Learning from the Heart at OrangeTheory Fitness

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I did not want to like OrangeTheory Fitness. On a brief visit home to Tallahassee where my ClassPass membership is meaningless, I decided to give it a try for the sake of the blog. The reason I didn’t want to like it is that it’s a chain, a nationwide franchise, and in Tallahassee they’re located right across the street from one of my favorite locally-owned studios, Sweat Therapy.

But my body hasn’t felt this way in a while. Totally spent. Like I really pushed myself to places I didn’t think I could go. The set up is a lot like Barry’s Bootcamp, but they also have rowing machines, and the most important feature, you wear a hear rate monitor. I’ve seen these at BFX, and even wore one at Drill Fitness, but this was the first time I was sold on their true value.

In the past, at Barry’s I’ve been hesitant to try the big numbers the teacher calls out, convinced that my body can’t handle them and I might go flying off the machine. I’m a max-out-at-6.0mph kinda girl. Or I used to be. Tomorrow will be day 50 of my 100 days, and despite my body shape (or at least my body image) not changing a whole lot, I’m definitley MUCH more fit than when I started. Feeling strong is the best high. Wearing the heart rate monitor today helped me realize how strong I am.

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At OrangeTheory Fitness (soon to open a Chelsea studio in NYC), like at Barry’s, you move from intervals on the treadmill to strength training floor work. Unlike at Barry’s, the workouts are a little more varied (sometimes you’ll only be on the treadmill for 5-minute stints, and other times for longer). Also, your name is on the big screen with a bunch of numbers, the most prominent of which is your heart rate. It’s highlighted in a color that corresponds to your ideal and maximum heart rates (which are calculated based on your gender, age, and weight). I can’t remember the exact breakdowns they tell you are ideal, and I liked the fact that the teacher told us to just ignore them if they were distracting us. The idea is to be in the Green zone (fat-burning) for part of the time and in the Orange zone (84% or higher of your max heart rate) for part of the time. According to the people at OrangeTheory, by getting that time in the Orange zone you will experience Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption or EPOC. This means you’ll have an increased metabolic rate even after you stop working out.

I’m looking forward to that, and can actually feel it. Even more importantly though, looking at my heart rate numbers taught me more about myself. I actually had to go a lot faster than I thought I could to get to the orange zone, like 8.0-8.2 without an incline. I also learned that inclines are the killers for me. I had to slow way down when the incline was 5.0 or higher. Plus, I saw that I had a pretty quick recovery rate and my starting heart rate was pretty low which means I’m fit!

This kind of workout also means you CANNOT CHEAT or fake it! Which I’m often tempted to do in spinning class. Sigh. It means that even as I get fit, I can keep my workout challenging by pushing myself to the zone every time. So, as much as I hate the idea of a franchise beating out the local guy, this was a fantastic workout. Now, let’s see if they’ll be on ClassPass once they open in NYC!

ORANGETHEORY FITNESS (nationwide locations)

PROS:

Heart rate tracked by monitors shown on a video screen; progress tracked and sent to you via e-mail; clean space; efficient total-body workout; great instructors and class sizes small enough for them to help you with your form.

CONS: 

Not as many amemities as at some studios I’ve seen– the location I went to had limited locker/cubby space and only two showers; pricey.

Florida Hoppin’: Bikes that tilt and lean at Sweat Therapy Fitness

I’d almost resigned myscropped sweat therapyelf to making due with on-line classes using my free trial of FitnessGlo while I was home for the holidays. I’ve been motivated to do one whole 10-minute mommy stretch video since signing up. Yet another reminder that I need in-person classes.

Then at Christmas dinner, between bites of roast beast and sips of wine, I chatted with my aunt about a new fitness studio she thought I should try while I was home visiting: Sweat Therapy Fitness. She described indoor cycling bikes that tilted and turned, giving you a total body workout. I was intrigued.

I left Tallahassee over 15 years ago, and it has gotten much hipper in my absence. I haven’t even seen these kind of bikes in NYC yet, although apparently they do exist at FlowCycle in Tribeca. They’re called Real Ryders, and their creators claim that the bikes increase core strength and stability by recruiting more muscles during leaning and steering movements, and in so doing allow you to burn 20% more calories than on a traditional stationary bike.  You definitley have to use your muscles (both upper body and core) to get the bike to turn, and as Brian, my instructor at Sweat Therapy’s Real Ryde class, told me, it takes some getting used to.

I enjoyed the challenge, but even more, it was fun to pretend we were riding along the scenic roads shown on the two giant flat screens in the dark cycle room that took us from mountain hills to country roads and beach cliffs. It was a little too intimate of a class to totally let loose (it’s Tallahassee, after all, filled with Southern charm and personal attention in contrast to New York’s annonymity), but I found a groove and found myself concentrating on pumping to the cadence of the music rather than constantly watching the RPM monitor. After the class, they gave me a tour of the facility which includes TRX Suspension Training rooms, the “Boat House” for Indo-Row classes, and the Real Ryder cycling room decorated with motivational quotes on framed chalkboards and strings of big red lights that come on when the room darkens and the music starts.

I was also able to take a class called Sweat Fest at Sweat Therapy while I was in Tallahassee, and it is appropriately named. I brought along my 21-year-old cousin who is a super-fit capoeirista, and she too was left challenged, drenched, and sore. This was a circuit-style class with about 10 different stations including rowing machines and TRX equipment. What I liked most was the fact that there was a true variety of fitness levels within the class, and the teacher was able to modify accordingly. That said, there were a few too many circuits for her to keep an eye on all of us, watch form, make adjustments, and answer questions. Luckily, Jake, the cutie from the front desk who is clearly a fitness guru in-training was able to assist demonstrating the exercises for various stations as we got there. (Jake also showed us around the studio, and was a bastion of Southern hospitality, a refreshing respite from the aloof SoHo snobbery at some of NYC’s more elite boutiques.)

Here’s the skinny on Tallahassee’s locally-owned boutique fitness studio, Sweat Therapy Fitness:

  • 2 Locations (Midtown and Uptown Tallahassee)
  • A variety of classes are offered including, Real Rydes indoor cycling, TRX, Rowing, plyometrics, Barre and variety classes that are high-intenisty interval (or HIIT)- style classes that use a combination of all of the above.
  • Variety of class packages are offered and your first class is only $5. After that, prices range from $18 for a single class to packs of 10 for $100 or unlimited workouts at either location for $179/month. (This seems to be a bit high for Tallahassee prices, although not as high as some, and super-affordable by NYC standards.)

PROS

Beautiful space with lots of room, showers, bathrooms, water, and snacks; wonderful family-like atmosphere with a very friendly staff; great variety of classes.

CONS

Not all the bikes are hooked up to the electronic RPM readers, so not as high-tech as some studios as far as recording your stats; the teacher I had for the Sweat Fest class seemed a little flat/tired, which was a contrast to my first class there.