Written by Mikaila Kukurudza
When I received an invitation to work out alongside Olympic hurdler Perdita Felicien at Orangetheory Fitness in Toronto, ON, I was overcome with excitement—immediately followed by fear. Me? Run beside a 10-time 100m world champion? I’m more the type of person who sets up her yoga mat at the back of the class to avoid undue attention, yet here I was about to take on “the best one hour workout in the country” with a two-time Olympian.
In case you’re unfamiliar, Orangetheory Fitness is the latest craze in group exercise. The heart-monitored class focuses on five heart rate zones: Grey, Blue, Green, Orange, and Red. The workout is designed to have you stay in your Orange Zone, which is equivalent to working at 84 to 91 percent of your maximum heart rate. The goal is to stay in this target zone for at least 12 minutes of the one hour class. The reward is the “Orange Effect,” a.k.a., an afterburn that boosts your metabolism for 24 to 36 hours after you head out the door.
Walking into Orangetheory Fitness Parklawn studio, I was comforted to see I wasn’t the only one nervous to sweat it out beside Perdita, who has been attending Orangetheory classes three times a week for the last four months. But after the first round, an intense leg session on the WaterRowers, it was clear I would be working too hard to think about anything else. When I did get curious about how my pro peer was handling the class, I could just look up at the screen that tracked and displayed my heart rate (right next to Perdita’s) before, during, and after the workout.
After leading us through the rowing portion, our Orangetheory coach, Jacqueline, took us through two circuit workouts using dumbbells and TRX. No fighting over equipment here: there are personal stations around the perimeter of the floor, each with their own TRX, dumbbell set, balance ball, and everything else you might need for the structured class. This meant switching quickly between exercises, keeping my heart rate elevated. And whenever I was unsure of an exercise, I could just glance up at the screen that demonstrated the moves at all times.
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The final portion of the class, running intervals, was the most intense, but coach Jacqueline helped it go quickly with her constant motivation and instructions (“give it a little more!”). And with incline adjustments, pace changes, and feel-good music, I can honestly say the temptation to quit never crossed my mind. Plus, I wanted to keep up with the Olympian a couple treadmills down from me.
It’s no surprise, I found myself monitoring my heart rate more at Orangetheory than any other class I’ve taken. If I was creeping into the Red Zone (90 to 100 percent of my maximum heart rate), I focused on my breathing and pace to get back to the target Orange Zone. Alternatively, when I was told to go all out, I made sure I was pushing myself enough to reach the Red.
Just minutes after the end of cool down, I received a performance summary directly to my email informing me that I had burned 667 calories in just one hour (despite the fact I was stopping frequently to update my Instagram and Snapchat). The email also explained how many minutes I spent in each heart rate zone. I spent 19 minutes of the hour-long class in the Orange Zone. Crushed it.
So is Orange the new black? Possibly. It’s definitely a fun way to get a killer workout and some perspective on how hard you’re really working in the gym. And while you’re likely not going to be in a class with an Olympian, you’ll still feel totally motivated by the inclusive environment and friendly competition. As for me, I am now 36-hours post-workout and I’m still burning extra calories. I think I’m converted.