“Orange is the happiest color.”
Orangetheory Fitness has arrived in Fargo!
Last October, I shared with you all that Orangetheory Fitness was coming to Fargo and I would be among the lucky locals to try it out before it officially opened. At the time, it sounded like such a great idea and fun too. Fast-forward to December 29 and the actual day was here – and I was an anxious ball of nerves!
What if I couldn’t keep up?
What if my heart rate didn’t get into the ideal zone?
What if I looked a fool?
My worries were quickly put to rest, as the staff was friendly, energetic, and full of optimism for all us guinea pigs. Plus, having my fit partner in crime, Mallory aka KJsFitMomma, by my side made this first-time Orange experience a million times better.
Without further ado, my experience as a first-timer trying out Orangetheory Fitness.
Overall, I really liked the workout, trainers, and atmosphere of OTF. I got a good workout, felt challenged, yet like I could do what was expected, and left nice and sweaty.
Plus 1 – Cardio and Strength
One of the things I liked right off the bat about OTF is the focused mix of both cardio and strength exercises.
For the first half of the one-hour class, it was focused treadmill intervals. As a runner, I loved this – for those who loathe running and even walking as cardio, you might hate this but know it’s good for you.
The second half of the class rotated us between short sprints on the rower – which I loved and wished there were more of – and various two-to-three exercise combos. For example, one combo was dumbbell shoulder presses and TRX jump squats. Then, we closed out with core work. I hate core work and avoid it like the plague but I know it’s crucial and I’m glad it was part of the workout.
Plus 2 – Heart Rate Monitoring
The foundation on which the entire OTF concept is built is monitoring your heart rate, and getting yourself into various zones. Starting at Gray, no effort, up to Red, maximum effort, and targeting Orange, the level just below Red and the one that’s ideal for calorie burn, and the much-desired “after-burn” effect.
While this concept is valid and encourages accountability, it didn’t work well for me. I quickly found out that, either I push myself incredibly hard during virtually every cardio workout (unlikely) or something was off with my monitor (likely). I spent nearly my entire run in the Red zone. While I would expect this during my top tier intervals where I pushed to all-out pace, I was surprised to see this during my lower interval, base pace, and mid-range interval, push pace, especially considering I have a super-low resting heart rate from being an avid runner.
The goal is to only spend a short amount of time in the Red zone, as it’s meant to be your all-out, maximum effort pace. During most of my Red zone, I was comfortable, occasionally chatting with Mallory, and feeling as I do on normal runs.
One of the trainers who had been watching us said she was surprised by my results, and more than one mentioned that sometimes it takes a few workouts and understanding of each individual’s body to get real accurate readings. Something to note for all you first-timers out there.
Plus 3 – Quality Through and Through
The workout is led by one primary trainer who watches the clock, calls out instruction, and checks in with each group regularly. He did a great job and, although I missed one of his interval calls, I never felt like I was lost or confused with what to do.
In addition to the leader, at least two other trainers walked around to watch participants, correcting form, making suggestions, and answering questions.
The equipment is all high-quality and user-friendly. The treadmills even boasted built-in fans (throw your hands in the air if you’re an aggressive sweater!) and one-touch buttons to quickly switch pace. The dimmed, tinted orange lighting made for a great atmosphere and a pretty cool one, too.
That’s the gist of the workout and facility. I enjoyed it and would give it a really good rating. The running part was similar to a speed interval run I’d do on my own. The rowing was new and felt great. And the core portion was just right in that I could do three rounds of all three exercises in the allotted time, yet I was spent at the end (in comparison to the core portion of other workouts that are too intense to the point I’m not able to keep up so I truthfully give up on really trying).
Everything in life comes with positives and negatives, and naturally I encountered a few less-than-ideal pieces to the OTF puzzle.
Minus 1 – More Muscle
What I felt was lacking a bit was the strength training. There were only 2 upper and 2 lower exercises each included. While I understand that the class is designed for a total-body workout, it didn’t meet my needs for what I’d consider a solid lift.
This is also the primary reason I wouldn’t be able to do OTF more than 2 days a week, as it would eliminate both the previous and following days as opportunities for long, heavy lifts.
Minus 2 – Heart Failure
Back to the heart rate issue; as mentioned above, I spent nearly the entire first half of my workout, the run portion, in the Red. I even considered titling this blog post, “I worked out at Orangetheory Fitness and all I got was Red.”
I’ve done some reading on target heart rates and what I gather is that if you’re constantly in the Red zone, either your workout is way too intense or you’re out of shape.
I’m honest with myself that I have a gut, my nose is way too big for my face, and my laugh is sometimes better described as just a loud noise. So when I say that I know I’m not out of shape, you can know that I’m being honest with myself.
And believe me, I know I push myself hard with workouts. I run for sometimes ridiculous lengths of time, I do speed intervals on the Stairmaster, and I often choose heavier weights over light. But I know I don’t work out at a super-high intensity level all, even most of the time.
Even though the trainers were surprised by my “Red” results, I left OTF feeling a little disappointed and confused as to why my numbers were so off. I felt great during the class, like I was challenging myself and doing an awesome job pushing through the workouts – not like I was about to pass out and feeling horribly out of shape.
It also made me question the formula for how those target heart zones are calculated. Every person, every body, every fitness level is so different from another, I have a hard time believing a formula can accurately figure every individual’s heart rate zones. This gets into deep exercise science at a level to which I’m not nearly educated enough to speak so we’ll just leave it as is.
Minus 3 – Burn Baby BURN
The foundation of OTF’s heart rate concept is to burn calories during the workout, and really, to get the much-desired “after-burn” created by the science of Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption (those unfamiliar, Google it). Basically, the body burns more calories several hours, even the day after, a good workout.
That’s great, right? Who doesn’t want to burn calories from a workout? Believe me, I struggled with putting this in the Minus column because it’s hard to knock a workout that does what it says, and does what so many people want and need from a workout.
The thing that bothers me by the huge focus on burning calories is it leaves little room for focus on athletic performance, stress management, or any other general health benefits. Most of the Facebook posts talk about calories, fat, and burning, and I had to dig into the website to finally see something that mentioned noticeable improvement in power, strength, and speed, if performance is your goal. It also feeds into the perception – and one that I hate – that the only reason to exercise is to burn calories and fat.
Before I go on, let me say that I get it that I’m not like most exercisers. I’m totally in the minority here in that I don’t work out because I want to lose weight (if I wanted to lose weight, I’d diet – horrifying). I work out to maintain my weight, but also to improve my athletic fitness, relieve stress, feel balanced, and because it genuinely make me feel happy.
That being said, I totally get why OTF has successfully built its company on the “Burn Baby BURN” concept. OTF is smart; its core people know the overwhelming majority of exercisers want to lose weight. That’s all. How do you lose weight? Burn calories! It makes sense, it’s appealing to most people, and it’s smart.
And I’m confident the structure of the workouts and classes does lead to increased strength and improved health of members so, at the end of the day, this Minus leans more towards a thumbs-up than down.
Would I go back to OTF? Absolutely! It was a great workout and a reason for me to change things up and try something different. And even though the classes are scheduled and always one hour, I could make that work enough to get value.
However, would I pay for a member to OTF? No. And for the same reason I’ve never joined JoeFitness despite loving him, trusting him, and believing in his process: money.
I’m not willing to give up my membership at the good old-fashioned gym.
I love the freedom to run for an hour on the days I want to just run.
I love the access to cables, squat racks, and a full range of free weights.
I love that I can show up anytime that’s convenient for my schedule any given day.
I love that I can dedicated as much – or as little – time to my workout as appropriate for the day.
As much as I’d love to have another membership where I could do these different, challenging workouts, and I know I’d use it, I’m just not willing to shell out another $75 or $100+ per-month fee for it. I admit it, I’m cheap. I used to call myself frugal or even money-wise to make myself feel better about it, but the bottom line is I’m just really cheap. Thanks for that, dad.
Overall, the Orangetheory Fitness workout, facility, and staff are legit and I would definitely recommend it to most, at least to try. If you’re resolving to get fit this year or you’re one who struggles to consistently stick to a workout routine, or you find it hard to push yourself and try new things at the gym, OTF couldn’t be here at a better time. It’s an awesome workout, and is set up in a way that builds in accountability and encourages sticking to a schedule.
Side note, KJsFitMomma has signed up for a membership so if you’re curious to see a real-life experience, follow her on Instagram where she always shares her workouts and will no doubt show plenty of quality Orangetheory Fitness results.
Have you tried Orangetheory Fitness near you? Do you love it or is it not something that worked for you? Please share your experience in the comments. Or, tweet me about it or any questions about my experience @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.