June 28, 2015

Orange Theory, or How To Break Your Butt

First off, can we start with a little bit of INSANELY WONDERFUL CELEBRATION?


(Hee! look what Google does to your results when you search on this topic!)

I don't have the words to do this justice. It's huge and fantastic and I admit that I am taking a teensy bit of pleasure in all of the conservative religious nuts losing their righteous little heads over this.

I love that if I have children, they will never have known a United States where gay marriage wasn't allowed.

But! Back to my intended topic: have you guys heard of Orange Theory? I went from it being completely off my radar to suddenly hearing about it all the time - I have a bunch of friends obsessed with it; I started seeing mentions of it all over my Facebook and Instagram feeds, and a sign popped up directly in front of our building letting us know one was opening across the street.

My friends who have gotten into it have been suggesting I join them for months now, because it's "super intense" and "really competitive" so it would be perfect for me, they point out.

....which made me terrified to try, because I'm pretty sure I only SEEM intense and competitive to people who, say, don't actually play ultimate frisbee. I have lots of scars and injuries from it, sure! But is that because I'm intense? Or perhaps because I'm clumsy?

(Hint: it's the second one.)

Also, my cardio has been SAAAD the last 9 months or so. In that it has been non-existent. And the problem with that is I *am* actually competitive, but only in the least useful way: I don't have the KILL KILL GO FOR IT instinct that would be useful in, say, ultimate frisbee (where I'm more likely to duck out of the way and let someone else catch a disc rather than go in for the aggressive defense) - but I *do* have the kind of competitive instinct where if I think someone is watching me, I'll continue working out far longer than I would on my own so that I don't appear lazy or weak.

Basically, I appear to be the exact target demographic for Orange Theory, which is essentially an hour of someone pushing me harder than I'd push myself, with my stats projected onto a giant board at the front of the room so everyone would be able to see if I were slacking off.

I've always enjoyed classes at the gym, like kickboxing or lifting, because I need both the shaming element ("these people who definitely don't actually care what I'm doing and are not paying any attention to me can't see me slack off! that would be so embarrassing!") and the discipline of someone else telling me what to do - on my own I do, like, 4 push ups and then decide I'm tired, and haven't I been getting sick this week? It really would be better for me to take care of my body by resting, don't I think?

(This is also why I am BEYOND THRILLED that one of my friends became a personal trainer, because she now comes to force me to work out twice a week. Right in my own house! It's the best!)

Anyway. Orange Theory takes this concept up a notch by adding a super appealing dose of gimmicky technology into the mix: everyone wears a heart rate monitor, so your heart rate and calories burned are shown on a giant screen at all times along with everyone else's in the class. The box with your name changes color depending on the percentage of your max heart rate being achieved - orange being the "push" zone, hence the name Orange Theory. You're only supposed to peak into orange or occasionally red a few times during the hour (12-24 minutes total in orange is the goal, I believe) so the workout is circuit-based, giving you time to keep bringing your heart rate down between various "sprints" on the treadmill, rowing machines, and weights/floor exercises.

Well. For some of use whose hearts are apparently weak like a 90 year old grandma, just looking at treadmills is enough to push us into the orange zone, it would appear. After class, the trainer asked how I liked the class and commented that I be aiming to get at least 12 "splat points" - aka minutes spent at 84% or more of my max heart rate.

"Uh. So is 43 good....?" I asked him, peering up at my results on the big board.

Guys, you're supposed to spend 50% of the time in the green. I spent 55% of the time trying to explode my heart. My AVERAGE heart rate during that hour was 169 bpm. On the up side, nearly murdering yourself burns a lot of calories!

I did actually love the class, though. It's all super short goals - for example, sprint 300 meters on the rowing machines, then hop off and do 10 lunges; hop back on for another 300 meters, etc. Those are PERFECT for me.

Ask me to run 5 miles and I'll give up before I finish tying my shoelaces because ARE YOU KIDDING ME that is like HOURS of running, I'm pretty sure. Give me a 30 second goal? ALL IN!

However. This willingness to push through anything for 30 seconds is not the smartest when you're not in peak physical form, as everyone else attending these classes apparently is. Do you know what one of the sprints on the treadmills was? A 90 second sprint, at TEN PERCENT INCLINE. That is basically VERTICAL UP THE SIDE OF A MOUNTAIN. But I did it! Because the trainer was shouting that I could do it for just a short time! Just 30 more seconds now! Don't cheat yourself! Make it count! YES I CAN DO IT MAKE IT COUNT WOOOO LOOK AT ME GO!!

Turns out that is maybe a lot for the glutes of someone who doesn't run, much less sprint, up the sides of mountains regularly. My ass was literally sore to the touch for 6 straight days because I'd jacked it up so good. It took a full week to recover and I'm still kind of scared to do anything else in case I anger my ass further.

Naturally I signed up for a membership. This shit is great.


  1. "I admit that I am taking a teensy bit of pleasure in all of the conservative religious nuts losing their righteous little heads over this." Um I am taking an immense amount of pleasure in this. Also, I'm using it as an opportunity to cull my Facebook friends. If someone posts something disparaging (or even a stupid YouTube video from their pastor about the sanctity of marriage) they swiftly get unfriended. Ain't no one got time for bigots.

  2. Every part of this post makes me happy. Also, I've been meaning to write a post about my own workout stuff, because heart rate monitoring is a huge motivational factor for me! It gets better! Really quickly! Tangible improvement! It's the best!

  3. Yay same-sex marriage and conservatives' minds imploding!

    Please do not hurt yourself.

  4. Yay SCOTUS!

    This Orange Theory thing is very intriguing. That sounds right up my alley! I wonder if there is one around me??

  5. Those pictures are brutal. Are you sure you don't want the Domestic Abuse hotline number?

  6. I have been waiting to hear how you liked Orange Theory. So glad you signed up - yay! I honestly have never loved anything more. (I am also now a rabid rower. LOVE rowing.)

    One note on the heart rate: If you're still seeing most of your time in the orange even after you feel like you're settling in and getting in shape, talk to one of the trainers. I believe Orange Theory uses the maximum heart rate formula of 220 minus your age. So my maximum heart rate was set at 179 initially, but I was spending MANY MINUTES at 190+. Basically my heart rate stats looked like I was about to explode. I finally asked them about it (in an "Am I extremely out of shape?" way) and they said the formula is just a guideline and unless you do special testing on a treadmill while wearing an oxygen mask, you won't truly know your max heart rate.

    So they looked at my last 10-15 reports and took the average of my max heart rate from there and changed it in the system, and now I get more green and orange instead of all red. (Jason was the opposite: he was getting all green, even when he was sprinting at an incline. They adjusted his too.) So...something to ask about.