Orangetheory has been exploding across New York City and the country more broadly — two studios are opening within blocks of each other in Midtown (at Bryant Park and East 39th Street). There are studios all over the U.S. now, including Hawaii and North Dakota. Now that’s a wide reach. So when I went on my bi-monthly (sort of) trip to DC this week, I decided to give this immensely popular workout a chance and see what the buzz was about. And let me assure you — I wasn’t disappointed.
OrangeTheory Fitness Grades
QUALITY OF orangetheory WORKOUT: 9.5 (OUT OF 10)
If you’ve heard of Orangetheory, you’re probably familiar with their format. Students receive a heart monitor, which they wear on their forearms or wrists. During class, the metrics for each student appear on the board, including calories burned and heart rate (HR). The goal is to get into the “orange zone,” which is 84%-91% of max HR — uncomfortable, but you shouldn’t feel like you’re about to pass out.
For people like me, who enjoy pushing themselves really hard, this workout is amazing. It holds you accountable not only to yourself but to the instructor and the entire class.
The class was split into three distinct parts: running, rowing, and strength training, called “The Ellen” after Orangetheory’s founder. The running section was about a half hour long, while rowing is about ten minutes and strength is about twenty. The strength section was divided into two distinct parts with four exercises each, and we got through as many rounds as possible. Movements included flies, TRX triceps dips, plank jacks on a Bosu ball, and one-legged V-ups. With rowing and running, we alternated between our baseline, endurance, and speed. If you’re like me and obsessively monitor your heart rate for the entire class, the running and rowing sections are when you’re really pushed.
what makes this studio special
The class was pretty small — about fifteen students. The instructor was super attentive and helped me improve my form multiple times throughout all of the sections. I also appreciated that the studio gives extra attention to new students. It seems like it would be obvious to welcome first-timers, because you never know if they’ll become second- or third-timers, but many studios do not acknowledge the presence of new students in the room. Myke not only asked me basic questions about whether I had injuries, but dove deeply into my goals (2018 will be the year I do a pull-up!) and helped me make adjustments that will get me to those goals more quickly.
SIZE OF CLASS: small/MEDIUM
Although fifteen students isn’t tiny, the Orangetheory class felt like a hybrid personal training/group fitness class. This seems to be somewhat motivated by the heart monitors. You and the instructor are constantly aware of exactly how hard you’re working, and s/he’ll make sure that you’re never in the blue zone for too long.
DIFFICULTY LEVEL OF CLASS: MEDIUM/HARD
Like many other circuit training/HIIT classes, students here pace themselves. Everyone works according to their own capabilities, which is one of the things I love about having the heart monitor. Unlike a studio like Flywheel, where there’s a leaderboard comparing you to everyone else in the class, at Orangetheory, you work according to your own max. I’m sure I wasn’t the fastest in the class, by a long shot, but I spent six minutes in the red zone — demonstrating that I worked extremely hard, according to my own capabilities.
STUDIO QUALITY (14th street): 8.5
The staff here was extremely nice, warm, and welcoming — above and beyond what I’ve seen at studios in New York. I don’t know if that’s specific to Orangetheory, or more like an example of the differences between DC and New York fitness culture. The equipment here was top notch, particularly the treadmills. Unlike most gyms, Orangetheory doesn’t use the Life treadmills. Rather, their treadmills have much more advanced touch-screens and improved reaction time to changing speeds and intervals. I’ve never had a run go so seamlessly.
My only complaints about this location are related to the equipment. Although there are two showers (which isn’t really enough for a peak class), there aren’t full-sized towels or razors. A minor annoyance, but I’m a spoiled New Yorker.
- The first class is basically every studio except for the ones in Manhattan is free. Take advantage of it.
- Come thirty minutes early your first time to pick up your heart monitor and have a rowing tutorial. Even a lot of fit people row with terrible form.
orangetheory: the bottom line
This is one of my favorite workouts that I’ve tried so far, bar none. There was close to no dead time, and I felt that I really understood the impact of the movements we were doing. I highly recommend this workout and location to anyone living in DC, or even passing through like me.