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First Workout Report: Orangetheory wants you to feel the afterburn

(Photo: Lisa Elaine Held for Well+Good)
Orangetheory Manhattan
(Photo: Lisa Elaine Held for Well+Good)

National workout franchise Orangetheory has officially landed in New York City for the first time, with its biggest studio to date now in soft-open mode on 23rd Street and an official opening date set for March 6.

And what will set it apart on the scene is its interval training approach that’s designed to maximize EPOC (the phenomenon many people refer to as “afterburn”) while still being accessible to an audience beyond hard-core fitness junkies.

So far, the approach seems to appeal to at least some New Yorkers. We stopped by for a test run (and row and lift), and while classes are currently only open to pre-sale members, the 5:15 p.m. class was nearly full.

Here’s what you need to know before you sign up to sweat.

Sweating in the zone

Class sequences, which are standardized at Orangetheory studios around the country, involve intervals on the treadmill (with a few spin bikes for those who have impact issues), on water rowers, and in what they refer to as the “weight room,” stations stocked with dumbbells, Bosus, and TRXs.

Everyone in class wears a heart-rate monitor and like at such studios as Drill Fitness and Bari, you’ll be able to watch it change throughout class as it moves through color-assigned heart-rate zones. Orange, which is between 84 and 90 percent of your maximum heart rate, (and sometimes red, which is above 90) is where instructors want you to be for as long as possible. It’s in that zone—above 84 percent of your maximum heart rate—that EPOC is maximized, the company says.

(Photo: Lisa Elaine Held for Well+Good)

Throughout class, instructors offer cues (especially on the treadmill) with options for all ability levels and coach you to check where your heart-rate is to determine if you need to speed up or slow down. After class, you get an email that shows how long you were in each zone and the estimated calories you burned during class.

Throughout, it feels tough, but not crazy tough. If you’re used to the interval training styles of Barry’s Bootcamp or The Fhitting Room, for example, it’ll feel dialed back in intensity (and if you’re scared of either of them after nearly throwing up in a class, that may be a good thing). Orangetheory even tells you the ideal number of times to come in per week is just three. “We don’t want you coming in every day. You need to recover,” our instructor, who was visiting from Orangetheory corporate, said. (You’ve got to appreciate the honesty in a brand that tells you not to buy a class.)

Orangetheory NYC
(Photo: Lisa Elaine Held for Well+Good)

The digs

Along those lines, Orangetheory has a definite corporate franchise feel instead of a sexy boutique brand one. The large workout studio has space for 34 people and is packed with rowers, treadmills, and strength training equipment, and the decor feels very gym-like (almost like a Crunch), with a ton of orange everywhere (duh).

The New York studio is also the brand’s first to have full locker rooms, but with just three showers in the women’s and very little additional space, getting ready for work could be a red-zone experience. Of course, not every customer is headed to a nine-to-five. “We’re a more family-oriented place,” explained super fit owner Jessica Kumari. “My mom does this workout.” And on the current Manhattan boutique fitness landscape, approachable is more rare than trendy. —Lisa Elaine Held

Orangetheory, $34 per class, 124 W. 23rd St., between Sixth and Seventh Aves., Chelsea, New York, NY, 10011, 646-588-0133,

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