OrangeTheory is the ultimate data-driven workout for fans of the quantified self

OrangeTheory is the ultimate data-driven workout for fans of the quantified self
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(Note: Our Workout Wednesday series is brought to you by OrthoCarolina who reminds you – cross training is important! Mix up your workouts to avoid injury… and have fun.)

I’m trying out a different workout class each week and reporting back for your entertainment every Wednesday. Homegrown fitness concepts all the way up to the big national franchises. Follow along here, browse our fitness archives for more, send class suggestions to


Name: OrangeTheory Fitness
Orange 60
 (1) Quail Corners, 8402 Park Road | (2) Arboretum, 8038 Providence Road | (3) South End (coming soon), 2317 South Boulevard | (4) University, 3016-B Prosperity Road | (5) Lake Norman, 20619 Torrence Chapel Road, Cornelius
Class schedule: see schedule here
Class duration: 1 hour
Drop-in rate: free first class
Monthly membership: Membership options and pricing vary by location. Basic 4 sessions/month, Elite 8 sessions/month, Premier Unlimited sessions (see memberships here)
Pros: Data-driven feedback. Varying intensity levels to accommodate a range of fitness abilities. Runs like clockwork (literally, with a timer).
Cons: Minimal one-on-one instructor interaction. Class moves very quickly so it can be tough to catch up if you’re lost.

orangetheory charlotte


How to dress and what to bring

You’ll move from the treadmill to the rower to strength equipment (including TRX bands, Bosu balls and free weights) so wear clothing that works for all of that movement. My black spandex ninja uniform did the trick once again. Bring water and a small hand towel because you’ll sweat. Guests will receive a heart rate monitor to borrow. Members should already have their own HR monitors (so don’t forget to bring it!).

orangetheory charlotte

What to expect in class

If you’re coming to your first class, plan to arrive 20 minutes early to get a tour of the space and an overview of the workout.

Start by putting on your heart rate monitor. This should strap on under your clothes and across your chest. (Don’t worry, they’re thoroughly cleaned after each class.) Situate the plastic piece in the center of your chest just below your sternum. For women, it should fall just below the bra line.

orangetheory charlotte

Each class is different but will consist of some combination of treadmill, water rower and strength circuits.

On the rower: You’ll be instructed to row a certain distance in a recommended amount of time.

orangetheory charlotte

On the treadmill: You’ll see a card on the display panel that shows the recommended Base, Push and All Out intensity levels for power walkers, joggers and runners. Decide if you plan to run, jog or walk and then follow the instructor’s cues to up the intensity accordingly.

In the strength area: The instructor will demo a series of moves using different equipment and cue a number of reps for you to complete. Forgot how to do it? The whole thing is also displayed on the monitor to help guide you.

Throughout class, you’ll be able to follow your stats on the monitors and adjust your intensity level to land in the ideal heart rate zone.

orangetheory charlotte

Where you’ll feel it the next day

Let’s see… My arms hurt from rows and curls on the TRX bands. And my quads are on fire, probably from the treadmill sprints.

Locker room situation

There is no locker room but they’ve got two showers, two restrooms and a wall of cubbies for your personal belongings.

orangetheory charlotte

orangetheory charlotte

orangetheory charlotte

My take

Completely obsessed. I would have enjoyed this workout on its own – heart-pumping treadmill sprints, full-body rowing bursts, muscle-burning strength circuits – but the addition of immediate feedback from the heart rate monitor really took it (and my motivation) to the next level.

orangetheory charlotte

I’ve written before about my frustration with “perceived level of exertion” in fitness classes. Am I at 80% right now? 60%? Do I even know what my 100% is? Hell if I know. But you know who definitely knows (give or take a reasonable margin of error)? That little heart rate monitor.

If you’re a fan of the “quantified self” phenomenon – tracking your every move (steps, sleep, calories) throughout the day – this workout is for you. The monitors will show you your heart rate, calorie burn, color-coded exertion zones (based on heart rate) and this thing called “splat points.” It’ll fire up the competitor in you, whether you’re competing against yourself or the entire class.

OrangeTheory looks like an incredibly challenging class to teach. Instructors have to basically be in three places at once, cueing everything at staggered times. This challenge is a testament to their ability to command a room but it also makes it really difficult to provide one-on-one assistance.

Overall, this is definitely a workout I would love to do on the regular. The new South End location will be opening in April.

Connect with OrangeTheory

(Each location has its own social accounts so I’m linking to corporate)


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