Open for Fitness: We Tried an Intense Cardio Workout at Orangetheory Fitness
Don’t let the orange lights and jacked workers intimidate you—you’ll get a great workout even if you can’t keep up.
Editor’s Note: Stacey and Katrina are at vastly different fitness levels (and ages) but both enjoy working out. We thought it’d be fun for the two of them to try new or interesting workouts together each month. This time they took a cardio-heavy class at Orangetheory Fitness’ Kaka‘ako studio, which celebrates its first anniversary this month.
Photos and videos: Katie Kenny
WHAT IT IS
Orangetheory Fitness uses strength training and cardio exercises to get your heart rate within 84% to 91% of its maximum capacity (determined by your age), which is the sweet spot for burning the most calories and increasing metabolism and energy. You track your progress with a heart monitor on your arm that sends real-time data to a screen in the studio, which shows your calories burned, heart rate and minutes spent in the orange zone at 84% to 91% or higher (92% and above is the red zone, where you might start to feel faint). The goal is 12 minutes or more. They really stick with the orange theme here—even the lights are orange.
HOW WE FELT: BEFORE
Katrina: I know a few people who tried Orangetheory and said it was really intense, and I knew there would be running involved, so this one scared me a little. I’ve only ever run a mile without stopping once in my life— last month. I hated it. But I have been working out steadily for a while now and keep surprising myself, so I figured I’d just go with it and not psych myself out.
Stacey: I heard about Orangetheory when it first landed in Honolulu, but I got mixed reviews from friends: It’s kinda shame everyone can judge you on your workout times, but different workouts keep you from being bored. So, I wasn’t like YAY, and I wasn’t like meh. I was like, OK les’ go and get our asses whooped in weird tangerine lighting. We can get pie downstairs at Moku’s after, right?
Before the workout, we had to fill out waivers, note any injuries and tour the studio so we knew what would go down, because once it starts, there’s no stopping. The helpful staff gave us heart monitors, which you wrap around your arm with Velcro, checked our form on the rowing machines and explained how everything worked. There are two groups working out at a time—one doing strength exercises and one doing cardio—that switch back and forth between the stations. Everyone in each group is assigned a number, which tells you what equipment to use next (treadmill 2, rower 2, etc.). At all of its studios nationwide, Orangetheory rotates the class focus from cardio to strength to endurance with no advance notice of which it’ll be. Ours was a cardio-heavy class.
Before we started, we asked about the orange lighting. Are there any health benefits? Does it make you happy and release more endorphins? Does orange lighting bring out the tiger in you? The answer was: It’s the color the owner likes. Alrighty then. (Note: The studio is normally bathed in orange, but we requested normal lighting for our photos.)
Katrina: There were enough rowing machines and treadmills for everyone to warm up together before splitting off into groups. Stacey and I rowed, which our coach Diane said is one of the most effective low-intensity workouts available after cross-country skiing. I think we both just wanted to put off running as long as possible.
Stacey: Katrina doesn’t like running and I despise weights. But rowing is fun and easy—at least while you’re doing it. Your next-day achy muscles will hate you.
Katrina: We started on the strength side. Diane demonstrated the four exercises we’d be doing in the first 13.5-minute block and told us how to change the intensity (for the most part, it’s just using heavier weights). If you forget a move, check the video screen, just like at F45. I used 10-pound weights for everything and during the reverse fly, I looked ripped. But I had to go easy on the plank points, planking on my forearms instead of my palms since my wrist hurt. It was pretty difficult to extend my arm forward and point, so I just held my plank steady. Thankfully, this wasn’t the kind of class where the coaches yell at you and try to push you—you do what you want.
Stacey: For the umpteenth time … I HATE WEIGHTS! But I powered through. We did butterfly reps, tricep presses, planks and situps. I freely admit, my slacker self didn’t always hit the number of reps you’re supposed to reach, but I did do (a lot) more planking and situps than what was required. I don’t feel any guilt. OK, maybe a sliver.
Katrina: We switched with the other group and hit the treadmills. Our goal during this 13.5-minute block was to run a mile, then row 200 meters, do 30 half squats, row 150 meters, do 30 more squats, row 100 meters, 30 squats, row 50 meters, then 30 final squats. I think. I did not get that far. I jogged between 4 and 6 mph for most of my mile, sneaking glances at Stacey (I was actually ahead! And she likes running!) but came down with crippling side pain three-quarters of the way through and had to walk the rest. I finished in 11 minutes, 58 seconds, so by the time I recorded my mile on-screen and strapped into the rower, we were in the final 30 seconds before switching blocks again. That was a bummer, because I really like rowing. Especially on these machines, which have real water in them!
Stacey: In high school, we had to run 8-minute miles, which seemed too easy back then. Now, I can usually knock out a 10-minute mile (on a good day). So, that’s pretty much what I did. Unlike Katrina, I took my time and kept the same pace for a bit, then cranked up the speed on the two ending laps. Our web editor, Katie, who records all of our workout shenanigans, told me to look at my score—I was in the red zone, above 91%. Woohoooo! I made it to the rowing machines with 2 minutes to go.
Katrina: The second strength block featured long TRX suspension straps hooked high on the wall with handles on the other end. I’d never used them before. It was kinda fun pulling myself from 45 degrees to upright, keeping my body stiff, with just one arm. My favorite exercise was the leg lifts, where you lie flat on the floor and lift your legs together to a 90-degree angle without bending your knees. I do those all the time at the gym, so there was at least one move I felt comfortable with.
Stacey: The bodyweight exercises (even though these didn’t require additional weights) with the TRX straps were not fun. They were haaaard. But, the half-my-size girl next to Katrina was jamming on each rep. She was my hero. Again, I may have cheated and did more ab and plank (sexy Spider-Man, bringing my knees up to my elbows in alternating steps) moves. Sorry, Diane!
Katrina: The final block involved running at top speed for one-tenth of a mile, walking for 30 seconds, then repeating that two more times. I had no idea what was going on at first (why was I the only one cranking up the incline?), but when I looked at Stacey, she was sprinting the entire time and I knew that was wrong, so I followed the girl on my other side. After those three rounds, it was the same schedule with the rowers: 200 meters, 30 half squats, 150, 30, 100, 30, 50, 30. I was working on the 150-meter row when time was called.
Stacey: Yeah, I sprinted the whole time. My juices were flowing and my blood was pumping so I didn’t want to lose the momentum. Again, Katie told me to look at the screen. But this time I was in the gray zone, which basically means you’re like a dead fish, not really exerting energy. WTF?! Then I realized my heart monitor fell off by the weight station. And, when Katie tried to put it on me again, it kept falling off. Ugh. I have no idea what my score for running was, but I made it to the rowing machine for a couple of last rounds (sans heart monitor).
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Katrina: We did a few simple stretches, then checked out our stats on the screens. I managed to stay in that orange zone between 84% and 91% for 21 minutes, smashing that minimum goal. The Orangetheory team also explained to us that you continue to burn calories for up to 36 hours after working out in this zone.
Stacey: I looked over at Katrina and she was smiling. Usually she wants to kill me after a high-intensity interval training workout, but she looked energized and ready to go another round. Fist-bump Katrina!
I didn’t check my scores because I didn’t know if they were accurate, but my body felt gooooood! It was very intense, but it went by quickly. The “are we at a bar or gym?” playlist definitely helped. I haven’t heard “Ghetto Superstar” in forever.
HOW WE FELT: AFTER
Katrina: My body was confused. I knew I’d just gotten a great workout but I almost felt like I could do more (thank goodness I didn’t, because my upper body was pretty stiff the next two days). Orangetheory sends an email to you after every class summarizing your workout and detailing your weekly, monthly, yearly and all-time totals. It’s a great tool for tracking your progress and setting goals. (In just one class, I burned 525 calories, and my heart rate averaged 147 with a max of 170.)
Stacey: Ready for pie!!! But, in all seriousness, Orangetheory was an awesome workout. I didn’t feel sore after so I feel like I could do this class again and again. I’ll even do the weights properly. The strange orange lights didn’t bother me—they were almost soothing. No one judges you, everyone is in their own zone. And the scores are by name, so if people don’t know who you are, they won’t know your score. If you do go with other people, make sure they’re not competing with you but cheering you on—like Katie and Katrina.
Katrina: I was trying to beat Stacey the whole time.
We took the class at Salt at Our Kaka‘ako, above Moku Kitchen: 660 Ala Moana Blvd., (808) 762-2004. There are also studios in Waikīkī, Kapolei and on Kapi‘olani Boulevard. The first class is free for kama‘āina; additional classes are as low as $10 per session. You can also purchase class packs for up to $499. One-hour classes start at 5 a.m. weekdays; visit honolulu.orangetheoryfitness.com for the schedule and to book a class.
For those interested in trying Orangetheory for the first time, a free class will be held at the Waikīkī studio (449 Kapahulu Ave., Suite 101) on July 20. Register by calling or texting (808) 445-9227 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.