, with the objective of accumulating 12 or more points during each class. This metric serves as a tangible indicator of the intensity and effectiveness of your workout, motivating participants to push themselves beyond their limits and achieve optimal results.

2. Familiarize Yourself with Special Terminology Associated with the Heart Rate Zones

If you find yourself feeling a bit perplexed about when and how to transition between different heart rate zones during your Orangetheory workout, rest assured that your coach will provide clear verbal instructions throughout the session.

Anticipate hearing specific terms like “base,” “push,” and “all-out,” which serve as cues for you to adjust your effort level accordingly and navigate through the various heart rate zones.

According to Milleson, “Base,” corresponding to the Green zone, represents your active recovery phase — a sustainable pace that you can always revert to. “Push,” indicative of the Orange zone, signifies an effort level that should challenge you, pushing you slightly out of your comfort zone but still allowing for a return to base.

Meanwhile, “All-out,” representing the Red zone, signifies giving it your all with maximum effort. Milleson clarifies that all-out efforts are typically executed in short bursts or sprints, always followed by a period of walking recovery to prevent overtraining. It’s important to recognize that everyone’s base, push, and all-out efforts may vary based on individual fitness levels and capabilities.

3. No Recent Exercise Experience? No Worries!

Orangetheory Fitness workouts are meticulously crafted to optimize heart rate performance according to each individual’s specific metrics, making the class accessible to all fitness levels, as Jesse Milleson elaborates.

“Orangetheory Fitness is inclusive for everyone, whether you’re a novice to exercise, have been inactive for a period, or maintain a regular workout routine,” he affirms. “This inclusivity stems from the fact that you dictate your own pace during the workout.

There’s no pressure to keep up with others. Instead, we tailor the workout intensity to each participant based on their unique heart rate responses. The focus is on embracing your own journey and progressing at your own comfortable pace.”

4. Brace Yourself for a Fresh and Dynamic Workout with Every Entry

During each 60-minute Orangetheory Fitness class, you can expect a well-structured session comprised of distinct sections, designed to provide a comprehensive and dynamic workout experience.

Roughly half of the class is dedicated to heart rate training, involving activities on both the treadmill and water rower, while the remaining time is devoted to strength training exercises on the floor using weights and other equipment.

For newcomers, the session typically begins on the water rower. “During the rowing segment, we monitor your heart rate to gauge its response to varying intensities,” explains Milleson.

“After the rowing segment, first-time participants transition to the floor, where the focus shifts to strength training and muscle engagement using dumbbells and other equipment.” Throughout this segment, your OTBURN monitor remains active, providing valuable data on your heart rate performance.

Subsequently, you’ll conclude the workout on the treadmill, continuing with heart rate training. A flexibility block at the end allows for stretching, followed by a review of your results and an opportunity to address any queries you may have.

While the overall format remains consistent from class to class, each day is centered around a different type of training, such as endurance, strength, power, or a combination of these elements known as ESP (endurance, strength, and power).

“On strength days, expect to incorporate more inclines to target muscle strengthening,” notes Milleson. “Endurance days feature longer push durations followed by active recovery, while power days emphasize short, high-intensity intervals on the treadmill and dynamic exercises in the weight room.”

It’s worth noting that all classes are welcoming to first-timers, as the workout is varied each day to prevent plateauing and keep participants engaged and challenged.

5. Don’t Allow a Dislike for Running to Deter You

If your aversion to Orangetheory workouts stems from a distaste for the treadmill, rest assured that there are alternative options available to suit your preferences.

For instance, if running isn’t your cup of tea, you can opt for power-walking, which involves tackling higher inclines to achieve specific heart-rate zones during the workout.

However, even if you do choose to run, Jesse Milleson wants to reassure those who aren’t fond of the treadmill that running isn’t the sole focus throughout the session. “The workout is divided into different blocks and intensities, so there’s a variety of activities to keep you engaged and make the treadmill portion fly by,” he explains.

If you prefer to steer clear of the treadmill altogether, there are plenty of alternative equipment options available. “We offer bikes and ellipticals at every studio for individuals seeking low-impact alternatives,” Milleson highlights.

Furthermore, if members have specific physical limitations that preclude them from using the rower, the bike or elliptical can serve as viable alternatives.

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