How Orangetheory Fitness Helped Propel Me Out of a Workout Slump
As the social media director for Shape, I truly eat, sleep, and breathe fitness. Before the pandemic hit, I was the girl going to boutique fitness studios in New York City 24/7 — for work and for fun. I was friends with all my trainers, 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 had treadmill and weight training classes. I loved boxing on the heavy bag, sparring with other gym members, and one-on-one sessions with my coach.
Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, which caused the studio to close. And suddenly, my favorite social outlet and stress reliever disappeared overnight. I was at a loss.
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, like 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.
Then, in February 2021, I moved into a much smaller apartment. It became more difficult to workout from home, not only logistically, but also emotionally. 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. (Related: Inspirational Workout Motivation Quotes That'll Help You Stay Committed)
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 what a great job I was doing. Being able to measure my success through metrics also pushes me in a workout, which was a major component of the boxing gym, too.
Plus, I'm a social person, and I didn't realize how much I missed interaction with others in my fitness routine when the pandemic first hit. Workout studios have always been a place of community for me.
I was heartbroken about losing my boxing gym. But I knew that if I wanted to reinvigorate my physical and emotional wellbeing, I needed a fresh start. I wanted 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 the 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."
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 prioritized her daily walks as well.)
And with a ton of other friends and family members Orangetheory-obsessed, I had no reason not to check it out.
My First Orangetheory Fitness Class: "I Knew I Was Back."
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 ab 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. The structure and programming of every session are unique.
Once the workout began, I knew I was back. 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 my heart rate, calories burned, and "splat points" on-screen during the class. (Related: How to Find (and Train In) Your Personal Workout Heart-Rate Zones)
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, 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.
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. (Related: 6 Things to Know Before Your First Orangetheory Fitness Class)
Consistent Encouragement (and the Ability to Modify) Helped Me Overcome Mental Blockades
Still, it wasn't entirely smooth sailing from Day 1 — brought on by both a fear of injury and lack of self-confidence. I questioned if I was still fit enough after months at-home workouts. 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 on 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 identify with, 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 class, 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: the Shape + Health Half-Marathon this spring. 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. (Related: The Shape + Health Women's Half Marathon Is Back! Here's How to Sign Up)
And despite those initial fears, I left the session on a total high. And since my first class, I've been going to my neighborhood Orangetheory Fitness studio twice per week.
Setting My Sights On the 2022 Shape + Health Half-Marathon
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 a 10:30- to 10:50 minutes per mile. But I recently, I completed 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 at Orangetheory. The studio has also helped me push myself toward faster sprints than ever before. For example, I used to run at just 7 mph. Now, I've sprinted as fast as 11 mph for 30 seconds.
What's more, that fitness community I've been craving is back in full swing. 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 after class and noted on how impressive my heavy lifting was. That praise really encouraged me.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that the 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 Shape + Health Half-Marathon finish line with a brand-new PR this spring, I feel confident that my pandemic workout slump days — fueled by Orangetheory workouts — are far behind me.