Review of OrangeTheory Fitness Gym

assessmentThis past week an OrangeTheory Fitness gym opened near where I live and my workout partner Michael decided to take a break from boxing class to try it out.  As is typical of most new gyms the owner offered a free class – and because the gym was not officially open, I took two free classes.

The workout, which I will describe below, is intense and well structured but at this point I am going to stick with my existing alternate day workout at LA Fitness and Delgado Boxing.  Here’s why:

The OrangeTheory workout was developed by a Florida based personal trainer and it consists of three components:

  • treadmill training
  • indoor rowing
  • weight training

Each of these segments is broken down into two or three minute blocks of varying intensity.  The treadmill part lasts 30 minutes and members alternate between a “base” pace, a “push” pace and a sprint pace.  Users have control of where they set their base pace – for example, I chose the middle track (“jogger”) and set my base pace at 3.5 mph, my push at 4.5 mph and my spring at 5.8 mph.

Users wear a heart rate monitor and a large overhead screen shows the training zone you are in – blue is very light, green is moderate, yellow is hard and orange is very hard.  These zones appear to be based on percentages of maximum heart rates for users based on weight and age.

The gym will email you a daily report meaning that you can track your improvement, which is a nice feature. [Read more…]

Why Calorie Counting Matters

I am not happy that calorie counting matters, but it really does.  Like many of my peers, I could stand to lose a few pounds.  In my teens and twenties, it was fairly easy to lose weight – just increase my physical activity and, presto, the weight would come off without any diet modification.

Sad to say, those days are over.   Even with 4 to 5 rigorous, 90 minute workouts a week, those excess pounds are very slow to come off.

Nutrition experts as well as physicians with whom I have discussed this are fairly blunt – you have to count calories.

What does this mean, in a practical sense?  In my case, I need about 2,750 calories a day to maintain my weight.   A vigorous workout burns around 800 calories, so I can consume around 3,500 calories a day and not gain any weight.  A pound is equal to 3,500 calories.    Assuming that 2 days a week, I consume 3,500 calories, I need to limit myself to 2800 calories a day for 5 days a week to drop a pound a week.

I can’t eat too few – or my body will go into starvation mode.

Recently, I started counting calories.   I made some surprising discoveries.

  • I enjoy popcorn and I use a Whirley-pop 6 quart popper that uses 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels and 3 to 4 tbsp of oil – 6 quarts = 1,536 calories
  • I enjoy French bread and butter or Smart Balance – my portion costs me between 1,200 and 1,500 calories
  • Pizza – 3 slices of cheese pizza – 500 calories
  • chicken breast (8 oz.) – 450 calories
  • rice (flavored) – my portion around 800 calories

In my case, portion size is the problem, as is speed of eating.   I am using the Calorie Count online service to track what I eat – we’ll see how it goes.

What is Your Favorite Protein Drink?

Most of the fitness blogs that I read strongly recommend that you consume protein immediately after your workout.  Working out with weights breaks down muscle fiber and consuming protein immediately after a hard weight lifting session will provide the body with what it needs to start the repair of those muscle fibers.

Protein also has a role in fat burning and weight loss.  Presumably any carbs in your system are burned for energy during your workout.  Post-workout protein goes to rebuild muscle.  Therefore your post-workout body with energized metabolic function will use stored fat for at least a few hours post workout.

For the past several months, I have been testing different protein drinks.  Right now, chocolate Muscle Milk is the most palatable, although it is a little high in calories.  Have you tried other protein drinks?  What do you like?

Weights Before Cardio or Cardio Before Weights?

Earlier this month, I had lunch with a knowledgeable personal trainer named Brian Johnston who raised a very interesting point with me about how I should structure my workout for maximum efficiency.  Brian argues that I can increase muscle mass and maximize fat burn by engaging in cardio exercise after weight training with kettlebells or other free weights.

As I understand Brian’s logic, weight training breaks down muscle fiber, thereby creating a need for a protein source to rebuild the muscle.  Cardio exercise, by contrast, draws on glucose or stored energy.

Brian suggests that after weight training I should immediately sip a high protein drink to feed stressed muscle tissue.  With the body supplied with protein, cardio exercise will tend to draw on glucose (if available) or on stored fat cells.

Michael Siegel suggests a further refinement of Brian’s technique as set out at the RealAge website – according to an article entitled "Give Your Workout a Break," the rate at which the body burns fuel can be enhanced by engaging in two 30 minute cardio sessions broken up by a 20 minute gap. 

Michael and I have implemented Brian’s tip about the order of our workout and about the use of a high protein drink immediately after the weight training.  I definitely feel less drained after a hard workout and I don’t tire as easily later in the day.  I suppose that I might also notice more weight loss if I stopped eating so much, but, after all, Rome was not built in a day.


Kettlebell Swing

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Kettlebell swing