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Fit For You: Orangetheory Fitness

Fitness trends come and go. So do so-called boutique fitness studios that specialize in one particular format such as spinning, Pilates, or hot yoga.

Now with 1,000 locations and 700,000 members worldwide, Orangetheory Fitness isn’t exactly the new kid on the block: it's been around for almost a decade. But it's really taken off in the past couple of years.

"(It's) a gray area because, yes, you could by definition call us a boutique studio because we are one of a kind. However, what makes us set apart from everybody else is that we are completely science backed," notes Shorewood Studio Manager Kristi Glocke.

Here's what you can expect the Orangetheory dashboard to look like when you go in for a class.

The hour-long workout changes daily, and is based on high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Sprint based exercise for participants tests their endurance, but the science that Orangetheory puts into the training involves monitoring members' heart rates.

"The members find that they are very much motivated by having the heart rate feedback up there," says Head Coach Kristin Johnson. "They're able to sometimes see that they can sometimes push harder then they might have once thought before, and gives them that check-in point."

The heart rate monitors track a person's anaerobic threshold according to Johnson, which is displayed on a screen and color coded. The orange behind Orangetheory Fitness refers to the "orange zone" in which the heart rate reaches 84-91 percent of its maximum.

The goal for each class is to accumulate 12 minutes or more in this zone in order to sustain the "after burn," which increases your metabolism throughout the day, Johnson explains.

She also notes the heart rate monitors help the coaches keep an eye on members' advancement and avoid over exertion and potential injury.

"It helps us see where we might be able to make small little changes to keep them making those proper progressions to continue to move forward and get the results they're looking for," Johnson says.

Credit Audrey Nowakowski
The treadmills at Orangetheory Fitness were especially designed for the class format.

The class structure seeks to provide heart rate training, cardio, a power component, and muscles building. This is done by dividing two groups between the cardio section and weight floor.

Treadmills are "where a majority of the heart rate based interval training takes place," says Johnson, and participants don't need to be sprinting in order to accomplish time in the desired orange zone. There are guidelines for power walkers, joggers, and runners.

Then, the water rowers are "a great power component to the workout itself," adds Johnson. "80 percent of the muscles in the body are working when we're rowing with no impact."

Lastly, the weight floor guides participants through a series of exercises designed by the corporate team to build resistance training. Each exercise has modifications to accommodate all levels of fitness according to Johnson.

"Us as coaches layout all the demos and spend a lot of our time actually coaching on the floor to make sure each member is getting the most out of each exercise and keeping themselves safe," she explains. "That's where we're not really looking for heart rate response, but looking to build overall strength."

Credit Audrey Nowakowski
Shorewood Orangetheory Head Coach Kristin Johnson demonstrates the strength exercises for the weight floor section of class.

If you are nervous about group exercise formats, Johnson says that most often people's misconceptions about group classes or their studio are proven wrong once they give it a try. While you are participating with a group, Orangetheory considers it to be "personal training in a group fitness setting."

"(People) find it to be very motivating having the group and the energy and the coaching aspect, but at the same time they know that they can just worry about their own efforts and what they're able to put into the workout as well," adds Johnson.

"This really could be their multivitamin." - Kristi Glocke

Glocke notes that Orangetheory Fitness' daily workouts are designed for members who participate on a regular basis, but also supplement their workouts with other movement.

"It's always going to be something that's going to work through somebody's regular fitness routine in addition to doing yoga and Pilates," she explains. "This really could be their multivitamin where they're getting their cardio and their weight lifting and just really continuing to progress their efforts in other areas of their life."

Glocke says that what sets them apart from other gyms is the welcoming community that is established when you walk through the doors. "We pay attention. It is more than just sweating."

Audrey Nowakowski is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.