Class ReviewsFitness

Class Review: Orange Theory

I finally made it to Orange Theory!

Joe and I did the 9:15AM “Orange 60” class on Sunday and had a blast, despite the fact that we were both fairly hungover from the night before (oops). Regardless, I was pumped to finally try an OT class and I have lots of things to say about it…

The Philosophy


Orange Theory classes are a type of group fitness that promote endurance and power by combining cardio and strength intervals. The company’s fitness philosophy, or “Orange Effect“, is based on maximizing an individual’s excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), aka the “after-burn.” This after-burn is what promotes increased calorie expenditure after the workout is over. To achieve EPOC, OT-goers use heart rate monitors throughout class to push themselves past 84% of their max heart rate and into the Orange and Red zones. The goal is to achieve at least 12 minutes (out of 60) in these zones.

The Intro

When we arrived, we went straight to the front desk and filled out some waivers as the front desk associate gave us a quick intro to the studio. As soon as we finished signing up, she gave us a couple of heart rate chest belts to wear during class.

Once the previous class filtered out of the studio, the trainer brought Joe and me into the room while everyone else waited outside. She gave a little description of the workout for that day, and set us up on treadmills right in the middle of class so that she could help us as needed.

The Setup

There were about 25-30 people in the class, and it lasted just under an hour.

As you can see in the photo, the room is split up into three sections– the treadmills, the rowers, and the strength training space. There are essentially two 25-minute classes going on at once and everyone switches sides halfway through the class.

1. Treadmill Section

As newbies we were told to start with the treadmills, but seasoned members could choose to start on whichever side of the room they wanted.

The treadmills were unique and super easy to use (with a single button for each mph speed). There were also little charts on every treadmill that helped guide the workout pace (Base, Push, Sprint) depending on the chosen speed/fitness level (Power Walker, Jogger, Runner). Most of the time was spent in Base and Push paces, with a few all out Sprints. Here’s a quick snippet of us right after Sprint #1…

2. Strength Section (Weights/TRX/Rowers)

The strength section of the workout varies from class to class, but from what I gather it generally includes 3-6 bodyweight, dumbbell, or TRX strength exercises, with some rowing mixed in.

There were video tutorials of each move playing throughout class so that we could reference them as needed. Our instructor also demonstrated the moves at the beginning and middle of the class (so both sections could get the demos).

Here’s what the strength breakdown was for the day we went to class:

70 Jumping jacks
60 Running man
40 Push-ups
30 Toe reaches
20 TRX Pull-ups
10 4-Point planks
1000 Meter row
*Repeat block until time cap (drop to 500m row)*

Now, on to the review…

The Good Stuff

  • The strength/cardio combo

There are so many forms of group fitness out there nowadays, but very few of them effectively combine cardio with strength training. I’m not a huge fan of treadmills, but I actually enjoyed that part of class because we focused on varying speeds and sprinting instead of steady-state cardio. I enjoyed the balanced mix of strength and cardio and had a lot of fun with the workout; however, I don’t think people should do this kind of workout every day, but I’ll get to that later…

  • Super friendly and helpful staff

Staff personalities can definitely vary by location, but the Brighton staff were awesome so I wanted to give them props. The front desk workers helped us get everything we needed as soon as we arrived, gave me a free towel to use (and keep), and made us feel super comfortable both before and after class. Often times studio classes can be intimidating and give off a sense of exclusivity that keeps people away, but this was not at all the case with the Brighton OT.

We also had an awesome trainer, Kate, who gave us plenty of guidance throughout he workout. She kept the energy high during class and I loved her music (mostly up-beat hip-hop). She even ran out to the front desk to grab me a coconut water at the end of class when my hangover turned me a little green. Talk about service!

  • Heart rate training

I’m a big fan of heart rate training, so naturally I loved that part of OT. Monitoring heart rate is the best way to both pace and push yourself because similar to your hips, your heart don’t lie.

There was a screen at the front of the room that showed everyone’s % Max HR and their calories burned during class. I wondered if this would be a little too invasive, but being able to see everyone else’s % Max HR was actually really helpful for a couple reasons reasons:  1) it made me realize I wasn’t pushing hard enough if mine started to fall below the rest on the board, and 2) it let my competitive nature out to play. Normalizing the measurement by using % Max HR helps even the playing field and allows for a little friendly competition within a class of people that likely have very different fitness levels.


  • Performance stats

Shortly after class, Joe and I received summary emails of our performance:  calories burned, average heart rate, average % of max heart rate, the number of minutes spent in each heart rate zone, and total Splat points (the number of minutes spent in the Orange and Red zones). If you don’t already monitor your heart rate during exercise, you could use this data to monitor and improve your overall fitness.


The Not-So-Good Stuff

  • Misinformation

This one is probably not a huge deal to most people but as a fitness professional, it is a pet peeve of mine…

When we were getting our intro spiel from the front desk associate, she described the goal of the workout by saying something to the effect of:

“You want to spend the most time in the Orange Zone, even though it is not the highest HR zone, because that is the ‘fat-burning zone’ where you’ll burn the most calories.” 

*Cue my side-gaze towards Joe + subsequent eye roll*

The Fat-Burning Zone ≠ The zone where we burn the most calories

The Orange “Fat-Burning” Zone is where we burn the highest proportion of fat to carbs, but the Red Zone is where we will burn the highest amount of calories overall.

Again, not a huge deal, but I do think it’s important for a gym that prides itself on heart rate training to make sure it properly educates its employees, especially the one who are going to be explaining the concept of the workout to new members.

  • Newbies beware

If you are new to OT, don’t fret! They do a great job setting you up. BUT, if you are new to fitness overall I would not recommend OT. As far as I know, there are no beginner or intro classes, and the regular class would be pretty tough for a newbie given the intensity, variety of movements, and lack of modifiers, not to mention complexity of the heart rate training itself.

  • Pricey and limited space

This bullet will apply to most studio fitness centers, but I have to stick it in here (even though I will always argue that a healthy lifestyle is worth a little extra cash).

In terms of cost, your first class at OT will be free and any additional session is $28/class. Of course, there are discounted options if you buy multiple sessions in a package.

And as for the space issue…each class can only take in about 24 people (12 on the treadmills + 12 in the strength training area), but signing up early should get you a spot.

The verdict:

I wouldn’t recommend doing OT on a daily basis, but it is a really fun option for a high intensity workout to throw into your schedule a few times per week.


Have you tried OT? How was your experience? What do you like/dislike about it?

Oh, and also…If you aren’t already on my email list, make sure you sign up here to get exclusive insights and tips that I don’t share on the blog!