Do you ever find yourself wishing that there was a way in which you could push every part of your body – including your metabolism – to its most productive limit in under 60 minutes? Be patient, fitness seeker; the answer is almost here.
If you've never heard of Orangetheory – which has a following that rivals that of SoulCycle and CrossFit, not to mention a lingo all of its own – you are about to. The fitness class, which was voted the best one-hour workout by both The New York Times and Men's Journal, is scheduled to open in Times Square Centre Dubai on June 1. Orangetheory will offer the city one of the hottest, fastest growing exercise regimes in the world, reaching 900 studios in 16 countries since launching in 2010. That works out to more locations opened in eight years than Gold's Gym, which has been around since 1965.
Essentially, Orangetheory is a high-intensity interval-training class that combines free-weight training and rowing intervals with cardio – via treadmill, bike or strider – and promises to burn anywhere from 500 to 1,000 calories in one hour. For the uninitiated, Orangetheory employs its own language: words and phrases such as “push pace”, “base” and “all-outs”. Those who teach it are coaches (not instructors), and the sessions are chances (not classes).
At the core of the method is the Beat, or the Orangetheory heart rate monitor, hearkening back to a time when hitting target heart rate zones was a key fitness principle. There are five colour-coded zones from grey to red – the gym gets its name from the optimal orange, which represents 84 to 91 per cent of maximum heart rate – and trained coaches who guide participants on how to move from one zone to the next.
"The great thing about Orangetheory Fitness is that your results [are displayed] in real time on our large studio TV screens for you and your coach to see," explains Salem bin Dasmal, chief executive of Orangetheory Fitness Dubai. "This way they make sure you don't overwork or underwork yourself. By doing this, we can help your strength, endurance and power over time."
There's also a lot of emphasis on the afterburn, or the "orange effect", achieved after maintaining a heart rate of 84 to 91 per cent for more than 12 minutes, when "your body is working harder to recover", he explains. That boosts fat- and calorie-burning for up to 36 hours, by at least 15 to 20 per cent over a typical day, resulting in increased energy, and visible toning and weight loss.
Not everyone loves it, of course. In a piece published on Refinery29 in 2015, writer Kelsey Miller hated the loud music and criticised a coach after she was “gently scolded” for the green heart rate performance she turned in due to a “twangy” knee. Miller spoke to a client at one studio that provided a big cash prize for quick weight loss – who quickly gained most of those kilograms back – and referenced a woman who wrote about being welcomed back to her workouts only days after tearing a calf muscle.
Yet, most of the feedback on the web is positive, with members around the world taking to social media to post #orangetheory before and after photos, recount how the classes helped them lose weight and inches, boost tone, increase balance, deal with body-image issues, make friends and positive life changes – and even get off antidepressants. As St Louis, Missouri-based Orangetheory coach Tim Brown told the website PopSugar: "I've heard people laugh and say it's like a cult because our members are always talking about Orangetheory, because here, they have found a home in a gym where no one judges them, staff and members cheer them on in their success, and friends are made beyond social status or where you went to school."
The Dubai studio will join one in Kuwait, with other Gulf states due to follow. Although prices in Dubai may vary, memberships in the United States range from US $59 for four classes up to $159 (from Dh215 to Dh585) for unlimited classes per month.
Launched by Ellen Latham in 2010, the Boca Raton-Florida-based Orangetheory topped last year’s list of the fastest growing woman-owned businesses in the US released by the Women Presidents’ Organisation. Like so many success stories, however, before the founder would land on a winning formula, she would first hit a low, one that has been recounted repeatedly in business magazine profiles. After the single mother of a 9-year-old lost her job at the age of 40, she drew on something her father taught her when she was young. When facing trying times, the gym teacher and football coach encouraged his players to focus on their strengths. And so with a master’s degree in physiology, a certification to teach Pilates and years of experience managing spas and gyms, she did exactly that.
"You could fall apart, decide to give up, just go find a job – any job," Latham, now 61, told the Miami New Times late last year. "But I wanted to stay in what I'm passionate about, the fitness industry." She started teaching Pilates from her home, going on to open a studio. She soon realised that the sessions weren't offering any metabolic benefits, which meant that to lose weight, her clients also had to do cardio workouts. What ultimately led to Orangetheory was her desire to create one workout that does absolutely everything. A second aspect is allowing clients to designate themselves as walkers, joggers or runners before each class begins.
"I also wanted a workout that wasn't just for the 10 per cent of fit people who attend group-fitness classes," she told Huffington Post. "I wanted a workout that the maybe not-as-conditioned people didn't feel scared to attend."
Orangetheory Fitness will open on June 1 at the Times Square Centre, Dubai. Follow @otfdubai on Instagram or Orangetheory Fitness Dubai on Facebook for more information