A few weeks ago I was ill-advised to stay at a boutique hotel in Puerto Rico that fancied itself as having a “Miami club vibe.” The hotel believed it was achieving this vibe by making everything shine neon blue. Everything.
The walls, the elevator, the lighting in the hotel room that made you look like a Smurf at all times.
OrangeTheory Fitness, a trendy new fitness program blowing up across the globe, applies that same color overkill. But this time, of course, it’s orange.
Not one to judge a workout by the color of its lighting, I decided to give OrangeTheory a try. Admittedly, I am biased, as it would take a miracle workout to tear me from my neighborhood CrossFit box for more than a few days. But I am always open to try something new, and with my gym closed for the day, this free trial class was a great opportunity on a rainy day.
The first thing you should know about the new OrangeTheory in Philadelphia is that the entrance is in the Liberty Place food court. You’re welcome because I just saved you 15 minutes of walking in circles.
The next thing you should know is that they will ask you to come to your first class 30 minutes early. No, they will not email you the waiver. I was prompt, as I am, and completed the waiver and heart rate monitor hook-up by 8:05. Class began at 8:30.
The heart rate monitor is at the core of OrangeTheory, which correlates your heart rate level as different colors. Green means you are moving at a steady pace, orange means you are pushing hard, and red means you are maxing out and won’t last more than a minute at that rate. It’s not a perfect science – at one point the monitor said I was in the red zone and working at 107% and I didn’t feel like I was heading for a heart attack. But it is a good way to make sure you stay in the “fat burning zone” for a fair amount of time.
As for the workouts, the focus is on high intensity interval training (HITT), which I like and am used to. The downside is that not much attention is paid to individual form. For instance, there was a contest to see who could do the most strict push-ups in four minutes. I was psyched because most of the girls were working from their knees and I knew I had a good chance of winning the glory of a branded t-shirt (I’m competitive OK!)
I look over and see a girl doing a whole bunch of these:
I did 67. She proudly exclaimed that she did 117. She got the T-shirt.
At the end of the class I received a break down of my color chart and informs me that I have received 22 “splat points” for the day. This means I have spent 22 minutes in the “orange zone,” but for someone who is used to measuring reps, weights, and times, it kinda sounded like this:
Look, I am not knocking this place, really! I actually liked it for the most part and if I didn’t have a workout that I liked better, it’s definitely a place I would consider joining. I like the fact that the workouts vary each day and that they focus on HITT with at least some measurement for goal-setting. I’m sure some trainers are better than others and that form isn’t always left up to one’s arbitrary definition of a squat.
Truthfully, the biggest turnoff for me was the lack of any social camaraderie. Not that you would necessarily find that at a Soulcycle or Bikram Yoga studio, but, personally, I like to go to a place where everybody knows your name – and doesn’t let you get away with BS push-ups.
I’m glad OrangeTheory has entered the thriving Philadelphia fitness market and I’m thrilled about anything that inspires people get off the couch. For some that’s power walking or kickboxing or mountain biking – for others it’s an orange splat. And for them I say make like an Oompa Loompa! There’s a good chance I would join you if I wasn’t already in a committed sweaty relationship. But for now the only lighting I’ll be working out in is the shadow of a garage door.