Workout Spotlight: Orange Theory Fitness

Last week I found myself in Seattle for the night, and staying with a friend and former college basketball teammate. She had plans to go to an Orange Theory Fitness class that evening, and luckily they could fit me in. I had never been before, but had always been curious walking by one that opened in Capitol Hill. I really had no idea what it was, and my friend had only been to one class two days before. The only thing I knew for sure is that I would be really sore, judging from how she was doing. I was right.

We walked into the studio in Lower Queen Anne and my friend was immediately recognized… after being there one other time. They had requested I arrive 30 minutes prior to class so I could fill out a waiver that also asked questions about my fitness goals and current exercise regime. The coach then asked if I had any injuries he should be aware of (if you have an injury, they give you a different exercise if it would become an issue during class). The staff talked to me a bit about my history, where I was from, and explained a little about their philosophy and how the class would work. It felt very welcoming, and everyone was very friendly and made me feel comfortable. Workouts are open to ages 16 and older. I recommend trying it out, because everyone gets their first work out for free!

What is Orange Theory Fitness?

The “Orange Theory” refers to the “Orange Zone,” which is the heart rate at which you are gaining “Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption,” or EPOC (84% or higher of your maximum heart rate). When you arrive you are given a heart monitor that is programmed with your name. You put the monitor on a strap (which you are also given), and put it on around your torso, right under the band of your sports bra (and whatever you call that area for dudes). During the 60-minute workout, you are led through multiple intervals of cardio and strength training.

The great thing is that all fitness levels can get the same effect, because your workout is based on your heart rate. It is really designed for individual success that you can see while you work out. From power walkers to elite performance athletes, they provide a helpful card that tells you how fast and what incline the treadmill should be for your fitness level and to get to the Orange Zone. You should stay in the Orange Zone for 12-20 minutes in order to reach the “afterburn effect.” Usually the Orange Zone is going to occur in the cardio portion of your workout, which is either rowing or jogging.

The  “afterburn” effect is an increased metabolic rate for 24 to 36 hours after the workout. According to the Orange Theory website, and how I was feeling after my workout, people burn an average of 500 to 1000 calories per session. They also say, “If weight loss is your goal, you can expect to see an estimated loss of three to five pounds per week by attending three to five sessions per week and with proper nutritional planning. If performance is your goal, you can expect to see an increase in power, speed, and strength after your first two weeks of attending two to four sessions per week.”

What to Expect

Women usually wear yoga-type clothing (workout leggings and a tank top), and men wear shorts and a T-shirt or tank top. You’ll be keeping your shoes on, and definitely will need a water bottle.

When you first arrive to class, you choose to start out with either cardio (treadmill or rowing machines) or weight room/resistance training area. There is enough equipment for 10-24 people in a class. Your coach will give specific instruction to what each side will be doing, and then once that segment is completed, you switch from cardio to strength training or vise versa (be ready for your coach to hand you a wipe to sanitize your machine). Once another interval is complete, you switch again. Each group will be in cardio for two intervals and strength training for two intervals.

The Cardio Section - Treadmills and Rowing Machines
The Cardio Section – Treadmills and Rowing Machines

Your coach will let you know when to switch between heart rate “levels.” You can tell what level you are in on a TV screen that has a grid of everyone’s name and heart rate. So if you aren’t in the orange when you should be, your coach is going to know, and gently encourage you to push yourself harder. Your coach will also give you mini goals to reach during your workout, like to beat your last time, to jog a certain distance in a certain amount of time, etc. When in the strength training segment, you are given three exercises to rotate through three times, with different reps per rotation. You could be using a medicine ball, free weights, or TRX suspension training™. All of it is shown on a screen for easy reference.

Orange Theory Heart Monitor Screen
Orange Theory Heart Monitor Screen

Expect the workout to push you—hard. What I compare it to is conditioning for college basketball. You feel like you are part of a team (working out together, but definitely competitive), you are coached and encouraged through your workout, and you are burning out your muscles. I mean, I could barely lift my arm to talk on my cell phone afterword. I would definitely recommend Orange Theory Fitness to those who have played team sports in the past, and have experience pushing themselves to this level. It’s for people who are serious about their fitness goals. Basically, if you join Orange Theory, you get the all-in-one workout. No need to supplement there.

After your workout, expect to feel like you could eat three meals at once, but if you sit down you won’t may not be able to get back up to go grab food you just ordered. EDITED 3/25/15: For some reason when I originally posted this article, I completely forgot to mention that Orange Theory Fitness will send you a summary of your workout via email after the class! Here is mine:

My Orange Theory Workout

As you can see, the just under an hour workout burned 656 calories. Whoa nelly. Just got to be in that 84-90% heart rate zone!

The next day you can expect to be sore, and the day after that, you will be sore. I guess they don’t call it the “afterburn effect” for nothing.


About the Workout. Orange Theory Fitness. Retrieved Mar. 12, 2015 from


2 thoughts on “Workout Spotlight: Orange Theory Fitness”

  1. Not an objective article. Way too gushy. You need to do your research first, then write an article based on facts and science. The truth has been told by better writers than you–stop drinking the orange kool-aid and talk about the tech/app cluster-fudge, the heart rate monitors that don’t work properly, if at all, the inaccurate information advertised about EPOC, the lies about the workouts themselves to get people to sign up, etc. Wake up, splat-brain.


    1. Hey Tiffany! This post is a review of my experience and is my opinion. The facts I’ve given are sourced as from Orange Theory’s website and are used to explain the theory behind their workout. For the record, I don’t work for Orange Theory and don’t get any kick backs or anything to try to get people to sign up. Just meant to be my thoughts.


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