Orange Theory for Dummies

Until last Tuesday, I had only been to one workout class—a SoulCycle class when I was 14, which I left firmly convinced that I would never return anywhere near the studio. I played sports at various levels all throughout high school, and have always been in relatively good shape because of the regularity of my scheduled practices. Because of this, the lack of structure in my exercise life that resulted from graduating high school was both daunting and troublesome.

I let most of the summer go by without worrying about it, giving myself a sort of undeserved break when I should have been trying my hardest to hang on to the fitness I had. When it came time to go to school, the notion that my good health lay in my own hands was a little intimidating, and it proved problematic as well; I had trouble motivating myself to work as hard as I could and push myself once I was at the gym, opting for easy runs or workouts that did not force me to be very uncomfortable.

With this in mind, my friend Caterina and I decided to sign up for an Orange Theory Fitness class to see if it would help us with our journey to enjoying working out. We had heard great things about it from countless friends, and clung to the reassuring fact that at OTF, you set your own pace for yourself.

As instructed, we showed up 30 minutes early for our first class. During these 30 minutes, a staff member met with us, asked us about our personal fitness goals, our exercise backgrounds, and then walked us through how the class worked and what to do with each piece of equipment so we felt prepared and ready to start at the quick pace that the class moves. I am really impressed with their ability to help first-timers feel comfortable but not singled-out or less capable.

Orange Theory is a mix of treadmills, rowing, and floor core work. Each class is a different combination of these things, and each one allows individuals to do what they’re capable of, letting you set your own base pace, push pace, and all out pace. Each class member also wears a heart monitor that projects your heart rate and calorie burn up on a screen for motivation. I believe you can opt out of this if you prefer to be more private about such things. The coaches are really great at their job; Cat and I have gone to Chris’s class twice, and he makes an effort to know all of his attendees and motivate everyone without making them feel targeted. He also ensures that each class member is using the proper form to avoid injury.

The one area of the workout that I have had any qualms about is the weight training; I am small and do not have a lot of experience lifting, so the recommended 15 lb weights that are standard for a lot of the floor exercises are a tad too heavy for me, and I usually bump it down to 8 or 10 lbs. The rower, which I have not had any experience with, is difficult but really fun, especially if you’ve never done it before. The treadmills have a neat little fan that blows cool air on you as you carry out your workout. The class also does a great mix of intervals at different inclines, so you’re not just running on flat ground but also getting those hills in, as if you were running outside.

The class is a grueling hour––don’t get me wrong. But every minute is worth it, and the feeling of accomplishment when it’s done is so worth it. If you’re someone like me who struggles to motivate yourself to push your limits when you’re alone on a treadmill, the class is perfect. Chris constantly reassures, “you want this to be that feeling of discomfort!” as we bring our treadmills up from base to push pace, which makes you want to feel that discomfort and reap its benefits.

All in all, I’ve never considered myself someone who would enjoy workout classes, but I am completely sold on Orange Theory as a way to not only maintain, but also improve fitness when sports practices are no longer the sole means of doing so. There’s also a payment plan for college students, so if the prospect of paying ~$20 for a workout when the Nelson is free is off-putting, check that out. I can’t wait to continue going, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a fun but legitimate way to stay in shape!