If you have been following Recovering Carbie you know that I have spent a lot of time focusing on posts about Orange Theory Fitness (OTF). If I’m talking about fitness, it is usually what I am talking about. You see countless pictures of me in that orange light, and I even take my phone in class with me from time to time to show you what we are up to within those orange walls.

So why do I do this? Why do I talk so much about OTF? Well, first of all, I subscribe to the train of thought that if you find something that is amazing and works, you need to tell others. You have to pay it forward to help people struggling to find their paths! But I also decided to write because you can go online and find countless articles about OTF from fitness experts and professionals, telling you how it works and why it works. And although all that information is great, I wanted you to hear all about this fitness revolution from a regular ordinary girl who is changing her life everyday within that gym.

So let me tell you about my life in the Orange Zone!

Throughout my journey I have literally done every workout under the sun. Name it…I’ve tried it. I’ve run, walk, lifted, squatted, banged drum sticks on the ground, jumped like a frog on a trampoline, shook through Barre class, breathed through Yoga class. I knew early on in my journey the importance of working out, so I started to seek out workouts that I could fall in love with and (gasp!) WANT to do everyday. Was there a workout out there that I could actually enjoy and give me the results I wanted?

I discovered OTF in a very simple way…I drove by the gym. That’s it. Everyday to and from work, I would drive by the gym and wonder what it was. Why is it called Orange theory? What is it? Is it a Cross-fit place? A new Yoga shop? I had absolutely no idea.

At first I didn’t think much about it. After all it looked like a little gym and instantly thoughts of insane workouts done by picture perfect athletes flooded my brain. At this point, I wasn’t much of an athlete. I was starting to run a little, but I wasn’t in that picture perfect “gym membership” shape.

But each day I would get more and more curious. So one day I typed in “Orange Theory” into my phone. Suddenly all these pictures of incredibly athletic people and people running on treadmills hit my screen. Yep, what I thought…something I couldn’t do.

But I kept reading. I read about how it was becoming the latest fitness trend. I read about the “Orange Zone”, saw the heart monitors, and read all about “Splat Points”. It didn’t sound like any other workout I had heard of.

The gym hadn’t opened up yet, so there wasn’t much information out there on that specific gym. So I simply wondered by far. Then one day, I was attending a Women’s Lifestyle fair and I saw the bright orange booth. We walked up, and talked to the owners of the gym to find out about what was up with this new gym. The owners were regular people like me, much more approachable than the pictures I was seeing online. So I started to ask questions. By the end of the conversation, I had calmed my fears enough to give it a try. So I signed up as a founding member to go 4 times a month (once a week). My plan was to supplement my other workouts with this new type of workout…just dip my feet into the pool one toe at a time.

I took the very first class OTF had when their doors opened, and instantly I was hooked. I called the owner that day and bumped up my membership to 2 days a week (8 times a month). I had to do more. This workout was perfect for me. It was half cardio, half weight lifting, the two main workouts I was doing every day. Only this was packaged into a one hour class, and guided by a personal trainer. I was instantly hooked.

And thus began my OTF journey. Month after month I saw and felt the results. I stopped supplementing my workouts with OTF and made OTF my primary workout. I now go to OTF 5 days a week. It has become a pivotal part of my health journey.

“So, what exactly is OTF?”

Orange Theory Fitness (OTF) is a 60 minute high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout. But, it’s unlike any workout you have ever done before! You wear a heart monitor either around your chest, your wrist, or your arm. When you come into the studio, your name and heart rate shows up on a large tv screen along with everyone else doing the class with you.

See there I am…in the Orange zone!

What’s the “Orange Zone”? Well, it’s 84%-91% of my maximum heart rate. It is the zone that starts EPOC…and since we are going to leave the professional articles to the professionals…let me just say it’s the place where you heart is working HARD.

The idea is to get your heart rate high enough to be in the Orange zone. If you do that for 12 or more minutes during the 60 minute workout, you raise your metabolism and burn calories for up to 36 hours after the workout. It’s called the “After Burn”.

So OTF really gives you a glimpse “inside your body”. Since you are wearing the heart monitor, your heart rate is right there for you to view. You get to know your heart very well…you see when you are resting and working harder, you learn what paces you need to go to get results, and you learn the importance of the whole process of the ups and downs of your heart rate.

At the end of every class you get an email with your stats. It tells you how you did during that class and how you have done since the beginning! As you can see, I’ve already burned 20,000 calories within those orange walls!

“What is a typical OTF class like?”

Well, this I can’t really tell you, because it changes every single day. Yep, each day that you go to class you will see a different workout. It’s always new so if you are like me and get bored with workouts, this is a “boredom free” workout.

Each OTF is divided up into three sections….treadmills, rowing machines, and the weight floor. There are strength days, power days, endurance days, and days where you work on all three. Usually the class is divided up into two parts…you either start on the treadmills first, or you start on the rowers/weight floor. You usually spend about 1/2 the class doing each of these sides of the room, but that can also vary.

“Why OTF? Can’t I just do this at the treadmill at home or the gym?”

You certainly could do burst running on a treadmill at the gym and some weight lifting at a gym, but the reason I go to OTF is because of the personal trainers. If left to my own accord, I don’t do as much. I give up easier, I don’t push myself. But at OTF I have my coach guiding me through the workout. The trainers at my gym in Davenport are amazing. They always know what I need to hear and when. They help me with my form and encourage me to do my best so I can get my results.

OTF is all around the country, so when you join you basically have a gym membership in most cities in the US! When you travel, you can use your membership at a different gym. When my daughter was a dance competition I tried out a gym in St. Charles and loved it. You can even rent a heart monitor if you forget yours!

So, come on….what has OTF done for you…show us the RESULTS!”

Most people want to see that OTF works before they try it. And yes there are major physical changes that happen when you do this exercise. For me, when I walked into OTF I had already lost 100 pounds from my start weight. Since I started OTF I have lost an additional 30 pounds. BUT, I still say that OTF has done more for my health and body than any other workout. The 30 pounds that I have lost at OTF were pounds that my doctor told me that due to my body type and genetics, I would likely not lose. These were the pounds that were nearly impossible to drop. Before I started OTF these pounds would not fall off no matter what I did! So, OTF helped me beat impossible.

So, here is my OTF before and “during” pictures. The picture on the left was taken in May right before OTF opened. The picture on the right was taken on my way to my Halloween OTF class at the end of October. I’m 30 pounds lighter and have lost so many inches.

BUT, it’s not the visible changes that I am the most happy about with OTF. The largest changes that OTF has done for me have nothing to do with what you can see. My heart, my stamina, my endurance have all made a complete overhaul due to this workout. At the beginning of this workout, I could not run up inclines, I could not run very long. Every month I am noticing that my health is improving, I can go longer, faster, and higher! My heart is getting stronger, it is actually improving my health!

You run at OTF….What if I’m not a runner?”

People see online and in advertisements that OTF uses treadmills. Instantly this creates fear in people because they think you have to be a runner in order to do OTF.

The truth is, you don’t.

OTF is extremely customizable. So you set your pace. When you get on the treadmill, you decide if you want to be a walker, a jogger, or a runner. In other words, you can do OTF and never run.

You start with your base pace, which is a pace that you could maintain for 20-30 minutes. It’s a pace that brings your heart to the green zone (which you can tell by watching the screen). If you just want to walk, you will set your pace accordingly, if you are a jogger or runner you will set your pace. If we were next to each other on the treadmill your base pace would be different from mine, which would be different from everyone else in the room. It’s very customizable and personalized. You then are guided through workouts where you raise your speed to “Push Pace” – a challenging pace and “All Out” where you go the fastest and hardest, i.e. your BEAST MODE!

The treadmill blocks are different depending on what type of workout you are doing. If it is a Power day, you will see shorter bursts of Push Pace and All Outs on usually flat roads. If it is a strength day, you will see inclines. If it is an Endurance Day you will see longer bouts of running or push paces. Your coach guides you through where you need to be in the workout. It’s fool proof, because the coach tells you what to do!

If you are like me, you might be wondering….okay I know you say you CAN walk, but will I feel stupid if I do walk? Will everyone around me being running?? NOPE! In every class that I have done there are a variety of speeds on that treadmill, walkers, and runners, fast and slow. No one next to you focuses on how fast you are running because they are simply interested in their own heart rates!

You lift weights there, what if I’m not a lifter?

OTF uses lighter weight dumbbells in their workouts. The dumbbells at the station are 8-25 pounds (although there are lighter and heavier options there). This is definitely not power lifting. It’s lighter weights, with repeated reps. This is the weightlifting that I love, because it tones and helps you look defined and not bulky.


The weight floor varies a ton. It’s always new and fresh working different body parts each day. You lift dumbbells, do ab work, squats, work with Bosu balls and Ab Dollys, and TRX bands. There are screens on the weight floor that tell you what exercise you are doing and how many reps. And if you don’t know how to do something, it’s okay…my coaches still correct me on form all the time!

What are these splat points you talk about?

OTF is sort of like a game of sorts, because when you go in your goal is to get 12 splat points (12 minutes of work in the orange and red zone) during the 1 hour workout.

So during the class your heart rate goes into the different zones. The screen lights up Gray – rest, Blue – light work, Green – normal workout pace, Orange – Push Pace, and Red – All out. Each time you get you spend a minute in the Orange and Red Zones you earn a splat point. The idea is to get 12 splat points a class. The amount of splat points you get will vary on your fitness level. When I started I used to earn a lot of points in the class…at least 20-30, because my heart was out of shape and working harder. Now that I am in better shape I generally get in the 12-20 range.

Are there  certain ages at OTF?

Nope! At my studio there are ages all over the board. In my classes, I have people older than me, younger than me, in better shape than me, in worse shape then me. It really is for everyone. It’s a regular gym, for regular people. At my gym, there are no cliques, no judgment. Everyone is more interested in their own workout than what anyone is doing.

Do I have to be in really good shape to make it through the workout?

Nope. Again in my classes there are workout levels across the board. You can be completely out of shape and give it a try or you can be in the best shape of your life!

OTF also offers clinics and classes to help you improve your workout skills. I took a running clinic that completely changed how I run.

Yep, in the running clinic, we ran barefoot to see how we actually run and how much we rely on our shoes for good form! It was eye-opening for sure, and something I never would have done if I wasn’t living in the Orange Zone!

Is OTF Cross-Fit?

A common misperception about OTF is that it is a Cross-fit class. OTF is not a cross-fit class.

How long are the classes?

1 hour in length normally, but there are 90 minute classes I take on the weekends. 

Get online and read all the articles on the reasons this workout works, but then take my advice and listen to me that this is a workout you can do and you need in your life. The best thing I can tell you to do is try it. You get a free first class, so there really is no commitment. Of course I’m biased to my Davenport, Iowa gym, but there are so many gyms across the country to try. Just try it, and before you know it you will be filling up your feeds with your OTF adventures!

R.C.

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