OrangeTheory: The Hyper-Competitive Workout Based in Science


In my never-ending search for the most engaging and intense exercise classes in Colorado Springs, I found OrangeTheory Fitness. When Googling “Workout Classes in Colorado Springs,” OrangeTheory is one of the first results to pop up, with a location about 20 minutes from campus. The website claims that the classes are science-based and offer individualized attention from a personal trainer. Since the first class is free, it didn’t take much to convince me to go.

Photo Courtesy of Brandon Ewert

Upon arriving, an employee explained the general concept of the class and strapped a heart rate monitor to my arm. I quickly noticed that my heartrate, along with everybody else’s in the class, was being broadcast onto a large flat-screen TV in the center of the gym. The general format of the class is quite simple and strangely reminiscent of a high school P.E. class. The group is split up into three subgroups, each starting out on a different station in the gym. The groups rotate stations every 17 minutes, creating a 50-minute workout in total.

I started out on the rower station. After being shown how to use the machine, the music came on and the workout began. My group began rowing in three-minute intervals as the personal trainer gave us pep talks along the way. I could see my heart rate steadily rising on the screen, along with everybody else’s. My name on the screen turned green, indicating that I had reached a moderate state of workout intensity.

Next, my group moved to the free weight section of the room, where we were given instructions on six different exercises to complete. About halfway through this station, I noted my name on the screen had turned orange, indicating I was in the prized “Orange Zone.” Apparently, working out at this exact intensity boosts metabolism and burns extra fat. I didn’t feel like I was especially powerful or in a state of exercise bliss, but the incentive to stay in the “Orange Zone” motivated me to continue pushing myself in the exhausting free weights zone.

Finally, my group reached the last station: treadmills. Each machine was equipped with a notecard asking if you are a “walker,” a “jogger,” or a “runner.” Once I chose my category, I was presented with three speed intervals with suggested speeds. About halfway through this station, I noticed that my name on the screen had turned red, indicating an all-out effort. Although I was tired from the previous exercises, I didn’t feel that this was an accurate assessment. Still, the instructor enthusiastically congratulated me for reaching the “Red Zone” and my name was top in the class leaderboard.

This brings me to my main issue with OrangeTheory. Throughout the class, my primary motivating factor was having the highest heart rate on the gym TV. When my name was orange or red, I felt like I had succeeded in the purpose of the class. However, when my name was at the bottom of the leaderboards, I over-exerted myself in an effort to raise my heartbeat, often jeopardizing my form during the exercise. The competitive nature of the class may be incredibly motivating for some, but I found it to be a major distraction from performing each exercise well and thoroughly. Although the individualized attention from a personal trainer was fantastic and I learned a handful of new exercises to do at CC’s gym, having my heartrate broadcasted on a TV and ranked among 30 other people was ultimately more anxiety-provoking than motivating.

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