People set all kinds of goals when they work out. Feeling better. Losing a few pounds. Becoming a bit healthier.
But midway through an intense, 60-minute workout at Orangetheory Fitness in Spring Valley, all of those abstract long-term goals boil down to one that’s immediate: Go orange.
That orange zone — identifiable instantly on each exerciser’s personalized display screen for the whole world to see — is the national fitness chain’s way of designating the point in a workout when the body’s metabolism is stimulated and calories will continue to be burned after the workout ends.
And while the nuts and bolts of Orangetheory Fitness workouts incorporate the general principles of interval training, it’s that orange — as well as a few other novel touches — that has become gold, attracting media buzz among America’s sweat-and-strain crowd.
The Las Vegas Valley’s newest Orangetheory Fitness location opened recently at 5990 S. Rainbow Blvd., Suite 200. It joins three other centers in the valley, with another scheduled to open this year.
Each Orangetheory class is overseen by a certified coach, classes are limited to 24 people to create a personal trainer vibe, and the 60-minute session consists of the strength, power and endurance exercises you’d probably find elsewhere.
What’s different here begins with the heart-rate monitor each participant wears that tracks his or her heart rates in real time and sends the results to an overhead monitor. Through the monitors, says Mary Hawkins, head trainer, “you know exactly what percent of your maximum heart rate you’re at at all times.”
That’s important because of the other way that Orangetheory Fitness is different from most other gyms: Percentages of maximum heart rate are converted into five color zones, ranging from gray (resting heart rate) to red (time to dial it back a bit), as well as that desired orange, that exercisers can see on the overhead monitor.
Their goal is to spend at least 12 minutes of each hour’s workout in that orange zone, which equates to about 84 percent of maximum heart rate. That’s where what the company has dubbed the “Orange Effect” occurs and where body’s metabolism kicks up to the point where it’ll continue burning calories for as long as 36 hours after the workout.
EPOC, or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, is a metric used by researchers and elite athletes. Orangetheory Fitness’ program converts the percentages of heart rates used in charting EPOC into an easily recognized color scheme to make it easier to understand for laymen.
Jordan Lopez, who discovered Orangetheory as a client and now is a coach, likes it that Orangetheory has made working out both effective and goof-proof. “All you do is turn your brain off and listen to the coach,” she says. “They guide you through and take care of, ‘Am I doing this right?’ and ‘Am I getting my heart rate (up)?’ ”
While Orangetheory’s is a serious workout that can attract serious exercisers, Hawkins says workouts can be tailored for just about anybody.
“That’s why we have all our coaches be certified personal trainers,” Hawkins says. “We can have an elite athlete right next to someone who’s just getting started or somebody with orthopedic issues. We can give options for everyone.”
Amanda Aversa, a member for two years, has noticed that Orangetheory Fitness does seem to attract more motivated participants than other classes she has attended. She also appreciates the individualized attention coaches offer because “classes are controlled in size. Not like (other gyms) where you go and there are 50 in there.”
Bridjette Shelfo likes the workout, “and I also know it’s only an hour. I played college basketball, so it also kind of mirrors that. I really like that you can see how you’re doing. Everything is quantified, which, for me, is huge.”
Monthly memberships range from $159 for unlimited visits to $59 for four visits per month.
But does anybody ever balk at having their heartbeats and workout status displayed for the class to see? Hawkins says it’s not as big a deal as you’d think.
“It can be intimidating,” she says. “But for the most part, everybody’s just trying to get through their workout. It’s a difficult workout, a challenge workout. We just say focus on your screen. No one else is looking at your screen.”
Contact John Przybys at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0280. Follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.
Explaining excess post-exercise oxygen consumption
John Mercer, a professor of kinesiology at UNLV, hasn’t done an Orangetheory Fitness workout. But it’s based on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC, a measure of “the amount of oxygen you’re consuming after exercise,” Mercer says.
“What it is, basically when you’re done and you’re still breathing hard,” he said, “and that elevated breathing is, ultimately, still using calories.”
“There’s always going to be a little bit of EPOC after exercise, because once you stop, your body wants to restore everything back to baseline level,” he said, although he wonders if the company’s claim of 36 hours post-workout may be stretching it.
Mercer does like Orangetheory Fitness’ use of wearable heart-rate monitors to track exercisers’ exertion.
“Wearable tech is helping a lot of us to stay motivated for exercise, and that includes everything from heart-rate monitors to step counters and activity counters,” he said. “I think it’s neat how the fitness industry is integrating these devices to working out, because it is motivation for people.”
He noted, too, that high-intensity workouts have “caught on quite a bit more recently. It’s been around a long time, but it has sort of caught on as more of a common way to reduce the amount of time you’re exercising versus the volume of exercise.”
But, Mercer added, high-intensity workouts “take motivation, and that is one caveat to that type of program.”
Those who would shy away from high-intensity workouts, or who don’t have a lot of time to spend working out, also can benefit “just having a regular 30-minute walk every day,” Mercer said. “There are beautiful places to exercise here in Las Vegas, and it doesn’t always have to be high intensity.”
— John Przybys