I first heard about Orange Theory in Southern California. After doing a little research, I discovered they were rapidly expanding across the country with over 250 locations! This group interval training class incorporates both treadmills and indoor rowing machines with strength training exercises, all while wearing heart rate monitors that display your heart rate and HR zone on a large screen for the duration of class. While visiting Miami last weekend, I was able to finally try it myself!

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Your first class is free, so I called up and made a reservation Saturday morning. The class was full but they told me to come in and would try to get me in. Once I arrived, the front deskers handed me a Polar chest strap to put around my torso. The instructor brought myself and the other first timers into the studio to show us how to use the treadmill and rowing machine.


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If you can’t tell by the pictures and name, Orange Theory is lit with orange light bulbs.

“The physiological theory behind the Orangetheory workout is known as “Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption,” or EPOC. By providing you with a heart rate monitor and POD, we can monitor your 5 zone interval training sessions that we call the Orange 60. During the 60 minute workout, you will perform multiple intervals designed to produce 12-20 minutes of training at 84% or higher of your maximum heart rate, which translates to Zones 4/5. This program design produces EPOC, which is the workout “after-burn” effect, meaning that our interval training design produces a 200-400 calorie increase to your metabolism 24-36 hours after your workout.

However, judging by the results of my class, I think it should be called, Green Theory since that was the zone most of us were in the majority of the time…


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The Class:

At the start, I was given a Polar sensor to attach to my chest strap. I started on the treadmill at a warm up pace. Half of the class was on the rower and half were on the treads. We all went at an easy pace for about 5 minutes mixing between a slow jog and fast run, alternating each minute. I felt like the treadmill was slower than the speed indicated but I liked the treadmill interface which made it easy to switch from a fast to slow speed with the touch of one button. I tried hard to get into the orange zone, but it just didn’t happen.

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After the warm up, the rowers went over to the free weight and bench area. My group moved to the rowers. We were told to row 400 meters as fast as we could, then hop up to our treadmill and run as far as we could with the time remaining in the five minute interval. 1…2…3… GO!

We did this interval four times, adding incline to the last couple of treadmill runs. The instructor gave out many different recommendations for speeds during the beginning of class for beginners which was good to see.

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Next, we swapped with the free weight area people. On the floor, we saw three moves up on a separate screen from our heart rates. They were simple and beginner friendly. We were told to do 15 reps of each move, and once we finished start from the top. We were aiming to get through between 2 and 4 sets. The first round exercises used a TRX and were a little beginner for my me. We had about 5 minutes per round. We had 4 different rounds featuring 3 different exercises. The exercises were always displayed on the screen except the last set which was helpful however I’m curious if the screen usually displays your heart rate which we couldn’t see during the workout. The moves hit most body parts and the last focused on core. We did exercises like bicep curls, reverse lunges, plank walk outs, and russian twists. At the end, our final calorie burn was displayed and a graph showing what zones we were in during our workout (image above).

What I liked:

  • The class has a nice learning curve. Beginners shouldn’t be intimidated. My instructor provided modifications where needed.
  • I really liked the music!
  • The instructor knew what he was talking about, looked VERY in shape and not bad to look at either. His name was Juan but is on the schedule as Juanster.
  • After class, my heart rate summary was emailed right to me for future tracking. It was fun to watch it during the rowing and running portion of class.
  • Moves were safe and effective, easy to learn. Directions were clear.

Areas I think they could improve on:

  • The instructor wasn’t very vocal about intervals, when to switch and when to stop. Kind of quiet and I didn’t feel inspired to push myself. I heard my instructor say start and then the encouragement stopped there. We were left to push ourselves while staring at our heart rate overhead. I would have liked more intervals on the treadmill with countdowns and all.
  • Kind of on the beginner side of things and neglected the more advanced clients, but this may be due to the demographic of Coral Gables, not necessarily the instructor. However, I do think it’s important to give advanced modifications as much as for beginners.
  • Pace of class felt slow. We moved slowly from one circuit to the next and had a lot of rest time in between.

The rower was hard for me but once I got on that treadmill, I couldn’t get fast enough to get my heart rate actually pumping hard despite running at 9 for 2.5 minutes. Their class recommends your sprint as being 2 points faster than a jog. I can sprint at a 12.5 but my jog max is a 7. I know Barry’s has conditioned me but I swear the tread was slower than what it read out. I ran at a 10 for a minute which I rarely do at home and finally saw my heart rate rise! I missed countdowns and motivation to run faster but it was also peacefull being able to go at my own pace.

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I was glad I ran into the founder of Rate Your Burn (who also gave me my first review – holy nerves knowing she was in class) last week to hear her thoughts on Orange Theory. While she has yet to take a class, she mentioned that she heard it was supposed to be more like a CrossFit hybrid which I hadn’t thought about! During the class, I kept comparing it to Barry’s Bootcamp but now I feel like I shouldn’t have. I have yet to experience a REAL CrossFit class because the ones I always take are 15 minutes of actual work and 45 minutes of stretching… but I can see how OTheory is like a mix between CrossFit and Bootcamp with Polar HR tracking.

You can read my Barry’s Bootcamp review here and my CrossFit review here.

I liked the class. I didn’t love it because I didn’t feel personally pushed enough on the treadmill or floor but with another instructor, location or class time, that might change.

They now have locations all over Massachusetts and soon in Back Bay. I’m looking forward to giving it another shot.

Have you been to Orange Theory yet? What did you think of the class, was it similar to mine?

Orange Theory Review

About The Author


  • Laura

    I have been doing orange theory for about 4 months, and am actually bummed that you didn’t love it. What I will say is that every class is totally different, and the intensity completely depends on the instructor. The format of your class is the most common format, but there is another where you do treads, rowing, and weights in a row and repeat 4 times. You might enjoy that pace a little bit more, but I always think the class flies by!

    • Sarah

      Have you tried a Barry’s Bootcamp class? I think the reason I wasn’t crazy about it was because I was comparing it the whole time in my head -- which I should not have done. I’m going to take another class and I think it totally depends on your instructor.

  • Ashley @ A Lady Goes West

    Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for this recap. There is an Orange Theory in San Francisco, where I live, and I’ve been wanting to try it. I teach Les Mills group fitness classes, so I have pretty high standards when it comes to coaching and instruction, as well as music. I hope to try Orange Theory out for myself, since it is a different concept. But yes, the instructor’s style is a huge deal to making or breaking an experience.


  • Joan

    Hi Sarah:

    Orange Theory has made its way into Canada where I live. St Albert, AB was the very FIRST one in Canada!!! Pretty cool. I joined opening night October 2012…..I am still a member, however I found that you can get bored of it very easily. I do mix it up with a home gym and weight lifting. You get used to each instructor and I found myself only going if my fav instructor was teaching. It is different every day and with every instructor, but I really LOVE the music and that I can work at my own pace. Push when I want to and compete against the other members,,,,,,I always try to beat the person next to me weither it be on the threadmill or rowing machine….I did find that I could make it into the orange on the ALL OUT pace…but the BASE PACE and the PUSH PACE, I was in the green zone. I think it is a great workout for beginner to advanced athletes as you can customize it to your needs. You can power walk with incline or run all out….the choice is yours. Thanks fore reviewing Sarah!!


  • Ryah

    It sounds like the OTF you went too was kind of slow pace wise. I’ve been going to an OTF in Newport Beach, CA for about six months now and I love it. (Sadly I have to cancel my membership because I’m moving, but I hear they’re opening an OTF in Long Beach, CA where I’m moving too soon.) That said the intensity totally depends on the instructor, but also you (how fast you’re willing to set your base/push/all out paces for that day, choosing heavier weights, etc.) How long were you in the orange zone for if you don’t mind me asking? The first time I went the format confused me, but after I understood it more I was always able to hit the orange zone for at least the recommended 12 minutes, usually more.

    • Sarah

      Yeah -- I totally get that which is why I tried to emphasize the fact that another visit was in the cards. I was in the orange zone for just 5 minutes 🙁 haha

  • Sarah

    Have you ever tried the Zone5 class at Beacon Hill Athletic Club? Sounds similar but I love it! It’s also a heart rate monitor class where you try to get in Zone5 (just like getting to orange) and they display heart rate and calories burned on the screen. It’s structured with 15 exercises: 4 cardio and 11 strength exercises. You do each exercise for 2 minutes then rest for one minute. The best part is the instructor shows you all the exercises at the beginning but then during the workout no two people are doing the same thing. It’s nice because you can really focus on yourself and not what other people are doing. I highly recommend it! It kicked my butt 🙂 I’ve never tried Barry’s but I really want to. These strength training / cardio classes are a lot of fun.

  • Steph Clark

    Hi Sarah,

    I love the idea of not having to do HIIT training alone, it can get a little boring! This class sounds perfect for me as I love a mixture of interval cardio and strength training, I would love to try it!

    Rowing and running are the two forms of cardio which I find most challenging and also that I feel get my heart rate up the most! Will definitely try a similar workout!

    Please check out my blog, I’m new to fitness blogging and would love to get your opinion!

  • Jenn

    I’ve been curious about Orange Theory also, because I too am ADDICTED to Barry’s! But I read about Orange theory being the new rage from Well & Good. I’m just wondering its as much “fun” as Barry’s … it does sound more like crossfit, which I’ve also started enjoying, but mostly because I like seeing my progression in strength, not because its as exhausting/exhilarating as Barry’s. I like that feeling at Barry’s that everyone is suffering together. With crossfit, as time passes, people are doing different things because they do their reps faster than others or run further faster during their WOD, which I don’t like as much as the Barry’s format. Besides, the 30 minutes of sprint intervals + 30 min weights at Barry’s just kills me, just a harder workout (more slimming!) than 20-40 min WODs.

  • Nena


    I actually tried the class for the first time last night, and I came across your review, in search of seeing what others thought about OT.

    Here is my review. Keep in mind that I have grown bored with the typical gym workout on my own.

    -Great Atmosphere
    -Great Music
    -My instructor was motivating and FUN. (She made me feel welcome, with calling my name and checking my #s.
    -Actually seeing my heart rate increase/decrease, since I have a phobia about my heart working too hard!
    -At your own pace
    -The report that is emailed shortly after you leave the studio.
    -I was able to stay focused and get a FULL workout, with no distractions, with my own music and checking my cell phone. (No need for it)

    -Price point, for 2 nights a week at $100 a month is over my fitness budget (Single mother, teacher salary).
    -I did not care for the orange/dim lighting.
    -The music was a little too for me, hence I am easily over stimulated.

  • Doris York

    I joined OTF when it opened in Mandarin, Jacksonville, last year. I started out once a week. I like that you make an appointment (accountability) and I like the fact that even if you go on the same day every week, the workouts are different. I’m older than most of the people in the classes I attend but I have no problem asking for modifications. Our instructor does not let us slack off but is positive in motivating us. My New Year’s resolution was to change my membership to twice a week. I have not missed any sessions, even while on vacation. I haven’t dropped the weight yet but I can definately see some toning going on. I imagine that when I get to my idea body weight, it may take longer to get in the Orange zone but for now it’s the best thing going for me.

  • Whitney

    Posting from Colorado, Denver a little late to your post, which I just happened upon….where we have great staff and tunes in several locations. I have been doing OT for two years and at any given time a workout can push me enough where I still get sore muscles…the workouts are always changing. At first though I felt I was out of shape, and I had trouble reaching orange until I actually took my resting heart rate first thing in the am per OT recommendation and they adjusted my info behind the scenes which corrected my percentages. (It’s based on averages normally) Plus we have that altitude on our side which demands more from your body of course, so after that I was on Orange from 8-20 min every time. My guess is that as you get in better condition small tweaks need to be made, and by your running speeds it seems you are already in great shape. Now they are moving to their own heart rate monitoring system which has a better formula for calculating calorie butn etc.
    As a mom of two kids it has been by far the best use of my limited time. And by going 3 times a week and eating paleo, during the first weight loss challenge offered I was able to lose 8lbs and 4% body fat in a six week period….with only 3 hours out my week!?! By far the best thing I’ve found, most bang for my buck for sure.

  • Karrie

    I loved the class. Loved the music. I felt like I didn’t get enough correction on the water rower.
    At the end of class I was told that I didn’t have a good pyramid and that was the goal. Apparently my heart rate was too high but I worked hard and I could easily say 3 words on my Max run. I run 1/2 marathons and teach dance 4 hours a day, 5 days a week on top of teaching fitness classes. I was compared to someone 2 times my size who didn’t work half as hard and was told that my pyramid needed to look more like hers. I wish I could have discussed he class a little more. Plan to go back though.

  • Kathy

    Beware they advertise cancel anytime. You have to give 30 days notice and go in the gym and fill out paperwork. Full of technology in the gym but I guess that is as far as it goes! Very unfair!

  • David

    Nice people local however it it just like another fitness center….. they sign you up and when you try and cancel they give you the run around…. I have tried to quit for the past three months and they keep charging my credit card. The say it’s “corporate”… I have tried several times and gone in in person and they refuse to issue a refund. I would not recommend them… beware….

  • Marika Olsen

    I read your review with interest. When you say that you were running at a 10, do you mean 10 mph or at a 6 minute per miles pace and only then did you get into the Orange Zone? If that is right, you are in incredible shape. That said, there is interesting research on heart rate and how recovery (how fast your heart beat comes back to normal) is a far better indicator of fitness than heart rate. 2 Olympic rowers who are equally fit can have very different heart rates depending on how their hearts work — one can get the necessary volume of blood moved by the heart having a 220 heart rate and the other can have a heart capable of pushing a high volume of blood which means the heart need only beat at 160 beats. So I think anyone who does this workout has to get smart and make lots of adjustments.

  • Patty

    I cant really figure out where I should be. I have done it twice. 31 splats first time and 46 the second. I found it challenging when I pushed myself to run at 9-9.5 (number) on he treadmill. I am a marathoner, 8 fulls and 13 halves and I am looking for a good cross training workout for my off season.

    I have done all kinds of HIIT workouts at gyms, and just comparing it to the intense ones at the Equinox, I don’t get the “I am gonna die.” Feeling, even with being in the orange and red for 46 minutes. I try to use heavier weights which pushes my heart rate up, but I finish the workout without feeling the complete exhaustion I experience with a speed workout, like 6x800 at 6:44, KWIM?

    I am undecided. I do like the sprinting.

  • Bov

    My experience is totall different. Both instructors I’ve had push and motivate. Treadmill speeds seem legit and I leave exhausted a d spent. It’s great. Never repeated a workout yet. I like it because I don’t want to have to create my own workout right now. I don’t want to think about anything. I want to go in, be coached / motivated for a hour and achieve my weight loss and fitness goals. I go in and don’t stop moving for an hour. It’s fantastic.

  • Deborah

    I’ve been doing it for about a month and it’s always plenty hard and plenty motivating. All the instructors are great where I live and they really dial in a hard workout. I don’t know if I’ve lost weight but I’ve definitely gotten more toned and I feel better about my body when I work out that hard every day.

  • Susan

    So I tried it today. I am in decent physical condition. I do crossfit 3x per week. That being said I am looking for more cardio this winter since it is 7 outside so running and walking are not options.
    I had a difficult time getting into the orange zone (only there for 12minutes) but I am wondering if it’s because I haven’t done it before? I said something to the instructor and his answer was that my heart is in such good shape that it makes it more difficult. I guess I can buy that. A real crossfit workout is sometimes what you describe above- my typical classes are 15 minutes stretching, a strength skill (be back press, dead lifts etc.) then a workout which can be anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes. It’s not interval training- it is ALL out for the duration of the workout. Just a different theory behind it as far as physical benefits go.

  • Carol

    I like orangetheory but they charge $10 if you forget your heart rate monitor. I have been a member for 3 years and thisis the first time that has ever happened. Never mind that you are pay about $150 per month and already bought a monitor for $100 -- it is all about the money. Very disappointing.

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