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Are those glowy orange fitness studios all over the city worth the hype?
I think most Vancouverites have at least seen an Orangetheory (there’s locations in Kits, Mount Pleasant and downtown), and at the most basic level, know that it’s a cult-fave fitness studio. That’s because—much like Crossfit—people who go to Orangetheory love to tell you that they go to Orangetheory. They’ll tell you how many classes they’ve been to this month. They’ll tell you the cardio challenge they’re currently tackling. They’ll wax poetic about whatever the hell “splat points” are.
So I probably don’t need to make any jokes about how Orangetheory sounds like an Emily Carr PhD thesis, a fruit-based Floridian cult or fan fiction about that one nervous-looking M&M. Even before I took my first class in preparation for writing this Vanmag story, I knew what Orangetheory was. Or, at least, I thought I did.
Confession time! I thought Orangetheory got its name from the tangerine-y lights throughout the studio. I thought that, similar to red light therapy, the orange glow was meant to have some kind of health benefit. The delightful Orangetheory intake gal at the Kitsilano studio gently corrected me: those orange lights are for vibes only.
The “0range theory” itself is a based on the studio’s heart-rate-based interval training. You wear a heart-rate monitor around your arm that keeps track of your personal sick beat, and different heart rates fall into different zones. In order from lowest to highest, there’s grey (resting), blue (easy), green (challenging), orange (uncomfortable) and red (all out).
The goal of the one-hour workout is to spend at least 12 minutes in the orange or red zones (big reveal: Orangetheory is named after the orange zone).
A splat point is Orangetheory’s very millennial startup-y way of saying “one minute spent in the orange or red zone.” Is the title a little bit dumb? Perhaps. Did I get positively addicted to splat points during the one hour I spent at Orangetheory? Absolutely.
Orangetheory is a circuit-based workout, so you can start anywhere in the circuit. My workout started with rowing, then went into strength training and finished with cardio. There was one instructor and about 12 people in my class, so four of us were at one station at any given time.
Once I strapped into my stationary chariot, I noticed the rowing machines have actual water in the front part, resulting in a very satisfying swishy sound—it’s not quite enough to make you forget that you’re in an end-times-looking orange inferno, but it’s something. A screen on the right side of the machine keeps track of your pace.
Because my Orangetheory instructor was coaching everyone at once, it was helpful to have the row workout displayed on a whiteboard. I’m not much of a rower IRL, and found this workout very doable as a beginner. This was also when I started noticing that getting splat points was making me feel freaking amazing. Uh oh.
Next for me was strength training—this part of the workout went by the fastest, but also got me the least Splat Points (which makes sense—your heart rate isn’t as high when you’re lifting weights as it is when you’re running or rowing). The strength training workout was displayed on a screen, and the instructor came around to offer gentle corrections or expert advice.
To me, for example, the gentle correction was “I think you can use heavier weights” and the advice was “See?” I was stronger than I thought I would be. A good feeling, but not as good of a feeling as getting splat points.
Ah, my time to shine. As a former competitive soccer player who only really learned how to exercise by running around, the treadmill is where I usually shine—and the somehow-bouncy treadmills that Orangetheory has are awesome. I’m realizing now that I only took a photo before I started, but you’re going to have to believe me.
Also: when I got on the treadmill, it automatically connected to my heart rate monitor and knew who I was. Very cool. I loved running on this treadmill, and got the majority of my splat points in the last minutes of the workout.
How did I know how many splat points I got? Everyone’s progress is recorded in real time on a screen. It’s large enough that you can see what you’re doing—and if you’re nosey, check on your fellow splatters—but not so large that it feels like you’re on display. Because I’m criminally competitive, even at things that I barely know how to do (my new year’s resolution should be to address that), I spent a lot of time looking at the screen. Which is probably not what you’re supposed to do.
I’d love to say that I had a head-down workout where I only focused on self-improvement and getting my sweat on, but in reality, I had constructed a high-stakes contest and was hellbent on “beating” a stranger named Ian, whose face I never determined but whose name was next to mine on the display.
I didn’t beat Ian, but I did get 24 splat points. Not bad.
Orangetheory pricing varies from studio to studio. Classes can go from $12 each to $49 each, depending on which option you go for. As is true with all fitness studios, the more you go, the cheaper each class is. At the Kitsilano location, the “Basic” plan is $119 per month and includes four classes per month (so they’re each about $30). The $219 monthly plan has unlimited classes. Math time: you’d have to take more than three classes per week for this to be cheaper than the mid-level plan.
No workout is for everyone, but I can say with confidence that this workout was for me. Despite my M&M jokes and how cringey the idea of splat points initially was, I did have a really good time at my Orangetheory class, and my competitive nature, while not necessarily healthy, does lend itself well to this sort of workout. I would absolutely go back. I’m bleeding orange now. I’m sold on the splat.