How Orangetheory Fitness Helped Propel Me Out of a Workout Slump

The metrics-focused, community-based studio gave me the motivation and confidence I was missing after a year's worth of lonely living room workouts.

person doing a plank variation with the Orangetheory Fitness logo in the back of the photo

As the social media director for Shape, I truly eat, sleep, and breathe fitness. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I was that girl hitting NYC's best boutique fitness studios 24/7 — for work and for fun. I was friends with all my trainers, regularly swapped happy hour for boxing classes, and lived in my leggings (well, that part is still true).

My favorite studio was a boxing gym that also offered treadmill and weight training classes. I loved boxing on the heavy bag, sparring with other gym members, and taking one-on-one sessions with my coach. Then, the pandemic hit, which caused the studio to close — meaning that my favorite social outlet and stress reliever disappeared overnight. It was a hard loss for me.

Still, I was lucky enough to have plenty of space in my apartment to adapt to at-home workouts. I would shadowbox and do virtual high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts with some of my favorite trainers, such as Kira Stokes. I had a really good plan, and, for the most part, I was able to adapt to this new way of working out fairly well. Until I moved into a much smaller apartment.

In this new living space, it became more difficult to work out from home — not only logistically, but also emotionally. It was too draining to figure out how to modify my workouts to avoid (literally) hitting a wall, and I felt as though I was losing motivation for one of my greatest passions. I wasn't consistent with my routine anymore: I'd continuously put off my workouts, and when I finally got around to them, I'd give the exercises a fraction of the energy I would have in my boxing studio. I simply wasn't challenging myself.

The months of working out alone started getting to me, too. Sure, the trainers from the virtual workouts I was taking were engaging, but as a goal-oriented Capricorn, I need more personalized validation. I missed having a trainer call out my name in class, correct my form, or tell me that I was doing a great job. Being able to measure my success through metrics also pushes me in a workout, which was a major component of my tried-and-true boxing gym.

Plus, I'm a social person, and I didn't realize how much I missed the interaction with other exercisers in my fitness routine. Workout studios have always been a place of community for me, and I was heartbroken about losing my boxing gym. But I knew that if I wanted to reinvigorate my physical and emotional well-being, I needed a fresh start. I aimed to find a studio that, like my old boxing gym, would have trainers to hold me accountable and peers who'd become pals.

My roommate at the time could sense my struggle, so she suggested I try a class at Orangetheory Fitness. I can remember the exact phrase she used that drew me in: "It's competitive, but you don't compete against other people. You compete against yourself," she told me. Plus, as my roommate added, I'd get to see those exercise stats I was craving in real-time, and that there was a wide variety of weights — heavy ones, too.

Competition, metrics, and heavy lifting? Check, check, and check. (Oh, and to boot, the closest studio was a mere 20-minute stroll from my apartment, which was a win-win as someone who prioritizes her daily walks.) And with a ton of other friends and family members Orangetheory-obsessed, I had no reason not to check it out.

My Experience Trying an Orangetheory Fitness Class

As I walked into my first Orangetheory Fitness class in September 2021, the vibe immediately drew me in — the studio was clean, modern, and vibrant. I wasn't shadowboxing in my tiny apartment anymore!

Prior to starting class, a coach walked me through the studio and explained how the workout would run. Each hour-long class is broken up into three sections: treadmill, rower, and strength training. The strength training exercises might include TRX, free weights, or bodyweight moves (done alone or with an abs dolly). As the coach mentioned, my workout that day wouldn't look the same as a class I'd take tomorrow or the following week, as the structure and programming of every session are unique.

Once the workout began, I knew I was back in my fitness groove. The music was motivating, my coach was encouraging (and someone I felt as though I could immediately trust), and my heart was racing within minutes — something I could see in real-time through the heart rate monitor (called the OTBEAT Burn) I was instructed to wear. This wristband allows you to see a slew of personalized metrics, including heart rate, calories burned, and "splat points" on-screen during the class.

FYI: Splat points mean you've reached an all-out maximum effort in what's called the "orange zone" or "red zone." (There are five colored zones you can see on-screen, with orange and red being the highest.) The goal of each class is to spend at least 12 minutes in the orange zone, which is 84 to 91 percent of your maximum heart rate. As my coach noted, this goal helps you hit maximum caloric burn even after your workout is complete (aka the afterburn effect).

This metrics-focused training methodology allows my perfectionist self to actually see my hard work. It also helps me allocate enough time after my workout to recover. No surprise here: I left the session on a total high. And since that day, I've been going to my neighborhood Orangetheory Fitness studio twice per week.

How Orangetheory Helped Me Overcome Mental Blockades...

Still, it wasn't entirely smooth sailing from day one — brought on by both a fear of injury and lack of self-confidence. I questioned if I was still fit enough for these workouts after months of at-home routines. What's more, I've always had anxiety around treadmill classes and a big mental block when it comes to chasing speed. I recall taking classes at other studios and being worried that I'd fall off the treadmill.

But, as I quickly learned, Orangetheory workouts are made for people at all levels in their fitness journey, which made me feel at ease. The treadmill section of class has three different types of programs based on how fast you want to move — power-walk, jog, or run. Based on which type of speed you feel able to do, the studio provides general guidelines for speed and incline. So if I'm not feeling up for a run, I'll up the incline and power-walk. Similarly, for the weight training portion of classes, if I find that I'm too sore to lift heavy as I normally do, I can swap out my heavy weights for lighter ones. (And, as always, I can ask my coach for a modification on any move if needed.)

Plus, as my OTBEAT Burn sometimes alerts me to, I tend to go into the all-out Red zone too early on. I go really hard right out of the gate, and then quickly tire out. This realization has helped me strategize for tackling my next major fitness goal: running a half-marathon. I'd like to be able to run it without stopping, and learning to pace myself through my Orangetheory workouts will help me get there.

...and Reach New (Fitness) Highs

Since starting at Orangetheory Fitness, I've been able to hit new racing numbers that I never would have imagined. I typically run six miles max at 10:30 to 10:50 minutes per mile — but after regular sessions at Orangetheory, I was able to complete a six-mile race at a 9:30 pace. While I attribute much of that success to running more consistently, I also give major credit to the treadmill interval training I do during classes. The studio has also helped me push myself toward faster sprints than ever before. For example, I used to max out at just 7 miles per hour for sprints, but now, I've sprinted as fast as 11 miles per hour for 30 seconds.

What's more, that fitness community I've been craving is readily available at my local studio. Coaches and fellow class-goers are consistently welcoming and supportive. Some regulars in my classes have even noticed (and commented on!) my progress. One community member even came up to me and noted how impressive my heavy lifting was after our class was done. That praise really encouraged me. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the playlists are always motivating, the routines are varied, and I've learned a ton of new, challenging movements. In other words, I'm never bored.

Now, as I look to crossing that half-marathon finish line with a brand-new PR, I feel confident that my pandemic workout slump days — fueled by Orangetheory workouts — are far behind me.

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