Runners workout on the treadmill during the 26-minute cardio portion of the workout.
Runners workout on the treadmill during the 26-minute cardio portion of the workout.
Denali Tietjen/Boston.com

ORANGETHEORY REPORT CARD

Accessibility: 2.5 dumbbells

Facility: 4.5 dumbbells

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Difficulty: 4.8 dumbbells

Fun score: 4 dumbbells

Affordability: 4.5 dumbbells

Total score: 4.1 dumbbells

After browsing the photos on the Orangetheory website, I’ll admit I was a little intimidated heading into my first class. I’m a runner in the truest sense of the word (a.k.a. I don’t do anything but run) so my arms start burning just at the sight of free weights and rowing machines. I also generally steer away from the color orange after a bad spray tan last summer. But everyone’s been buzzing about this place, so I thought I’d check it out and see if it stacks up.

I signed myself up for the 9:15 a.m. class on opening day and headed to the Brighton studio. They offer earlier classes, too, which is convenient for the working professional. I opted for the later one because a) there isn’t a convenient T stop near the gym so I had to navigate Boston via bus which is always a sketchy endeavor b) I was looking to go during work and c) burning 1,000 calories at 5:45 on a Monday morning sounded way too ambitious.

That’s Orangetheory’s thing by the way: you burn up to 1,000 calories in one hour. I repeat: one thousand calories per hour. I was skeptical at first; you can’t burn four digits’-worth of calories in an hour, right? We got pretty close.

Television screen displays heart rate and calorie burn statistics from personal heart rate monitors at the end of class.
Denali Tietjen/Boston.com

We were all wearing heart rate monitors that tracked and displayed how hard we were working on a TV screen in the studio. The goal is to be in the “orange zone,” the heart rate in which you burn the most calories and reap the most health benefits. Since it’s up on the screen, the trainer will tell you to pick it up if you’re slacking. It felt like a small personal training class (or a really demanding treadmill). Out of the 11 people in my class, two burned more than 900 calories and five burned more than 500.

And the calories don’t stop burning there. Exercisers who do the workout regularly will benefit from an “after burn” and continue burning calories for up to 24 hours post workout, co-owner Andrew Bishins said.

So what’s the secret behind all of this calorie burning? Two 26-minute interval sessions: One cardio and one strength focused.

“The key is interval based training,” Bishins explained. “You bring your heart rate up and down and then up and down again to maximize your time in the ‘orange zone.’”

The theory works, too. Dedicated exercisers can lose up to 6—8 pounds per week, he said.

The cardio session is the same everyday: three reps of intervals on the treadmill ranging from base pace, power pace (2-ish miles per hour faster) and sprint pace (2-ish miles per hour faster than power pace). You set your own pace, which I really liked because everyone got an equally good workout.

Runners run at power pace during the cardio portion of the workout.

As a runner, I set my base pace to a pretty quick start and picked it up from there. The woman a few stations down from me (who was doing a darn good job considering her repetitive disclosure that “it’s the first time I’ve worked out in 10 years”) set her pace a little slower. It’s not your speed that matters; it’s how hard you’re working. But plan to work hard. Remember, your heart rate is displayed on the screen so if you start to slack the trainer will yell at you to pick up the pace.

After the 26 minutes of cardio, the groups swapped and I headed to the strength circuit. Boy, was I in for a reality check. I consider myself a pretty badass runner, so I admittedly got a little cocky on the run. Strength training? Not so badass. Luckily, I was reviewing the class, so I was able to take a few “photo breaks” in between my pushups and lunges.

Like the cardio portion, the strength circuit was broken into three intervals that combined free weights, suspension training, lunges, and rowing machines. The trainer demonstrated the circuit, and then it was AMRAP (as many reps as possible) until the interval ended. She was still there to correct our form when we needed it, which was helpful for rowing machine newbs like me.

Now, we all know from experience that fitness classes are no universal fit. So for whom would I recommend this class? This class is best for exercisers looking to lose weight or just get back into shape. Since there are so many ways you’re held accountable (the heart rate monitor, the trainer, the other class members) you’re sure to get a good workout. You’d want to make this your primary workout, it’s not a class you just drop into every now and then. Your first class is free, so it’s worth checking out.

I’m personally not much of a gym rat, but if I had to choose a gym class, Orangetheory would be the one. As far as gyms go, orange is definitely the new black.