You might have noticed the boutique fitness trend that is sweeping Philadelphia. From Rumble Boxing to SoulCycle to Solidcore pilates, there seems to be a bottomless demand for highly personalized, energy-packed classes that offer dynamic new ways to get fit. So with all this competition, what’s the hype about Orange Theory? I decided to find out. Located at 3711 Market Street, the University City studio opened mid February, and since then membership has grown to over 400 (and counting). As one of 1,100 studios to open since 2010, it’s no surprise that Orange Theory has been named one of the fastest-growing global franchises. If you haven’t seen it yet, keep an eye out, it’s all very … orange.
The 60-minute class stands out because of its use of heart-rate monitoring to achieve maximum calorie burn. Heart rate zones are split up into five colors: grey, blue, green, orange and red. While working out, two enormous wall screens show your name and the color of your heart-rate zone, making it impossible to ignore if you could/should be working harder.
The goal of the class is to achieve 12 or more ‘Splat Points’, which represent minutes spent at 84 to 91 percent of a person’s maximum heart rate. Behind this system is the concept of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. In simpler terms, if you achieve 12 Splat Points in a class, your raised metabolism should continue to burn calories for up to 36 hours afterwards. Not bad, right? (From experience, even if you doubt the science behind that 36-hour statistic, the workout is hard enough you won’t care).
The hour-long class is split between treadmill, rower and floor exercises designed to be able to challenge even the fittest of members. To keep it interesting, each class has a different focus, whether that be strength, power, endurance or ESP (a mix of all three). If you’re starting to feel intimidated, don’t be, as instructors explain options for every fitness level. On the treadmill, you can be a runner, jogger or power walker — you can even use a bike or elliptical if you prefer.
I’ve found that the appeal of Orange Theory is that it’s really flexible. You’ll be working out next to someone who can run a 5:40 mile, and on the other side, a lady is power-walking on a three percent incline. As you quickly learn that you won’t make it through the class trying to keep up with that girl in the blue shirt over there who doesn’t need to rest, it’s very individual. It’s you vs. you, which gets rid of the major stigma of group exercise classes.
Unlike workouts like CrossFit, coaches will never generically tell you to “run” or “sprint.” Instead, they’ll direct you to reach a certain percentage of your maximum heart rate that’s calculated from your personal profile. I liked how this means no one is struggling to keep up or left feeling like the class hasn’t challenged them.
The instructors are wildly personable, and have mastered the balance between friendly motivation and calling you out if they know you could be working harder. It’s not unusual to end up just chatting with them about your weekend plans before class, like a friend who happens to also be running the workout. Drexel LeBow College of Business senior and OTF University City coach, Mike Binkauskas, thinks this is key to Orange Theory’s success.
“People keep coming back because so many people enjoy the environment created by the coaches and all the other members they workout with on a regular basis,” he said.
For me, the best part is that despite the fact that you work hard, the environment is never one of stressful competition, but rather of community. Partner workouts and time challenges make it easy to strike up conversation with those around you, and it’s easy to bond over how much you hated a particular exercise block that day. When you find your favorite coach and class time, it’s nice to see familiar faces coming back time and time again.
Admittedly for students, this is not a cheap investment, with a premium unlimited membership coming in at $199 each month. However, more relaxed options are available too, with four classes per month memberships at $99. It’s a commitment, for sure, but if you’re looking to kick-start your fitness efforts, this is proven to be one of the best ways to do it. (If you’re doubting whether you will be able to stick to it, I’ve found the eight-hour cancellation policy helps to drag you out of bed at the thought of a financial penalty for your own laziness).
So now you know exactly what you’re in for. The best part? It’s so addictive.
From vowing that I would only do a free trial, I find myself three months into an unlimited membership and have definitely seen the benefits, from weight loss to running a personal record at the Broad Street Run. As a former DI student-athlete, I haven’t found any other studio training method that could keep me coming back every morning for more.