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Theorizing about Orange Theory Fitness

Jan. 1, 2018 at 4:30PM

If you were a perfectly sane individual who thinks clearly and can rationalize just about anything, you probably still wouldn’t work out at Orange Theory Fitness.

It’s tough to rationalize something that’s this damn difficult.

Seriously, it’s HARD. 

But as they say, No pain, no ... ah, forget it.

I’m 51-years-old and have worked out my whole life. I enjoy it. I’ve belonged to every club you can imagine. Getting my 45 minutes to an hour of exercise on a regular basis is important to me. I pretty much work out to maintain my dad-bod and stoke my fake sense of confidence that I have a semblance of fitness.

I heard about Orange Theory Fitness and was petrified of it. What are they putting people through inside that orange glow room full of sweat and agony?

I guess I had something to prove to myself.

I have now worked out at OTF 143 times (yes, they can tell you that if you ask, or if you're OCD you can keep track on your own).

Let me explain Orange Theory to the uninitiated: Orange Theory is a group workout (classes fit up to 24 people) led by a coach, who is a generally positive and encouraging presence. Coaches yell stuff like “All out!” or “Halfway!!” or “Your best is always good enough for us!” or “You should be VERY uncomfortable!” Usually, when they scream that last one, I am, in fact, very uncomfortable.

At Orange Theory, they give a crap – or at least they appear to. They WANT you to succeed. The workouts usually encompass three phases, treadmill, rower and floor (weights, etc.). I can honestly say no two workouts are exactly the same. I generally go in hoping today’s workout doesn’t involve burpees, which massively suck. Some coaches call us “athletes,” which makes me giggle to myself.

“Athlete? Me? Do you know how much bourbon I drank last night?”

Each participant wears a heart rate monitor and your progress during the workout is on a flat screen the entire class can see. You can see your heart rate, how many calories you’ve burned and how many “splat points” you have. If you keep your heart rate in the orange or red zone for 60 seconds you get 1 splat point. If you get 12 splat points, the science is that you gain 24-36 hours of afterburn after the workout is over. I have no way to confirm or deny this afterburn is happening.

I haven’t lost a lot of weight working out at OTF. I’ve gained a lot of muscle, however, and my posture is better than it ever was. I guess that counts for something. When I was working out on my own it would have never crossed my mind to do a 25-minute treadmill workout then jump on a rower for 1000 meters, then do a half hour of weight training and various calisthenics (which may or may not involve a bosu ball).

But here’s the newsflash: All of this, remarkably, is insanely addictive and rewarding. When you’ve burned 850 calories, and get the afterburn and you feel like a million bucks because you faced down a challenge and did some things you didn’t think you could do, well, for a middle-aged guy, it’s a win every time.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go and make myself a protein shake.