OrangeTheory Fitness Review

By Nicole Kurz | March 6, 2015
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When it comes to workouts, I love mixing it up.  That’s why I love CrossFit, and why I adore working with Colleen over at The Fit Gal, because my workouts change often keeping my mind, and my muscles, constantly stimulated.

And let’s face it kittens, I pretty much just love working out.

So when a new friend of mine raved about OrangeTheory after a couple of glasses of wine one night, before I knew it, I was signed up to drop in and take a Saturday class with her.

Other than a great workout and trying to get in the “orange zone” (whatever that is) I pretty much had no idea what to expect walking in the door.  The short version?  For this super nerd who loves data AND loves getting sweaty, it was freaking awesome.  Read on for my full review.

What is OrangeTheory Fitness?

From their website, OrangeTheory describes their workouts as:

“Like any theory, ours is backed by science. The idea of OrangeTheory is simple: a 60-minute workout designed to push you into the Orange Zone. This creates ‘Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption,’ or EPOC. It’s what burns calories after your workout and gives you noticeable, lasting results with OrangeTheory Fitness.”
Here’s my take: OrangeTheory takes the confusing science of heart rate training and dumbs it down for us normal folks.

Like CrossFit, every class is lead by a certified instructor and trainer who’s main job is to show you form, keep you motivated, and cue the workout.

Before class, every participant is given a heart rate monitor that has been keyed into the OrangeTheory system with your name.  Throughout the workout, you can look at several screens throughout the studio to not only see your heart rate, but where your current effort falls on an exertion scale.

The screens display your effort based on white, blue, green, orange and red categories, making it easy to see how hard you’re working at any given time.

During the workout, the instructor tells you what zone you should be in or working towards, and will even call out the names of folks who are there. Talk about motivation!

The Class

The hour-long class format itself is divided into two parts, cardio and strength.  Limited to a specific number of participants based on the studio (I believe my class was 26), half of the class starts with the cardio portion while the other half begins in the strength room.


The studio has treadmills, rowers and a handful of bikes for participants with injuries to complete the cardio workout. On the day I attended, all of the cardio was done on the treadmill, and truthfully, was the most fun I’ve ever had during a treadmill workout.

With music blaring in the background and a peppy instructor hopping along behind us, we were cued to start our treadmill workout. We were given simple instructions for the effort levels we should be at, either ‘Base,’ ‘Push’ or ‘All Out.’  Each treadmill station also had a helpful display on suggested paces and inclines for walkers, joggers and runners to help us reach those Base, Push and All Out heart rate goals.

I loved that regardless of your fitness level, there was an option resembling the scalability of CrossFit and making the workout very accessible for everyone. Someone who isn’t able to jog or run for example could easily hit the “Orange Zone” during a push by following their suggested walk at 3.0 with an incline of 8-10 percent.

Personally, I followed the suggested paces for joggers through the workout and found myself firmly in the Orange and Red zones for most of the sweat session.

The cardio piece lasted about 30 minutes, included two long “push” intervals of 7 minutes each, a handful of “all out” sprints of no more than 30 seconds, and several shorter push intervals with lots of recovery.

Because we were changing our pace so often, and there was so much other activity going on around us, never once was I bored.  This was a really fun treadmill workout!


Half the class began with cardio, the other half with strength, and after our roughly 30 minutes on the treadmill, we switched stations.

In the L-shaped studio, the strength stations were in back, and each was equipped with a bench and a BOSU, with a variety of dumbbells, kettlebells, mats and other accouterments to choose from depending on the workout needs.

While the treadmill group was warming up, our instructor gave us a rundown of our strength circuit, demonstrating form and explaining how it would work.

Like the cardio workouts, the strength sessions change daily and no two workouts are ever the same.  For my Saturday class, we had a core circuit with some rowing intervals built in.

The workout was:

100 bicycle crunches
 100 scissor legs with dumb bells
 80 hip touch side planks on elbow each side
 50 BOSU sit up to stand
 **Something else I didn’t get to…

Between each set of exercises, row 200 meters, and begin from the start adding on each round.  So in round 1, I completed 100 bicycle crunches and then rowed 200 meters. In round 2, I did 100 bicycle crunches, 100 scissor legs with a dumb bell and then rowed 200 meters. In round 3 I did 100 bicycle crunches…and so on.

Holy mother of God, this was tough, and fun, and tough, and fun. I loved the rowing breaks, and worked hard to get my heart rate back into the Orange zone with each of those, as during most of the core work it dropped a bit from laying down.

I loved the “chipper” feel of this workout, and it was fun both pacing myself and racing against some of the other participants (only in my head of course) to crank out more reps.


The class concluded with a super fast group stretch. I would have liked to see a longer mobility piece, but as it was, the class had run over on time and participants were leaving, so I understood the rush.


One thing I feel the need to comment on in addition to everything above is how CLEAN they work to keep the studio and equipment. The instructor handed out individual disinfectant wipes to each of us between the cardio and strength sessions and again after the class so that we could wipe down the equipment once we were done and before we put it away.

The heart rate monitors that were passed out at the beginning and returned at the end were thoroughly sanitized, and the facility itself was just clean. As a bit of a germaphobe, I loved seeing the staff take such pride in keeping their workspace sanitary.

The Data

For me, by far the coolest part of this workout was the data.  As someone who religiously downloads my Garmin, loves looking at my Strava routes and all around just likes numbers and seeing what I’ve accomplished with my training, I can’t tell you how neat it was to be able to watch my progress on a screen during the entire workout.

Because of their color-coded system, I was easily able to see when I needed to pick it up, or in my case, back it off a bit to achieve the heart rate goals we were working towards.

The data was based on all my stats, height, weight and so on, so at the end of the workout the summary chart that showed how many calories I burned and how long I was in each zone is likely very accurate.

As a member, I would have access to this data through their website or a downloadable app that would show me every workout and my progress over weeks or months. Cool beans, huh?


Probably my least favorite part about trying out any new class or studio is the sales pitch at the end, but the staff at OrangeTheory made it pretty painless. The instructor pulled the three newbies aside (myself and a mother/daughter team) and asked us about our goals, and spoke with us about how OrangeTheory could help us reach those goals.

From there, a sales associate showed us each pricing plans that could suit our needs.

Because I’m very happy with my current fitness plan, but was interested in adding an OrangeTheory once a week on the weekend I was presented their 4x per month plan at around $15 a class.

I liked that they had a variety of options to choose from based on how frequently you wanted to come to class, and of course, the price per class was lower the more classes you purchased.

Overall, the pricing was very comparable to what I know CrossFit boxes to be in our area.


Truth?  I loved OrangeTheory.  It kind of reminded me of the long metcon chippers you see in CrossFit, which frankly are my favorite part. I can see it being a great way for folks who are new to exercise to get into shape and lose weight, and for more advanced athletes to become faster runners and lean out.

There was also a definite community aspect, and most of the members seemed to know each other and be quite friendly.

Not surprisingly, my class was entirely female, and the one before mine had only one gentlemen that I saw.

I will say, this workout seems well suited for someone with similar goals to mine, but I wouldn’t see it being a great fit for someone looking to put on considerable muscle or see crazy gainz.

And there you have my two cents.  What about you readers?  Have you tried OrangeTheory?  How was your experience?  Or what about any new classes or workout types this year?  Comment or link me to your blog reviews below!

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