Orange Theory

Last week I had the opportunity to train at Orange Theory Fitness in Center City. With its unique blend of technology and data analysis, Orange Theory provides real time feedback as you workout. Keep reading to get all the details!

The Studio: This fitness brand has studios all over the country, but I visited the Center City facility, located inside the Shops at Liberty Place. Head up to the second floor past the food court to find the spacious studio tucked into an unassuming storefront. The lobby area is somewhat small, but the studio space itself is large. They have cubbies (you can byo lock to keep your items secure) for your stuff, changing rooms, and showers. Inside the studio there is a place to fill your water bottle, but you’ll want to bring your own towel. One one wall is a row of treadmills under two huge screens that project names and heart rates. In the middle is a line of rowing machines. Finally, the opposite wall holds the weights and other props. The strength training exercises are performed in the area in between the rowing machines and the weights. The lighting is low with an orange tint and the hip hop and house music blast through the sound system. It feels almost like working out in a nightclub for the 60 minute class!

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The Format: Like some other studios, Orange Theory combines intervals of cardio work, here on a rowing machine and a treadmill, with a period of strength training exercises using free weights, bosu balls, weight lifting benches and other props. OT differentiates itself by leveraging technology to maximize your workout. Each client wears a heart monitor (they give you one to use for free for your first class, but regulars need to buy or rent one) and his or her heart rate is projected up on a screen for all to see during class. Depending on your rate, your name will appear in a different color – gray, blue, green, orange, or red, in ascending order of heart rate. The graphic also displays your total calorie burn and your current heart rate percentage (percent of your max heart rate for height and weight). The goal is to get your heart rate in the “orange zone” for a certain amount of minutes per workout in order to enjoy the purported benefits of increased metabolism and continued calorie burn in the hours post-workout. Throughout the class the coach will instruct you to make sure your heart rate is in a certain color zone.

The Workout: On the day I worked out, each client spent half an hour on the treadmill and half an hour doing strength training. There are two groups that switch areas halfway through the 60 minute class. I started with a few minutes on the rowing machine to warm up. Then the strength group performed three different circuits consisting of 3-4 exercises each – things like planks, weighted squats, dead lifts, etc. A screen in our area displayed a graphic demonstrating the respective exercises. The coach told us the amount of time and the types of exercises to be performed, but mostly focused on timing and describing the cardio intervals to the treadmill group. After 30 minutes, I switched to a treadmill. It was “incline” day, so we did interval training on hills. The coach offered options for runners and for power walkers so you always had the option to take things at your own pace. We finished the hour with a few minutes of stretching as a group. After class, your results are displayed on screen as a bar graph showing how many minutes you spent in each color zone.

The Pros: This class has the elusive blend of tiring cardio and challenging strength training, all in once place. You can definitely get a great workout. Be prepared to sweat!

The Cons: I don’t love workouts that focus heavily on data. I find I become too results oriented instead of paying attention to cues within my body to guide my progress. It’s easy for my to become obsessed with the number rather than how things feel. Moreover, as someone who is in quite good cardiovascular shape, I felt like the data didn’t reflect my efforts. My standing heart rate is low and when my heart rate does get up, it more quickly returns to its resting rate than do those of some others, meaning I spent less time in the “orange zone” than many other clients. I also hate running so the fact that the treadmill was the only option for cardio was not ideal for me. Finally, I felt like the focus on technology took away from the class. The coach felt less like a guide and a teacher than someone reading stats off a page. The fact that the groups were both doing cardio and strength at the same time made it difficult for the coach to focus on either group. Most of the time was spent explaining exercises or timing and describing the cardio intervals, rather than interacting with clients, perfecting form, or encouraging progress.

The Pricing: The good news is, your first workout is free! You can try a class at no cost, with no strings attached. As for packages and memberships, pricing differs by location. Center City is a “premium location”, so the prices are higher here than at some other locations – the website says a $10 charge will be applied to workouts at this studio, but this charge seems to be reflected in the prices quoted online. A single class is $30, 10 classes are $250 and 30 classes are $600. But with the free trial option, there’s nothing to lose for your first class!

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