Every year, or maybe every month, there seems to be a new fitness craze.
Lately, we’ve noticed more and more gym rats are obsessed with high-intensity circuit workouts. Even those who compete in triathlons year round or run marathons in the summer have said that they often leave the workouts sore. It could be the spark leftover from New Year’s fitness goals, or maybe a sense of gym-fever brought on by this frigid winter, but people seemed to be hooked.
Curious as to what the hype was all about, Gazette reporters Indiana Nash and Kassie Parisi tried out two classes at two local gyms, Orangetheory Fitness in Clifton Park and VENT Fitness in Niskayuna.
There’s a line from “Liar, Liar,” when Jim Carrey says “I’m kicking my ass.”
That just about sums up my first class at Orangetheory Fitness. The fitness studio is centered on the idea that spending at least 12 minutes with a heart rate in what they call the “orange zone,” per workout helps burn more calories both during and up to 36 hours after the workout.
At first, I thought wearing a heart monitor for the entire class would get annoying, but I didn’t notice it after a few minutes. What I did notice was my heart rate up being tracked on the large screen at the front of the class. Every time I thought, “Maybe I’ll just slow down for a minute,” I would see my heart rate go plummet and it was a pretty good motivator to try harder to get it back up.
As the class was divided into two sections -- running and rowing/floor work -- there was plenty of variety. Each class is a bit different, depending on the trainer and the focus of the class, and our class was all about endurance. In between lunges, crunches and TRX band pull-ups, the instructor had us rowing 800 or 400 meters. On the treadmill, which I usually think of as the duller version of running outside, the pace and the incline changed every few minutes, so it was challenging but never more than I could handle.
The entire class felt very intentional. Tracking my “splat points” (or the minutes I was in the orange and red heart rate zones) was satisfying and let me know when I was actually working hard or when I was slacking.
As I entered the Orangetheory studio in Clifton Park, I knew there was a possibility that I had stumbled into something that would be over my head.
For me, in the beginning, at least, Orangetheory, gave off a vibe of being a professional gym. It markets itself as a high-intensity workout that anyone can participate in. The trainers were at a level of fitness that was almost scary to me, and the participants also seemed like they were no strangers to working out.
I truly didn’t believe I would be leaving Orangetheory alive.
But as I went through the hour-long workout, which consisted of running, rowing, and various strength and core exercises all done at timed intervals, I realized that our trainer was celebrating each personal success with us and that everyone in the class was there for their own reasons, not to judge anyone else.
The workout itself, while definitely challenging, was surprisingly accessible. I think it would be challenging to do the Orangetheory work without going to Orangetheory, since they’re meticulous in measuring your heart rate, and the driving force of the class comes from heart rate monitors that you have to purchase or rent from the company after your first class
In the end, I was sore for two entire days, but there was no doubt in my mind that I had gotten a great work out.
Orangetheory might not fit into your life if you’re just looking for a new workout for a day, but after just one class, it was obvious to me how the program, if done consistently, can become a huge component in living a healthy and active life.
When the trainer announced “You signed up for a boot camp and that’s what you’re going to get,” at the start of class I started to doubt whether or not this story was such a good idea.
Luckily, even though it was one of the most challenging workouts I’ve ever done, I came away glad to be trying the class out in the name of (sweaty) journalism.
The boot camp workout (called Train 60), is organized in a circuit with each exercise lasting 45 seconds. Nothing that only lasts 45 seconds can be that hard, right?
Wrong. Between box jumping, high knees, wall sprints, Bosu ball mountain climbers and supermans . . . 45 seconds seems like a long time by the end of the class. Plus, you have to do two sets at each station.
It probably sounds like you could do any of these exercises on your own and that might be true. However, I really don’t think I would have gotten even a fraction out of the workout without a trainer. Each time I wasn’t doing the exercise quite right, or every time I started to slow down, the trainer was right there to make me push ahead. You also wear a heart monitor during these classes, though it wasn’t necessarily the focus of the class.
By the end of the class, although my muscles were beginning to shake, I was surprised when it was over. It was almost like I got tunnel vision, only looking to where the next station was. Overall, I enjoyed the class, even if I was the toughest boot camp I’ve ever put myself through.
The word “boot camp” has always sent me running away as fast as possible. When I signed up to take a boot camp for this story, officially called
Train 60 at the Vent Fitness gym in Niskayuna, naturally, I was horrified.
The class lasted an hour and consisted of many different stations spread throughout the studio, each featuring two deceptively simple looking exercises. We did each exercise twice for 45 seconds.
Like the Orangetheory class, I found myself enjoying the boot camp as we neared the end. These were exercises that I could do on my own.
Where Orangetheory felt like a lifestyle choice, the boot camp felt like a class that anyone of any fitness level could drop into to break up the monotony of running on the treadmill every day. Having a trainer there to push me every time I wanted to give up was helpful and made the class go by quickly.
The one fear that I had during the boot camp that I didn’t have while doing Orangetheory was that so many exercises in a limited amount of time could lead to sloppiness or injury.
Our trainer emphasized that we should work at our own pace, which helped me to keep things in perspective. It was clear everyone was there to worry about doing their own best work.
As much as collapsing onto the floor as soon as the trainer turned around seemed like the right thing to do, his repeated call of “you signed up for a boot camp! Don’t cheat yourself!” really kept me going. It showed me that the true strength high-intensity classes lay in their ability to build a community, even if it’s just for one hour.