I’m pretty embarrassed to admit that my first time trying Orangetheory Fitness (OTF) was last month. I’m not sure what took me so long to give it a shot. I think in a lot of ways I can be a nonconformist. I’ve always preferred to stray from the pack, and if you know my taste in music, I prefer more up and coming artists versus what’s played on the radio (Cardi who?) So, when I first heard about Orangetheory Fitness (or OTF for short) and how they are popping up everywhere and everyone is loving it… for some reason I held out.
Eventually, though, I ran out of excuses not to give it a shot (and since they seem to be in every town and offer classes consistently throughout the day, it was convenient to pop in for a class while traveling over the holidays). My very first experience was at the Oakley location in Cincinnati, and then after hearing nonstop about how great the Newport location is, Mer and I popped in there to try it out.
OTF is a high intensity, circuit workout, and the methodology is consistent across the country. When you walk into an Orangetheory, regardless of the location, you will have a very similar same user experience (from a process perspective) as the person across the country. The people make the difference, but I'll get to this in a second.
Every OTF first-timer is expected to come in 30-minutes before class starts for a proper introduction and run down of OTF. When you arrive, you'll sit down with an OTF member experience specialists. That person run through a series of questions about your fitness level, your goals, what brought you in, etc. They also introduce the concepts behind the workout and explain what the heart rate monitor is all about (see below). From there, they give you a quick tour, introduce you to the trainer who will be leading you through class, give you a special spot in class (a reserved treadmill, rower, and weight bench), and it's go time.
The classes are structured in circuits with dedicated time on the treadmill, water rowers, and weight room. The class is divided into three groups and you'll rotate throughout class with your group. OTF uses Life Fitness treadmills that have an ultra-comfortable running deck, and some “give” which makes them easier on your joints than your average treadmill. Side note: if you're not a runner, walking is an encouraged option and the coach will provide walking modifications. The rowers are water rowers and we just had a whole conversation with our pregnant pal about how to modify rowing for that third-trimester bump. So if you're wondering, hit us up. The weight floor has a number of toys like a bench/step, TRX straps, and free weights. Studios also have a few bikes that you can opt to use instead of the treadmill. OTF provides standardized variety. Every day, from Cincinnati to California, the same workout is happening at all OTF locations, and the workouts changed daily so you’re guaranteed to get a different workout every single day. Also, they call you athletes, which makes you feel like a stud and want to grab that heavier set of dumbbells.
You wear a heart monitor. Newport has two options, wrist or waist. This heart monitor tracks how hard you’re working, and gives you accurate results from your workout. Your results are tracked on TVs throughout the room, which allows you to see how hard you’re working. There are 5 heart rate zones, and the goal is to spend at least 12 minutes in the “orange zone”, which is when your heart rate is between 84 to 91% of your maximum. When your heart rate is elevated, that’s when positive changes happen. It’s also super helpful to see where your heart rate is at any given moment, because it tells you how hard you're working and when you need to pick it up, or tone it down. We could go into a lot of detail here, but this is the basic information you need to know for your first class. We promise the OTF staff will take it from here.
So, what makes each location different? The people.
The trainers, front desk workers, and owners are who make each location unique.
Mer and I had been hearing about how great the Newport location’s head coach Ellen Whitney’s class is, and we’ve been stalking owner’s Stephanie and Chase and their adorable baby on Instagram for months (we=Mer, but now me too). Since the workouts are handed to the trainers to coach that day, there isn’t much variance or creativity involved, so the trainer’s main focus is to a) make sure newbies like us know what the heck we are doing, b) effectively communicate the workout so that we aren’t all running around like chickens with our heads cut off, and c) to make sure that people are using proper form and are making necessary modifications to perform the exercise safely and effectively. See Ellen below. She is a BA.
I've taken four OTF classes now at four different locations. One was with a trainer who just went through the motions and didn’t cater to the athlete’s individual needs (it was in Texas, so not outing anyone here!) I am a HUGE stickler about proper form, and when I see someone arching their back while doing an overhead press, or lunging and squatting with their knee over their toe, I instinctively want to run over and correct them before they do anything to seriously injure themselves. At OTF, I could see this being an issue UNLESS, you have a pro coach like Ellen to make sure you are safely training at the proper level to build on and achieve results. Ellen did a great job managing a class full of people of all fitness levels while also providing motivation to all.
The Newport location just celebrated their three year anniversary and has a tribe of loyal customers. We reccomend for OTF Newport for newbies.
So, my key takeaways (and tips for your first class) are as follows:
OTF is great for those with goals. If you want to tone up, gain muscle mass, lose some LBS, they will help you get there.
Make sure that you find a good coach. I saw good, and I saw bad. I highly recommend Ellen Whitney and Stephanie and Chase’s team at the Newport location. As of now, I can only personally attest to Ellen’s class, but I have a feeling (and we've heard) they attract grade A instructors.
Take that 30-minute intro session seriously. Your first time can be confusing. Getting there early and having that full 30 minutes to onboard with the team will set you up for success.
Wear a supportive sports bra and good tennies.
Don’t care about what others are doing around you. You do you, and listen to your bod! If you need a modification, that’s what the coaches are there for, so use them!
Ask questions! Don't understand what your heart rate report means? Ask a coach or staff member. They'll explain and it takes a few times to really get it.
Make sure to return your heart monitor after class (Mer).
Let us know if you want to catch a class together!