Orangetheory is a fitness franchise which offers strength and cardio HIIT workouts. It swept through the US and now has 1,150 locations, and since its launch in 2010, it has since expanded into 23 countries, including 3 locations in London. Eliza went to see what all the hype was about at Orangetheory Islington.
I’d walked past Orangetheory Islington many times along Upper Street. I’d heard about it from one of our writers, Hannah, who really enjoyed her experience. I’d also chatted to them when they had a pop-up stand in Highbury Fields. I even had a friend who often went. So why did it take me YEARS to get down there? Quite honestly, it was the branding. And the name. It just didn’t appeal to me. It wasn’t… exciting.I stalked the account on Instagram also and again, I wasn’t inspired (Instagram definitely sways how I choose where to workout).
Even when I was given passes for this review, it took me several weeks to get down. I just didn’t prioritise it.
When I finally made it to a session (9.30am on a Monday morning), I’d booked it on the spur of a moment, calling them instead of using the app (which I had a little trouble getting registered on initially) and rushing in just as the class was starting. A super friendly member of staff gave me a whirlwind introduction, place a heart-rate monitor on my arm and before I knew it, I was IN! Nathalie was our instructor and she whizzed through the details, before I’d even gotten my bearings (my fault for turning up late). The class was divided into two, with half on the treadmills and half on the rowers. Each had their own workout.
Starting with the rowers, we switched between completing a set distance before dashing to the floor to complete strength exercises. As time progressed, our sets became more challenging. I’m used to working mostly with home gym equipment such as bands so working with heavier weights felt good!
I’d never thought of rowers as being a particularly strenuous piece of equipment and rarely used them when I had gym membership many years ago. However, it turns out I just had bad technique. Each time Nathalie tweaked my technique, the rower suddenly got harder.
Before long, it was time to switch to the treadmills. I’m not the kind of person who ever gets the urge to go for a run (unless I’m pregnant and then I desperately wanted to run. Weird, right?) so part of me was dreading this bit. Strangely, I got into it. When it was time to push it, I really did push it. I competed with the women on either side of me and more importantly, myself. My head went into a place it didn’t realise it could access. I focused on my breathing. My breathing had gotten me through pregnancy and now it was getting me through this. I was running faster than I had in many many years. I was proud of myself. I enjoyed pushing myself. I was proud that my pelvic floor wasn’t letting me down either!
That class was one of the toughest I had ever done. It wasn’t until the Friday after that my legs stopped aching. I also had aching intercostal muscles. But it was thrilling. I had a proper high for days after.
Orangetheory Technology and Science
During your workout, your profile displays one of five colours, each of which signifies a different heart rate zone, based on the information your heart rate monitor records. It’s the time you spend in the orange and red zones, (where you feel either uncomfortable or are going all out, respectively) which get you your SPLAT points.
SPLAT points are important because Orangetheory is based on the science of EPOC – excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. If you can challenge your body to a certain intensity, your body works harder to recover oxygen lost during exercise and it’s this ‘orange effect’ which makes you burn calories even after you’ve stepped off the treadmill.
As well as SPLAT points, you’ll also see your heart rate, the calories you’ve burned and percentage of maximum heart rate. In my first session, I burnt 576 calories and picked up 34 SPLAT points; you’re advised to target a minimum of 12 SPLAT points.
I’ve since between twice more to Orangetheory and had a different, yet positive experience each time. The second time, our coach, Nathalie, had us focused more on sustaining our pace. I was a bit disappointed it wasn’t as high intensity as before, but I was pleased that I still managed to nail my 12 SPLAT points.
The third time, Mavis was our coach, although sadly, Mavis is heading to Ghana in the New Year for alternative adventures. During the first part, I again opted to start on the rowers (I think starting with the treadmill might kill me!) and this section ended up being mainly weights based, incorporating a series of 3 sets, each with up to 3 exercises in, with steadily increasing reps. I was flattered when Mavis complimented my technique. The treadmill section was hard – we were asked to sustain certain paces over set distances and my legs were just so tired! I much prefer running in shorter bursts of 30 – 45 second sprints, rather than running distances.
What I like about Orangetheory
- The sessions change each time. Admittedly, I’ve not been to a class back to back, but I recently went to a well-known studio and was rather disappointed to discover that some classes have the same classplan for 8 weeks.
- Everyone is so friendly; the reception staff, the coaches and the other members. I was a little confused as to what I was supposed to do at my first session but the woman next to me helped me out which was greatly appreciated.
- Everyone just gets on with it. The lighting is dark, the music is up high (I did notice one woman put in earplugs before the class started) and member work at their own pace.
- Coaches are on it. They know exactly what the different sections of the class should be doing and they time things well; cloths for wipe-down are put by the machines a few minutes before the class swaps activities, remaining time is clearly communicated and exercises are demonstrated proficiently.
- Modifications (and sometimes progressions) are given for each exercise, which makes the class more accessible.
- They’ve got great class times. As a mum of two young boys, I often find it hard to get to classes as they’re either early in the morning, around nursery drop-off, or right over bedtime. Yet Orange Theory has a great class time at 9.30am.
What I thought could be improved
- I’ve been three times now and I still struggled to know what I was supposed to be doing. I got the jist of things but sometimes the specifics of timings and reps were hard to understand so I relied a lot on the person next to me.
- As someone who is a pre and post-natal fitness coach, I had to ask the question, “what’s their policy for new mums wanting to come to a class?” I was told that Orangetheory supports mums who want to get back into fitness and as long as they’ve had their 6-week postnatal check, they’re allowed to attend. I was told some modifications could be made but wasn’t given any examples. Quite frankly, I think this is where fitness studios are going wrong – there needs to be better care for postnatal women getting back into exercise. Instead of letting women jump straight back into it, proper rehab and advice needs to be given to assess whether mums are ready to train.
It’s rare that I say this, but if my schedule calms down and I could get to classes at least twice a week, I’d invest in membership.
Who’s it for: People who want to get fit. Orangetheory is designed to help people increase their fitness levels, across strength, cardio and endurance.
Where: There are three studios in London – Islington, Wandsworth and Bromley.
How much: Your first three classes are £30. After that, you’ve got three sets of membership – Premier (unlimited), Elite (8 classes a month) and Packages (10, 20 or 30). It’s hard to find information of prices on the website but through the app, it tells me that a drop-in class is £25, and if you buy a 30 class pack, prices per class drop down to £15. I couldn’t find information about memberships, so I assume if you sign up for the 3 classes for £30, they’ll give you more information by phone.