Orangetheory Fitness

It’s not often that a fitness brand launching in London slips under my radar, but if I’m being completely honest I’m a bit late to the table with Orangetheory Fitness. Luckily the team invited me over to the press event at their recently opened space in Wandsworth, so I’m fully up to speed now.

I actually found out a fair chunk about Orangetheory Fitness whilst researching an article on group heart rate training a couple of weeks ago. Like many other fitness studios opening at the moment, Orangetheory Fitness is a franchise model aiming to grow in a big way. To give you a bit of context behind that scale, the company already has in excess of 1,000 studios worldwide, so it was only a matter time before they ramped up their UK strategy.

Picture By Mark Robinson.

So what’s the concept?

The name, which at first glance gives little to explain the premise, relates to how each class utilises heart rate monitors to get people training. Like most other companies using heart rate to measure training, Orangetheory Fitness, using their own proprietary “OTbeat” monitors, use heart rate zones to manage class workouts.

These zones are broken down into “very light activity”, “warm up”, “challenging but doable”, “orange effect” and “uncomfortable all out effort”. As you’ve probably guessed, “orange effect” is the zone the workout is focussing on. It’s this zone where people are working within 84% to 91% of their heart rate maximum.

Picture By Mark Robinson.

The workout is designed based on a concept called EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption), which basically means the hour long class is meant to push your body to the point where you’re body is recovering afterwards, so you’re burning more calories after the workout. Here’s a video where the founders attempt to explain it using the phrase “your body’s essentially writing a cheque it can’t cash” – very nice.

What does a workout look like?

The hour-long session (a length of time I didn’t realise we were doing until we got to minute 46) combines segments of rowing, treadmill work and floor exercises, the class effectively split across three teams to optimise the space. Around the walls are screens showing each person’s heart rate, the background colour highlighting the current heart rate zone.

The treadmill part of the class covered a series of intervals varying in speed. These intervals were loosely guided around a set of numbers instead of the trainer shouting “Number 10. Now!”

Picture By Mark Robinson.

The rowing section, which uses fancy water resistance machines, was about set distance targets. Once you’d hit a certain number of meters you stepped off to do some mobility band work, then went back on the rower. The floor section was a series of leg exercises ranging from split lunges to bench step overs.

Unlike a lot of the other workouts I’ve been to based on the same formula the general theme was more “work to your own ability” than “push as hard as you can to the point of exhaustion”. Now I’m not necessarily saying that’s a good or bad thing – it depends entirely on how you want to train and what you feel comfortable with.

Is it any good?

It’s a really nice studio set up that breaks the workout out into sections to make it more manageable and less boring. I liked the fact the workouts were entirely scalable allowing me to pick up heavier weights than prescribed for some bits or whack up the treadmill speed to see how fast I could go. The trainer (Tom) clearly knew his stuff and managed to keep an eye on the whole class in the massive space for the whole hour – I definitely wouldn’t be able to do that.

Group heart rate monitoring is a good concept if done well and lends itself to people challenging themselves and not the class, which is what Orangetheory Fitness are going for by the looks of it.

The space itself is great, it’s massive and the machinery is some top end stuff. There’s also handy explanatory videos near the weights area, which made my life a lot easier as I completely wasn’t listening during the demo. After the class you get sent an overview of how you performed in the over the hour and over previous sessions. It’s definitely a very slick, joined-up operation.

Picture By Mark Robinson.

Who’s it for?

It’s clearly a space for the more general fitness seeker. A workout that offers a nice mix of cardio along with strength and conditioning in a tidy one hour session. The studio itself, once you get past the slightly budget looking orange design (apparently it’s conducive to energy), is welcoming and, unlike some of the more full-on HIIT studios out there (you know the ones), the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. Because of that it’s a great place for beginners or people who want something non-intimidating.

How much is it?

London prices start at £89 for 4 classes a month to £149 for unlimited use. Studios outside of London start at £59.

To find out more about Orangetheory Fitness Wandsworth as well as their other locations, head to the website here.