When OrangeTheory came out, it was wild. I had colleagues raving about the experience and telling me how amazing it was so having a bit of fitness budget from my company, I decided to sign up for classes right away.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with OrangeTheory, it’s based on this science of EPOC – Excess Post-Oxygen Consumption – if you fatigue yourself during exercise, you get an ‘afterburn’ effect that helps burn more calories up to 24 hours after the work out. At OrangeTheory, the exercises are generally based around high-intensity interval training and everyone has a heart monitor that tracks whether a person is in the blue zone (rest), green zone (light activity), orange zone (push zone) or red zone (all out). As you exercise, you watch your heart rate and try to get into the orange and red zone for at least 12 minutes. If you can do this, you will then have EPOC and therefore burn extra calories up to 24 hours after the activity.

The studios that I have been to, and I’ve been to a few in my city, are quite small but is packed with treadmills, a floor space and rowers – at maximum capacity, you could have 36 people (12 on the treadmill, 12 on the floor, 12 on the rowers) and then rotate every 3rd of an hour but in most cases, there are usually enough for two rotations (10 – 20 people).

Note that this post isn’t about promoting OrangeTheory although I think it is good – it’s more about how to get the most out of any work out and that applies to any fitness class, gym or self developed program you follow.

It’s not about speed – the only competition is with yourself

When I first came into the studio, I noticed a lot of participants with fitness levels way beyond where I was at. I’ll be honest, I wanted to push myself to be much better than them but in doing so, you may not get the best work out experience that you can. Competition can be good but competition is much better when you know yourself and how much you can push before you hurt yourself. After a while, I decided that it was pointless and that there were always going to be people with better fitness levels than me (my core and cardio are especially bad) and that the only person I should really be competing with is myself in previous work outs.

I don’t do this but I have seen others recording their workouts – reps, sets, what kind of workouts they did and I’m starting to think that this is a good idea because you can then measure your progress against yourself to see how well you are improving.

Cheating only hurts you

When on the floor, the coach / instructor will provide suggestions on what weights to use – often times heavier for men and lighter for women. I’m not completely new to resistance training or weight training exercises so I have a good idea of what my ‘comfort’ and ‘push’ weights are. It’s completely okay to start off with a lighter weight for exercises that you may not have done before or if you are not sure how much weight to use but staying at a lighter weight so that you can complete the exercise quickly only hurts you in the end. Sure you will be quicker than most of the class but you won’t get as many gains if you just used a weight that pushed you a bit.

Practice proper technique

When I’m working on the floor, I often see people ‘cheat’ a bit in their technique. Maybe they use the moment of their body to lift a weight or they are in a position where it is easier to do the exercise. Don’t make it easy on yourself – again, you are only hurting the gains you could get if you used proper technique. If the weight is too heavy for you and you find yourself not using proper technique than you’ll have to calm your ego a bit and use a lighter weight where you can use the proper technique. Proper technique is key here to get the maximum gains and to prevent injury.

Push yourself a bit harder than the class

When I’m on the treadmills, there are three different paces to use: base pace (or recovery), push pace and all out pace. The coach will tell you to switch between the different paces throughout the work out (i.e., similar to HIIT) and near the end of the treadmill phase, they will tell you to do an all out pace to really burn those calories. Once the all out ends, I’ll look at the time on the treadmill and try to get to the next ‘ten’ to end – that is, if the all out ends at 3 seconds, I’ll make sure to go for another 7 seconds before ending. It’s a bit of an extra work out but I figure all the small things add up over many, many work outs.

Have fun

Working out is great and I think if you are having fun at the same time, it makes working out much less tedious than what it could be. One of the great things about OrangeTheory (and I’m sure with other fitness studios and classes) is the community that is built around it. OT does a lot of charity events, dri-tris (which are dry triathlons), weight loss competitions, and more. I don’t participate in a lot of those events but I can see those that are dedicated and passionate about OrangeTheory really into those different events. For me, I don’t enjoy working out but I do really like the feeling of being exhausted the next day after a good work out (and I’m not sure you can get that without working out).

Have you tried out OrangeTheory? What fitness classes or studios do you participate in? How do you get the most out of your work out experience? Let me know in the comments – I read each and every comment.