Studio Review: Orangetheory Fitness

I recently had the pleasure of trying out a new studio in Chicago – Orangetheory Fitness.


Now, Orangethoery isn’t a new workout – in fact, the phenomenon has been around for a few years already.  But it’s quickly making its mark in my fair city so I was excited to give it a whirl.

“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 to 20 minutes of training at 84% or higher of your maximum heart rate, which translates to Zones 4/5. This program design produces workout “afterburn” effect, which is an increased metabolic rate for 24 to 36 hours after the workout. When combining the amazing workout with EPOC, our clients burn an average of 500 to 1000 calories.”

When they reached out about trying a class, I knew I wanted to right away. HIIT workouts are my jam, after all. So I happily jumped on the bus one Friday morning to check it out!
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I was pleasantly greeted by the staff as soon as I walked through the door. Steven, one of their ambassadors, signed me in promptly and then came out from behind the desk to sit with me and discuss my fitness goals. I have never had anyone do that with me before, even at my favorite studios. It was so personal and welcoming.

My favorite part of the questionnaire was “One a scale from 1-10, 1 being you can’t walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded and 10 being you can run a half marathon, where would you say your fitness level is at?” I was amused by that question because I’ve made jokes that no matter my fitness level, I guarantee I will always get winded climbing a flight of stairs. I have no idea what’s wrong with me. So I played it safe and said 6 – didn’t want to head in there too confident, seeing as I had no clue what was in store for me.

The good people at Orangetheory recommend arriving 30 minutes early before your first session, and with good reason. After the questionnaire, I met Ryan, my instructor for the day, and he led me into the studio to take a look at and explain the equipment to me.  We worked through how to properly wear my heart rate monitor, how to use the water rower, what the different “zones” mean on the treadmill, and what the strength portion would look like.

Pretty soon the rest of the class began filtering in and we were off.

“The Orangetheory Fitness training session is comprised of three components: treadmill interval training blocks, indoor rowing and weight room or resistance training blocks. These Orange 60 sessions are open to all adults and teens, ages 16 and older. All fitness levels are welcome as our program is specifically designed for everyone from power walkers to elite performance athletes.”

Since it was a smaller-sized group, we all started on the rowers. Usually the class is divided in half, with half the class starting with a treadmill series and the rest doing rowers/strength. First we did a quick warm-up on the rowers (thank goodness Ryan had corrected my form earlier because I wouldn’t have known how to fluidly move on the rower without his instruction).  After the rowers we hit the floor for a TRX and free weights strength series. I very much appreciated that the room was full of TVs with someone simulating each exercise. I tend to zone out when I’m working out, so it’s always tough for me to remember exactly what I’m supposed to be doing and for how long. At other studios I always find myself looking at the board over and over again trying to refresh my memory, which probably wastes a decent amount of time, so I loved this about Orangetheory Fitness. We had six movements total, and the combinations made for a great overall workout. At the very end we did some core work (my nemesis) and even though I hated every minute of it, it definitely felt like the cherry on top of a very balanced fitness sundae.

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The second part of class consisted of 25 minutes on the treadmill. We started out at a “base pace” (mine was 6.0 aka 10 min miles) and then consistently did bursts of higher speeds throughout the time, all while on a 1.0 incline. At one point I was sprinting at 10.0 feeling like the roadrunner.


At the end of class I found out that the man on the treadmill next to me was John, the owner of the Wicker Park location (no pressure at all). We had a great talk about what makes Orangetheory special, and between that conversation, Steven at the front desk, and the instructors, I could definitely grasp that “family feel” that he was touting.

After my first two visits, my only gripe is that I had an issue with my heart rate monitor getting a continuous read. They recommend spraying it with a bit of water before you hook the monitor around your breast bone, and I most likely did it wrong. So besides the fact that the HR monitor just wasn’t having it, I’ll live. I’m fine working out without a heart rate monitor, but if I AM going to wear one, I want it to be accurate. After all, it is a noticeable piece of  equipment tightened around my body and not exactly the most comfortable. I also wasn’t totally sure how to get into the right “zones” and what exactly I should end with (in terms of that colorful bar graph on the TV), but I know that is something that comes with going to the classes more frequently.

My favorite part of the class? It was manageable. No, it wasn’t easy. But it was something I feel like I could do almost every day. I am lucky that I work for a company that pays for me to work out, but if I didn’t, I would be skeptical to invest my money in a single membership anywhere, especially at places that I didn’t feel like I could really commit to. But this was one of the most balanced workouts I have experienced in awhile and I will definitely be back. Cardio + strength combinations is where it’s at.


Orangetheory Fitness has multiple locations in Chicago, but I’ve only ever experienced the Wicker Park location. So if you want any more info about that particular studio, reach out to me and I’ll give you Steven’s number – we’re on a texting level now NBD.

Here is the list of all this state’s locations — they’re taking Illinois by STORM:



I’m always wary when prices aren’t directly listed on a site. I honestly think the prices of Chicago studios scare about 75% of people away which is why they encourage you to try the first class for free, talk it over with the staff and trainers, and figure out if it’s right for you. Bottom line, first class is free. Try it — no risk — and see if you get hooked.

And as always, if ANYONE is nervous about trying a new studio alone, please shoot me an email and I’d be more than happy to attend with you.


  • Orangetheory Fitness: yay, nay, or eh?
  • Favorite workout song now that gets you pumped up — go!


  1. I’ve heard so many people talk about Orangetheory, and I think that it sounds like a great option for people who want to learn more about how their body responds to workouts. I don’t think I could handle all the orange, though, haha

  2. I’ve been meaning to get over to my local OTF studio and give the class a try. I really am trying to keep strength training in my weekly routine, so I think this would be able to give me a cardio fix while fulfilling my strength requirement haha. Great review – thanks for sharing!!

  3. I didn’t realize there were so many Orangetheory locations in the city! I’m impressed with how much personalized attention they gave you. I feel like I got a pretty decent handle on the studio scene in Chicago when I did a month of ClassPass (I went to 20 different studios in that time), and I definitely never had anyone ask me those sorts of questions, demo how to use equipment that throughly, etc. Sounds awesome!

  4. This sounds like a great workout! There are a few in Maryland but nothing close to me (yet). Hoping to try it at some point!

  5. I’m not gonna lie… running is my first and only love. But that doesn’t mean that it’s for everyone, 100% of the time the way it is for yours truly. But this orange thing certainly sounds fascinating. I love how the machines are all orange. That just speaks to my artsy little self.

    1. That’s why I like Orangetheory and other workouts like it…because I love running but know I need strength training too. So anything that combines both is my jam. I’m never going to go to the gym and JUST life weights…no thank you

  6. We are getting an Orangetheory right across from my Pure Barre studio. I’m so excited to check it out, because I’ve heard all really great things.

  7. Hi there! I’m a coach at a new Orangetheory Fitness, and I love your review. Mostly because you felt the “personal touch” that we try to provide both at the front desk and in the workout room. Most people have a lot of trouble with the indoor water-rower at first, and it takes time to correct your form on that. Once you do — boy you feel it. You’ll see that workouts are different every single day at Orangetheory Fitness, so it will keep you guessing. With the heart-rate monitor, if you buy your own from OT, you’ll learn the best way to have it on your body. It goes under the bra and sometimes is best so the left on people. But nonetheless, it’s important to wear to check how you’re doing in the zones. Glad you enjoyed!! 🙂

  8. This sounds awesome! I’ll need to stalk the locations and look for something close 🙂 I have a love/hate relationship with rowing though… That stuff’s HARD.

  9. I might try Orangetheory if it was free or really discounted. I like my running and podcasts too much 🙂 The song that gets me pumped up in “Heartbreak Song” by Kelly Clarkson. Gotta love some girl power!

  10. I’d actually never heard of Orangetheory before you post but it sounds like an awesome experience! I like the idea of having TVs spread out that show the different moves because I’m the same way with zoning out during exercise, so the less thinking/remembering I have to do, the better.

  11. I LOVE Orangetheory!!! I’ve recently started it too and I had to keep doing it so I’ve got the basic membership. I love how time just seems to fly while doing the workout and afterwards I feel so strong (and SORE – but in a good way). Great review! 🙂

  12. I’ve seen so much about Orangetheory Fitness recently that I wish I had tried it out while we were in Houston! I’m sure there’s one relatively close to us now, I should look into it.

    As far as workout songs, Rachel Platten – Fight Song. Pretty sure I listened to it on repeat for all of mile 11 at my race last weekend 😉

  13. Thanks for this review!! I’m moving to Chicago in August (Bucktown actually!) so I was planning on giving this studio a try so it was great to find this. Do you recommend any other places in the area over OTF? I figured I’d give a couple a try before fully committing.

    1. Awesome! You’ll love this city it’s a fitness-lover’s dream! The only other two spots I’ve tried in Bucktown are Bucktown Crossfit and CorePower Yoga, both of which I love. Those three are so different though! Haha.

  14. I highly doubt Orangetheory Fitness studios have made it to Kuwait yet (boo), but this definitely has me wanting to look around & see if I’m wrong (fingers crossed!).

  15. Orangetheory sounds like so much fun!!!! I need to find out if they have it in Sydney. That is so funny about the stairs question- I was walking up this really steep hill near my house the other day and completely puffed and wondering what that was about haha. We can run miles and miles but apparently stairs and hills are different!
    Right now I am loving Eminem’s Phenomenal. Great for running! 🙂

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