As health and fitness continue to grow in popularity, boutique gyms are making their mark as the “in” crowd’s new stomping grounds. Many are forgoing membership renewal at chain gyms in exchange for a more tailored experience. There’s no fumbling around with random gym equipment here.
These boutique fitness studios offer specific workouts catered to your interests. Houston’s inner loop has seen an influx of these gyms, including DEFINE body & mind and RYDE and Revolution Studio; and now Houstonians can enjoy another concept — Orangetheory Fitness, a group personal training method that divides the process into intervals of cardiovascular and strength training. The fitness franchise has five locations in the Houston area (Pearland, Sugar Land, Tanglewood, Town & Country and Vintage Park), and its newly opened West University location (2511 Bissonnet Street) is the first in the inner loop.
Founded by Ellen Latham, Dave Long and Jerome Kern (Long and Kern are behind concepts Massage Envy and European Wax Center), Orangetheory Fitness launched five years ago in Fort Lauderdale. Latham, who has been in the fitness industry for 35 years, developed the signature workout, which combines cardio with strength and core training. Based on the science of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), the workout is designed to keep your heart rate in a target zone that stimulates metabolism and increases energy. The result is called the Orange Effect (hence the name Orangetheory Fitness). It is designed to give you more energy, visible toning and extra calorie burn for as long as 36 hours after your workout.
“So the goal behind the workout is that we are spending 12 to 20 minutes in that zone 4, which is the orange zone. When we do that, we are finding that the average female is burning about 500 calories per class and the average male is burning 800 calories,” explains franchise owner Jim Poesta. “The workout also helps to raise your metabolism, helping you access post-oxygen consumption, which will allow you to burn an additional 200 to 400 calories over the next 24 to 48 hours after your workout.”
In order to achieve this, participants are required to wear a heart monitor throughout the workout. The results are displayed on a monitor and allow easy tracking during the class.
All of the science sounds great, but how does the class actually work? I participated in a workout before Orangetheory’s West University opening to get a better feel for the concept. Before I go any further, it’s important to note that Orangetheory offers three types of classes — endurance, power and strength. The classes alternate daily, and participants are not privy to the specific regiment type until the workout starts. There is one studio, and it is comprised of 12 treadmills, 12 water rowers and 12 strength stations. All of the workouts are the same for the entire day at every Orangetheory location across the globe. After that day is completed, you will never see the same combination of exercises again. This is to ensure that your muscles never become too comfortable.
“It’s funny; we have members that have friends doing the same workout across the country. I have one guy at the San Felipe location, and his buddy is a member in Virginia. He’s like, ‘Oh yea, we FaceTime each other so I know what the workout is before I come in.’ So we will do the same workout across the country, but it’s different every day,” says Poesta.
After putting on my heart rate monitor, I learned that I would be participating in a strength class. Half of the class started on treadmills, while the other half started on water rowers. I was a rower, which made me a bit nervous, since I had never used this type of equipment. Luckily, each instructor is a skilled personal trainer, and mine walked me through the process before we began. My first 25 minutes were spent alternating between rowing and the strength station. I rowed for two minutes, all while watching my heart rate on the screen. Then I ran to the strength station to complete a variety of exercises. This cycle repeated for the remainder of the first half of the class. After the rowing segment was complete, I thought I was done. I don’t workout as often as I should, so I felt as if I completed a fairly sufficient workout. Plus, I have very little upper-body strength, so my arms were tired after all of that rowing.
I was quickly informed that it was now time for the second segment of the class — the treadmill. It was a welcomed change of pace after rowing, because you get to set your own pace. The treadmill section also lasted for 25 minutes, and was a series of running intervals with changing inclines.
“The water rower uses a lot of non-impact power so it’s good on the joints. The water resistance is very smooth so it’s ideal for everyone, including former athletes or people who come in with injuries. It’s a full-body exercise, so it produces a lot of power, which works a lot of good lean muscle and helps to build lean muscle,” says Jared Matthews, head trainer at Orangetheory’s Tanglewood location. “The treadmill is a lot of conditioning and hard cardio. That’s where you focus on your interval training. The strength station is obviously where you’re building and focusing on local muscles.”
I didn’t think I would make it to the end of the class, because I was extremely tired; but once I learned how to use the heart rate monitor, it was smooth sailing. When I started to feel myself fading, I watched the screen to make sure my heart rate was in the target zone. The longer I was active, the easier it was to stay in the orange zone. After I work out, I usually am lethargic and sometimes have a headache, but I felt energized after the class. Of course, during the following days I was plagued with soreness, but I will definitely be back in the gym on a regular basis.
“That’s the big thing that separates us, because you can see your results in real time,” says Matthews. “You can know if you hit those interval training zones in the orange and red. You know how many calories you burned, so it’s really cool for people to see what they did. Some people aren’t naturally experienced at working out, and they need to use their heart rate to help coach their intensity. It’s a very useful tool.”
Poesta, the franchise owner, plans to open 25 locations in the greater Houston market. Orangetheory currently has more than 250 domestic locations and is located in six different countries.