It feels like there’s a new Orangetheory Fitness (OTF) location popping up everywhere in the past year. And if you haven’t walked past one yet, then you’ve probably seen the commercials. I totally understand why your first impression might be that this is just the latest in a long line of fitness fads, but let me tell you – it’s not. OTF has grown into a $1B empire, it’s only getting bigger, and I think it’s awesome.
My original plan for this post like ages ago was to write an introduction to OTF, you know the basics like what it is, what’s the science, etc. But honestly, after almost 100 OTF workouts, I’d much rather just share about why I love it.
Okay, okay – a quick overview if you’re not familiar: OTF is a 60-minute full-body fitness program. During the workout, you rotate through two or three stations depending on the class times / workout of the day. Those stations are either treadmills, water rowers, or floor (for exercises using free weights, body weight or TRX straps). Your time at each station can cycle through 90 seconds to ~15 minutes, again depending on the workout of the day.
Most people wear heart monitors because the point of OTF is to get your heart rate to the “Orange Zone” (ie. 84-91% of your personal maximum heart rate) so you can take advantage of the “after burn effect.” There are five zones: grey, blue, green, orange, and red. If you’re wearing an OTF heart monitor, your stats (heart rate, zones, calories burned, etc.) are all displayed on big screen TVs during the workout so you can track your progress. Read more about the science and theory behind the workout here.
What Got Me Started
If you follow the blog or my IG, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of Kayla Itsines’ BBG workouts and also enjoy yoga. But after going through the BBG 1.0 workout for the third time, I really wanted to change it up a bit. Since I was already doing BBG 1-2x/week at home, I needed something to add in like once a week as a bonus.
I already knew I didn’t want to join a gym because the ones near my place are always so freaking crowded; I hate that. I also considered some of the other trendy fitness options (like SoulCycle and CrossFit) and quickly decided they just weren’t for me.
So what was I going to do? Well, I had heard of Orangetheory Fitness before, but it wasn’t until my sister dragged me to a class that I got around to checking it out. I enjoy a good workout and am always looking for a new challenge, so I figured why not. Well guess what – one class and I was hooked. That was about a year ago.
When I first joined my OTF studio, it was absolutely to supplement my other workouts, but over the last six months or so, it’s really become my go to workout. I try to go at least 2-3x/week when I’m not traveling for work and if I can’t at least get in a session on the weekend, I definitely get cranky. It’s something I look forward to and get genuinely excited about.
What I Love About OTF
In addition to sharing my perspective about why I’m a fan, I also talked to CG, head trainer at OTF Rosslyn, to get a better understanding of why so many people are committed to this fitness program.
According to him, “OTF is a place where you can go to learn more about yourself. It provides both community-based support and a one-on-one experience within a group fitness setting.”
Need more convincing? Here are five reasons why I love Orangetheory Fitness:
1. I don’t have to plan anything for myself
One thing that stresses me out about going to the gym is trying to figure out which freaking exercises to do. I always hate trying to decide if it’s a legs day, an arms day, or cardio day. OTF is great because you just walk in and do what you’re told; it takes all the guess and prep-work out of trying to plan a workout. A new workout is chosen daily by Orangetheory and the coaches enthusiastically guide you through it.
FWIW – this is huge reason why I also love BBG/Sweat; I don’t have to think about the details of the workout, I just have to get moving.
2. The variety of exercises means the workouts don’t get boring
Like I mentioned above, the workouts are different every single day and there’s tons of variety in the exercises. In fact, I’ve never done the same workout twice. For me, this is great on multiple levels. First off, it means I have to focus on listening to the coaches during class for cues on when to switch things up. This takes my mind somewhere else… mainly away from the suffering lol. Second, it helps keep my motivation and energy high. I can’t get lazy or bored if I don’t know what to expect!
OTF is also a great opportunity to try new equipment and exercises. I’d never used TRX straps before, but now look I forward to using them for body-weight work.
And if you think the coaches might be bored teaching the same class throughout the day, think again. Coach CG, who’s been teaching classes for about a year, runs between 15-20 classes per week and says “every class is different because there’s different people working on different goals.”
3. It’s appropriate for all fitness levels
According to Coach CG, there’s one major differentiator between OTF and other programs: “OTF is for all fitness levels – whether you’re a 19-year-old athlete or a 65-year-old retiree – you can all be in the same class and can still get a great workout. By scaling intensity or weights up or down, these workouts can be tailored to anyone at any fitness level.”
I love this sentiment because I’ve felt it myself. When I started at OTF, there was no way I could survive those 15-minute blocks of nonstop running/sprinting on the treadmill. I’ve just never been much of a runner so when I started I often had to mix in some walking. The awesome thing was that even if everyone else in class was running, there was never any judgement from the coaches. They had nothing but support for me. As I’ve gotten stronger, I’m running for those longer blocks of time and pushing myself to keep increasing my base/push/all-out pace.
But we said these classes are for everyone. So how does a strong, in-shape guy like my husband maximize his OTF workout? By increasing his treadmill speed or incline, and lifting heavier weights, of course.
It’s actually pretty easy to tailor the workout to your fitness needs. Each location carries free weights starting at 5lbs and going up to 60-80lbs (depending on the studio) and if the treadmill isn’t great for you due to injury, then you can hop on a stationary bike or strider instead. See, something for everyone and always room to grow!
4. The workouts are as difficult or challenging as I want them to be
Just because OTF can be tailored to your fitness level doesn’t mean it’s an easy workout. Sure, I could ease up the intensity if I wanted to, but that’s not why I go to class. I go because I want to challenge myself, but need the guidance and coaching to help me do it.
Coach CG says this is what makes OTF worthwhile on a deeper level: “People surprise themselves when they challenge themselves. OTF helps people get outside their comfort zones in real life because they were able to challenge themselves and have success in class.”
There’s also the dual aspect of accountability and being competitive with myself since I can see my progress on the TV screens in class. I like being able to track my heart rate and calorie burn to see how it compares with how I did last week or last month. There’s instant gratification for my hard work, but it also makes the competitive side of me want to run faster and lift heavier. It’s motivating.
5. The coaches are super positive and have awesome attitudes
While I definitely have a few favorite coaches, what all OTF trainers have in common is that they’re knowledgeable, encouraging, high-energy, and full of personality. It’s super cool to have that kind of fitness coach because sometimes all you need is a little extra positivity when you’re dying in class. Whether it’s a fist bump or a quick shout-out, I know it definitely helps keep me going.
And the best part about being an OTF coach according to CG? “We get the opportunity to help change someone’s life. We help people become the best versions of themselves. When they say ‘thank you’ – that’s why we do it.”
Knowing you get to train with coaches who want to help you be better, be more … well that’s pretty powerful.
Obviously, I’m recommending OTF to everyone these days, but shoot me a DM if you’re in the DC-area and we’ll catch a class together! If you’ve already tried it, I’d love to hear about your experience (good or bad!) in the comments.