I hate the gym. This is mostly my own fault. I have no idea what to do with most of the equipment, especially the daunting free weight area. I get bored easily, even with podcasts or music in my earbuds. And if I don't have some sort of external pressure on me to go—outside of the monthly fees—I won't. No personal trainer waiting to meet me there? No gym buddy to run on the treadmills with? I won't go.
But I'm also nearing 40 and finding that the downhill slide towards lethargic apathy and atrophied muscles happens a lot faster this side of 35. In short: After a brutal hiking trip to Big Bend, I discovered I was more out of shape than I'd realized—certainly less in shape than I was in my 20s, when I still visited my local Bally Total Fitness on a regular basis—and knew something had to change. But that Bally sucked, and anyway they've all gone out of business.
I certainly wasn't going to join a CrossFit box, and I wasn't interested in whatever Bally has become—see above re: gyms. I needed something that would offer a total body workout and cardio conditioning. And I didn't want to embark on a quest to learn some niche sport like Zumba or indoor rock climbing or aerial yoga or parkour. Wasn't there something normal for uncoordinated, lazy loafs like me?
Last December, my cousin convinced me to try his local Orangetheory Fitness studio and I was hooked—though not immediately. It took a month to overcome my deep-seated fear of free weights and loathing of rowing machines, but by the third month I knew I'd found something I could stick with when I realized with shock that I looked forward to getting up at 6 a.m. every other morning for class.
Below, the top 10 reasons Orangetheory works for me—and why it may work for you:
- It's easy to schedule. The handy Orangetheory app lets you sign up for sessions at the tap of a finger, and even lets you schedule multiple classes at once—if, say, you know that you absolutely want to go every day at 7 a.m. during the week, you champ you.
- It's easy to fit into your schedule. Each class is an hour long, and the studios usually host classes from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays, 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on weekends. You're in and out before you know what's happened.
- You're moving too quickly between stations to get bored. If you dislike long stretches on the treadmill, that's not a problem here. Orangetheory workouts are based around the concept of High Intensity Interval Training, which means a lot of switching between rowing machines, free weights, TRX straps, treadmills and other fitness equipment during each class.
- The workouts are easily modified for all fitness levels. Got a bum knee? Just starting your fitness journey? Prefer a stationary bike over a treadmill? No problem. Just tell your coach at the beginning of the workout, and they'll show you modified exercises and check in with you throughout the class. And if you aren't a runner, the power-walking workouts on the treadmills are—trust me—just as much of a butt-kicker, especially when those inclines are at 10 percent.
- It's great for competitive people. Everyone at Orangetheory wears a heart rate monitor that you can either rent or buy from your studio. The gym itself contains multiple TV screens that show your name, heart rate, "splat points" (which corresponds to the amount of time you spend working at 84 to 100 percent of your maximum heart rate) and calories burned, all according to your monitor. Whether you're trying to get the most splat points of anyone else in class or just beat your last calorie count, competitive types will find endless ways to use this to their advantage.
- It's great for non-competitive people. There are days when I don't even glimpse at those TV screens, because I'm not competitive. But I do like seeing when I'm at my max heart rate, so I know to ease off a little bit. Further, I enjoy the camaraderie of the studio, where high-fives are given in abundance and your coaches and classmates are supportive and encouraging above all else.
- It's great for social people. Group workouts are an easy way to make new friends, and each Orangetheory studio encourages this with happy hours, healthy weekend breakfast buffets, themed costume days, and more.
- It's great for non-social people. Because if you just want to come in, work out as hard as you can, and leave having never said a word to anyone, that's totally normal too. (That's also me on a lot of early mornings.)
- It teaches good gym etiquette. Didn't know you're supposed to rack your weights after using them? Don't know what you're doing with a certain piece of equipment and you're on the verge of breaking it? Don't know the right way to get on and off a treadmill? Don't know that you should always wipe down your equipment when you're finished? Don't know the proper form for push-ups, deadlifts or squats? Orangetheory will drill all of this and more into you, creating a thoughtful gym user out of what was once a hapless schlub.
- It tracks your progress for you. That Orangetheory app does more than schedule your classes; it also gets feedback from your heart rate monitor, sending you post-workout reports that track your progress by day, week and month. Tracking all that weight you lose, however? That's up to you.
You can always drop into an Orangetheory class for $28, but the studios also offer packages: Basic (four classes a month); Elite (eight a month); and Premier (unlimited). Prices for each package vary by studio. Additional classes can be added to the Basic and Elite packages at an extra cost, while family members can join for a reduced rate. Houston currently has 11 studios; find the one closest to you at orangetheoryhouston.com.