When a friend invited me to a free taster session at Orangetheory Fitness at the Islington studio, I happily agreed and signed up. Admittedly a little nervous, as I’m not the best runner, I went along with a few friends and joined in a class. Having previously been to other HIIT classes that focus on running and weights, I was a little apprehensive. I find running quite hard and my chest often feels like it’s about to explode, so I like to run at my own pace and not be shouted at to go faster. Having seen the David Lloyd logo, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Orangetheory, I kept thinking of a gym. However, I knew it was a one hour HIIT class and I was interested to see how this worked. Would the class be led by the mean trainer that pushes you or the friendly trainer that encourages you?
The friendly reception team welcomed me and took a few details, such as my height, age and weight so that a heart rate monitor could accurately measure my progress throughout the class. During your free taster session, this is kindly lent to you for you to strap around your chest, but they are available for purchase once you become a member so that everyone can have their own monitor. The monitors are connected to their system and display your progress throughout the class on the screen in the studio so that you can visibly see what your heart rate is doing. Your class progress is also emailed to you after the session.
“Train your fast twitch muscles with resistance training at least 2-3x a week and do 30-60 mins of cardio (Orangetheory Fitness combines all of this for you!) or ‘active lifestyle’ based movement.”
My first class was taught by Zag, an enthusiastic trainer that led a fast paced session with lively music that kept me going. Before the class started, he asked the normal questions about injury so that he could give options, as well as asking if anyone was new to Orangetheory. The trainers like to know who is new so that they can make sure you understand the instructions, the format of the class, familiarise you with the equipment and learn your name! You also learn what the ‘Orange’ in Orangetheory is about! The colours represent different zones; resting heart rate (grey zone), active recovery (blue zone), base pace (green zone, challenging but doable), push pace (orange zone, uncomfortable) and all out (red zone, very uncomfortable). Your aim is to spend about twenty minutes in the orange zone.
“Fat loss (burning) also occurs when oxygen is present, what is also known as aerobic (which means ‘with oxygen’ i.e. “Base Pace”). The other stage is called anaerobic (which means ‘without oxygen’ i.e. “Puch Pace & All-Out).
With the use of a microphone headset, Zag was clear and audible over the music as he gave clear instructions and reminders throughout the class. This session was about endurance, meaning a tough twenty-five minute run, without an active recovery (a power-walk pace to lower your heart rate and give you a rest). This was followed by twenty-five minutes of floor work, including weights, squats, rowing and TRX straps. I have seen TRX straps in the gym, but I had never used them before and like most things in the gym that I don’t know how to use, I tend to give them a wide berth. This is sensible, but it does mean that I have been excluded from using most of the equipment in the gym! Zag demonstrated the required movements and adjusted where necessary and taught me that TRX straps use your body weight and gravity to give you resistance training. The floor work is displayed on a screen, for your reference during this section of the workout. It is amazing how, after the initial demo, one forgets what they are meant to be doing!
“Keep all your intense strengh or cardio exercise under 60 mins (remember we want to increase the intensity in a short period, not the duration). Any longer will just start wasting muscle as fuel.”
Zag is a great trainer, especially for first timers as he is friendly, fun and approachable. He adjusts your movements where necessary as he observes each client. He takes time during the stretch and cool-down section at the end of the class and is clearly familiar with yoga. What I really liked about Zag is that he handed out wet-wipes to everyone to wipe down their equipment halfway through the session when people swap from the floor work to the treadmills. I greatly appreciated this! Although the session was tough, I felt great afterwards and walked home, full of energy. Zag’s session gave me the confidence to sign up!
I have now been a member for a year and I love Orangetheory. Each session feels like a PT session, but without the one-on-one pressure! All the trainers are unique and offer a different experience. You can have the authoritative trainer that can come across mean, but is sure to push you, or you can choose the trainer that has a more friendly approach that encourages you to push yourself. Different styles work differently on everyone, so pick the trainer that works best for you and encourages you to get the best results. I like to mix it up and keep my timetable flexible, so I attend a class when I feel like it, rather than stick to a set routine.
A Few Of the Other Trainers:
Mavis is a fun and bubbly American trainer. Read her awesome interview here. She leads her class with energy and excitement. I have heard her sing along to the music whilst making corrections to participants doing their floor work. She is leading the Orangetheory Fitness weight-loss challenge this January/February with knowledge and commitment. She always has time for any questions one may have and is dedicated to her role as the head trainer at the Islington Studio.
Mavis’ advice for a stitch:
- Pinch it or dig in and hold it – count to 20/30 seconds
- Drink water
- Walk it out
- Preventative – eat a banana before you exercise!
Emmanuel is encouraging and attentive. He always introduces himself to new participants and reminds himself of any names he may have forgotten so that he can address you directly during class. But my favourite thing about Emmanuel, is that he brings everyone together for a group huddle and high five at the end of his class and he leaves you with an awesome quote.
“Remember to be the best version of yourself and not to compare yourself to anyone else.” Emmanuel
Gov is stricter; he turned me away from a class when I was five minutes late. This is sensible as I had missed the introduction for the class and the warm-up section, but was also frustrating as I had been rushing to get there. He leads a ‘no excuse’ style class. I overheard him say to a client, “Did you think this was going to be easy?” However, on a really hot day he reassured us to take it easy and rest if we needed to, “Don’t push it too hard, you still have the second half to do!” What I really like about Gov is that he writes down instructions on a white board, for the treadmill section, for you to reference during the class. I find this extremely useful as I tend to retreat into my own world whilst working out and often forget what I’m supposed to be doing next!
“Practice relaxing throughout the day, don’t stress out over things that mean very little in the long run (ask yourself will this really be important in 1 week, 1 month, 1 year).”
Joining an Orangetheory fitness class means that you are not alone, you are part of a group. Being part of a group motivates me as I often go with a group of friends and we encourage one another, but are able to go at our own individual paces. It is a healthy alternative to going to the pub with your mates! Each session always incorporates the treadmills, but the trainers have the use of the AB Dolly, the TRX straps, steps, a balance ball and weights, to keep each session individual and fresh, but the most common equipment used, other than the treadmills, are the rowing machines and weights.
Orangetheory is a good compromise as it is similar to having a PT, but with a better price tag! It brings your general fitness levels up and adds variety, rather than just doing one sport or heading to the monotony of the gym. A class means you will do things you may not do alone. All the classes have previously been designed by a conditioning specialist and an exercise physiologist which take the pressure off the teacher during the class, giving the trainers the focus to coach all fitness levels and differentiating exercises for the members in need. There is variation in each class, so don’t think you’ll go to it and focus on just one thing!
“Smile more, take deep breaths throughout the day, get out into nature, find your passions in life, etc. We are too stressed out and our body was only meant to use stress in short bursts (fight or flight response) not all day long events.”
The studio is a respectable space, for London, but can feel a little crowded if you attend their full classes. The mirrors allow the space to feel bigger as well as let you see what you are doing with your body. The back door allows airflow on hot days and the skylight floods the floor space with natural light. The facilities are good; the shower and changing area has lockers and hair dryers and are always clean and tidy. The reception area has scales that measure your body fat percentage, so you can keep a record of your progress. They are also stocked with protein bars and water bottles, which I appreciated after I had finished my own bottle on a hot day. Darting out of a class, the reception team allowed me to pay later, saving me wasting time during the session. The studio is not gimmicky; rather it has quotes on the wall from notable athletes that encourage you, even from Tiger Woods! I love this quote on a new level now, given his personal life! “The greatest thing about tomorrow is I will be better than I am today”. Is that a promise Tiger?!
Orangetheory emails you updates and great promotions they are hosting such as a rowing challenge, weight-loss challenge or a charity day event. They also email you your personalised fitness report after every session you complete. This used to be hosted by Polar and include an image of your heart rate as it changed throughout the session (see the image below), so you could see when your heart rate increased/decreased. The heart rate monitors have recently changed to an Orange branded monitor, so this system may not be available any longer. Instead, the once informative email has been replaced by a simple diagram (see image above) that focuses on your ‘Splat’ points, which I don’t find particularly useful. Splat points are the total amount of time you spent in the orange and red zones, which can easily be worked out, one doesn’t need this. I hope this is changed back so that you can actually see what your heart rate was doing throughout the session; it was much more interesting to know when and during which activity your heart rate was higher or lower.
Orangetheory is excellent for me because a one-hour class gives me a focused time slot. The membership is non-committal, so you can cancel at any point and the timetable is vast, giving you the option of which class to book. As the studio has become more popular, the classes do fill up quite quickly, so you must be organised and book yourself in advance. Booking is so easy via the Mind Body Connect app. Download this app for free and view all the available sessions for Orangetheory as well as discover other local wellness spots that may be of interest to you. All your membership details are stored here and you can view your booked schedule and history, as well as other available classes.
“Stop stressing out, take some deep breaths, get outside to relax and get your sleep.”
Fancy giving it a go? Your first class is free, just give the studio a call and they’ll book you in to a class that is convenient to you, but you must be early so that they can get all the necessary details they need. This is essential, as it will provide a more accurate reading of your workout with the use of the heart rate monitor. I have several friends that got married last year that claim that Orangetheory Fitness was their go-to class to get fit and toned and was an essential tool to fitting into that all important wedding dress with absolute confidence.
Find Out More:
Where Are They?
How Much? Membership consists of several options; monthly memberships or a pack of individual passes. Call the studio to ask for their current deals. Telephone: 0207 226 6744
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* Quotes in orange are from an Orangetheory information pamphlet.
Read my interview with Orangetheory’s Mavis Tachie-Menson here.
*Health Advice: Consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.