About a month ago after becoming a complete victim to strategic product placement I found myself attending my first Orangetheory class. Yes, I signed up for Orangetheory thanks to Queer Eye…and I’m fairly certain I’m not the only one. But I will say that it’s turned out to be the perfect workout for hiking training.
Season 3 episode 3 plopped into my world at the exact moment I was really struggling with doing formal gym type workouts (as opposed to the hiking I love doing). Gyms are sad, and full of meatheads and sometimes smelly people…and sometimes I’m the smelly person, hence I don’t want to go. BUT Catherine and I are hiking the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim this summer so there is also this voice in my head saying, “you better do some hiking training…because it’s a LONG haul outta that canyon!”.
And so I found myself standing in an orange and white Apple store, talking to a Ken doll (yes, he was that shiny and taught skinned, it was mesmerizing) waiting to go into a darkened room with orange mood lighting. This scenario might sound a little scary, but trust me, it’s not. Orangetheory is a VERY approachable workout for people at any level. Read more to find out what to expect and the ins and outs of the workout.
What to Expect at an Orangetheory Class
Every Orangetheory has three stations; treadmills (which I dread), rowing machines and a weight room. Every workout will have different exercises, but they will all utilize high intensity interval training (HIIT). Basically they get your heart working hard, then give you a period of rest, then you work hard again. In my experience you won’t find annoying coaches, people yelling at you or making false promises that it’s your “last one”. Orangetheory is a lot like group training. You get great instructions, some gentle nudges when you need them and an experienced coach guiding you along the way.
Orangetheory Heart Rate Zones
Without getting too technical, Orangetheory uses 5 heart rate zones to get your body working at the right intensity. The science behind this workout is based on EPOC, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Basically this means that you work at a high intensity during your workout, causing your body to lose oxygen. Once you finish your workout your body continues working hard to recover that lost oxygen, causing you to continue to burn calories long after you walk out of the studio.
As you progress through the workout you will spend some time in each zone. You will have a warmup to get your heart going and slowly build up intensity until you are in the uncomfortable “Orange Zone”.
What is the Orange Zone?
Staying in the Orange Zone is what will really help you with hiking training. So what is the Orange Zone? This number will be different based on your level of fitness, but basically it’s 84-91% of your max heart rate. Think of it as your uncomfortable zone. It’s that point where you’re hiking and can’t really talk to the person beside you. The goal of Orangetheory is to get you to this point for at least 12 minutes during your workout.
To add some fun (and take you back to your Nickelodeon days) they give you one “Splat Point” for every minute you are in the Orange Zone. I find this hilarious, and yet I am a total sucker and watch the screens to make sure my Splat Points are adding up to at least 12 per workout.
The Heart Rate Monitor
So how are they keeping track of all this heart rate information? The answer is simple. They strap a heart rate monitor on you. Your stats show up on screens inside the workout room which sounds scary, but honestly nobody’s paying attention to anyone but themselves. The real value in this is that you get to see which heart rate zone you’re in and see how many Splat Points you’ve earned during the workout. At the end of a workout you get an email with a report that you can use to track your progress over time.
Don’t Fear the Treadmill
For me, a fat bodied, running-hating person the treadmill was the scariest part of this whole endeavor. To be clear the only instance where you will EVER find me running is when there is imminent danger. I do not run for fun.
Enter the treadmill interval card. This was my favorite part of the pre-workout sch-peal. For the treadmill sections they give you three options; power walkers, joggers and runners. This is why I believe Orangetheory is truly for anyone, no matter what their fitness level is. This is also the reason I think it’s a great workout when you’re training for hiking.
As you can see in the chart below you can adjust your speed to increase your heart rate OR you can increase your incline. As someone who is only just coming back to this type of training I spend most of my workouts at 3.7-4.0mph and then adjust the incline according to what the Orangetheory coach says. My heart is doing some serious work and I’m increasing my stamina for the climbs I’m planning to do in my future hikes. I love that this part of the workout is so approachable for any fitness level.
Rowing Machines & the Weight Room
Aside from the treadmill you will also take turns on the rowing machines and in the weight room. I’ve always been a fan of the rowing machine. It’s one of those machines that’s deceptively easy until you make the effort to ramp up your intensity. I love that it incorporates your core and arms while taking some pressure off your knees. Honestly it’s one of my favorite parts of the workout. Like the treadmills, you will use varied intensity to keep your heart working at different rates during the rowing stations. Often there is a weight lifting component included in this station as well where you hop off the rower and do a minute of lifting before returning to the rower.
During the weight room station you will have several exercises that will be demoed by your coach. He or she will also give you modifications in order to make exercises more accessible. Don’t be afraid to do the modifications! I do them all the time. And if you need help your coach is around to correct form or give you additional modifications. I love that this workout has lots of different exercises. I’ve gone to Orangetheory for a little over a month and every workout has been different.
5 Reasons Orangetheory is a Great Way to Train for Hiking
- It’s a great weekday workout if you can’t get out on the trail until the weekend.
- The treadmill stations let you really work on incline walking.
- The rowers help build core and arm strength without added pressure on your knees.
- The coaches aren’t annoying and give just the right amount of encouragement.
- The weight room component helps strengthen your muscles and prepare you for backpacking.
Honestly I could go on way more about this workout. One month in and I’ve already found it’s made a big difference on my strength and stamina. It’s a really well rounded workout. If you have any particular questions or want additional information drop a comment or question below.