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The Girlfriend’s Guide To Orangetheory Fitness

A brand of exercise guaranteed to make you sweat — and possibly cry for your mommy.

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An image of a workout session at Orangetheory Fitness.
Courtesy Orangetheory Fitness
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What is it? A brand of exercise guaranteed to make you sweat — and possibly cry for your mommy. With more than 1,100 boutique studios around the world, Orangetheory Fitness (OTF) classes incorporate two concepts: Heart-rate monitoring and Excess Post-Rate Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). The goal is to move your body at 84-91 percent of your maximum heart rate, also known as being in the “orange zone.” This enables you to burn off fat and still sustain
a workout.

You lost me at EPOC. What?! It’s called “the afterburn.” When you exercise at consistently high intervals, your body creates an oxygen deficit that must be restored once the energy requirements level off. While your body works to restore the debt, calories continue to burn off. (That’s why some people have high-speed metabolisms.) Per the OTF website, you can torch an estimated 500-1,000 calories up to 36 hours after a class.

What does a typical class entail? First, there is no such thing as a typical class. (Even the prices vary. Go to for membership guides.) The instructors use a high-intensity interval training method to constantly switch up the routines so you get an unequivocal challenge. In 60 minutes, you’ll do a combination of treadmill movement, medicine ball weight lifting and rowing to work on endurance, strength and power, respectively. The hour blends traditional workout classes (for example, dance music and a motivational leader) with the benefits of small-group personal training (only 15-20 people per class).

How do I monitor my heart rate? Walk in a studio and you’ll be fitted with a heart-rate monitor that snugs near your sports bra. An overhead screen will display your name, vitals and progression between the five “zones” — red, blue, green, orange and red — in real time, as well as everyone else’s vitals in case you’re feeling competitive. Ideally, you should aim to be in the “orange zone” for 12-20 minutes to achieve that prized metabolic response. Your results are emailed after class. FYI, newbies aren’t expected to reach the “orange zone” off the bat.

Can I really do this? OTF cofounder (and exercise physiologist) Ellen Latham insists the classes were specifically designed so anyone over the age of 18 at any exercise level could succeed. Still nervous? Before class, talk to the instructor about fitness goals and concerns. You can also look at TV screens that display graphics of the strength-floor moves and treadmill signs on the mirror to guide your speed choice. But, as always, talk to a pro before trying a new workout.