The age-old adage goes something like this: summer bodies are made in winter. But what if summer is just around the corner (read: next week!) and your version of ‘summer body’ isn’t quite as expected? This was the case for me. Following a hedonistic trip to the Big Apple where ‘indulgent’ seemed to be the operative word, I returned to Sydney feeling a little heavier. Clothes were a little tighter, the Tamarama stairs that little bit harder, and the daily wine and dine equation saw no sign of slowing. Alas, I needed a fitness intervention of sorts, something that would not only help shift that extra padding but also improve my overall fitness and wellbeing. I needed to do those Tama stairs sans the puff (well, most of the puff).
To do this, I embarked upon a workout which I’d heard a lot about: OrangeTheory Fitness. My peers had heaped praise on this relatively new fitness studio, with some boasting some pretty incredible transformations. Naturally, I was intrigued (and desperate to try). Was Orange the new black (or workout)?
Born in Florida in 2009, OrangeTheory Fitness has been in Australia for about two years with 13 studios (and more on the horizon). The theory behind OrangeTheory Fitness is simple: it uses the science of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). So what does that mean? Backed by this science, it’s a 60-minute, full-body workout that uses technology to measure performance so you track and see your improvement. It’s also highly effective, combing the unique trifecta of science, coaching, and technology to get you in tip-top shape. In the hour-long class, a coach challenges you to raise your heart rate to reach the “Orange Zone” intermittently, and in turn charge up your metabolism. How? You wear a heart-rate monitor, so you can see exactly what is happening to your heart and body throughout the entire workout.
keeping up appearances
My Orange journey begins at OrangeTheory Fitness Bondi Junction, and at first glance, the studio is swanky. Unlike other fitness studios of a similar ilk – gritty, decrepit, scruffy around the edges – OrangeTheory Fitness is a swish space with near-new equipment, stylish furnishings and modern technology. It’s also very clean, which, is very important when it comes to gymnasiums – aka hotbeds of sweat and tears. Of course, that cheery, everywhere shade of orange is prevalent, punctuating both the reception area and studio with pops of colour. The fitness studio itself is slighter moodier in character. The lights are dimmed, the music is fun, and atmosphere is engaging. It is just the place you want to break a sweat in – and trust me, you do.
Let’s get physical
Let me preface this by saying one thing: I hate running. I hate running on land. I hate running on sand. I hate running on treadmills. So with this in mind, the idea of running on a treadmill for up to 25-minutes terrified me. Mentally, I thought the battle was over. But this isn’t any kind of treadmill, or any kind of run.
Each class has a distinct focus, either Strength, Endurance, Power or a combination of all three, ESP, and you never, ever know what kind of class you’re signing up to until your there. This is a global rule and one which I love, because you can’t mentally prepare nor make excuses (read: the ol’ I’m tired, I can’t be bothered running does not apply here). The class is then broken up into two sections; strength and cardiovascular, so you either hit the floor or hit the treads (you also have the option to use the bike or strider for this component). For the cardio section, it’s interval running, so the breakdown is done in such a way it doesn’t feel anywhere near the 25-minute period. Plus, the treadmills are super spongy and springy, meaning your ankles and joints aren’t compromised with the high-impact. You also work to your own pace and own capability. Each tread has a clear breakdown between walker, jogger and runner – and you work accordingly. When looking around, everyone is working at very different paces. Some striding, some sprinting; it’s high-intensity, but your version of it. It’s truly the best experience I’ve had on a treadmill – or running for that matter – never stale and always exciting.
TLC: Tender Lovin’ Coaches
Unlike other high-intensity classes, the coaches are super attentive and aid your form and function throughout the class, also checking in to see how you’re feeling. It’s an important detail because despite being in a group, it makes it feel personal. You truly feel like they are not only there to motivate you, but to help – a rarity in the group fitness narrative.
The class is always motivating, because it ebbs and flows in terms of intensity. You will move from cruise control to a full acceleration – or “All Out” pace – but just momentarily, so you don’t ever burn out. It’s carefully constructed in a way that keeps you hungry for more, even when you think you’ve emptied the tank. This is in part due to a live feed of your heart rate, calories and splat points, which runs on a large screen. A splat point (the Orange Theory Fitness symbol) is when your enter the Orange or Red zone of your heart rate – i.e. the fat burning zone. It’s the ultimate motivator. So just when you’re feeling a little flat, a quick glance at the big screen will tell you everything you need to know – from how you’re recovering to how hard you’ve worked. It’s like your own personal pep-up, tailored to you and only you. And for those with a firey competitive streak like myself, it’s just the fuel to add your fire – especially when you go with friends. Nothing like a little friendly competition, right?
But when it comes to your own fight, you can burn up to 1000 calories. In my first class, I burnt 562 calories. In the second, 521. In the third, 512. My partner (annoyingly) burnt over 1000 calories in one class (but keep in mind men burn more calories than women, sigh). Huge numbers for a 60-minute workout. But in fact, it’s not actually in the class where the magic – or burn – happens…
Burn, baby (after) burn
After the show it’s the after party, and after OrangeTheory, it’s the after-burn. Using the science of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), you get an increase in calorie burn post-workout. So after 12-minutes of hard work in the Orange Zone (your goal), your body burns additional calories as you recover over the next 36-hours. Burning calories whilst sitting on the couch? Sign me up.
One month in, and I’m feeling lighter, leaner and fitter. Your fitness report is emailed to you after each class so you can mull over the numbers and see how you’re tracking and have progressed (and use it to inspire your next workout, which I love). With each class, I see improvement, both in terms of my exertion and my endurance and overall fitness. I’ve also noticed muscle definition and a general feeling of euphoria post-class. Plus, I’m running. A feat I thought I’d never achieve.
Orange has never looked – or felt – so good.
Tile and Cover Image: Instagram, @solidandstriped