HIIT Me Baby, One More Time: Orangetheory Fitness Opens in Tokyo
You have to try it.
Last month, we wrote about Orangetheory Fitness' second studio opening in Japan this coming December. If you don't remember, here's a link to the article. One of the fastest-growing boutique fitness franchises, Orangetheory Fitness boasts about 800 studios across nearly 15 countries. The first Orangetheory studio in Japan opened in Yokohama in late 2016.
Orangetheory Azabujuban officially opened on the 1st of December - this is the first time they'll be in our neck of the woods in downtown Tokyo. So to that, we want to give Orangetheory Fitness a big "Welcome to Tokyo!".
Recently, they let us sneak in our first ever Orangetheory Fitness class at their brand spankin' new studio in Juban. We sent our off-season triathlete Faith, for a trial class at 0715 on a Tuesday morning.
Read on to learn about her experience - and why you have to try it!
A Secret Admirer from Afar
I've heard of and seen so much on Instagram about Orangetheory Fitness from several friends back in the US. Earlier this year, Orangetheory opened two studios in Singapore - but then I moved to Tokyo without having had the chance to trial a class. Though I was aware of the studio in Yokohama, that was a bit too far for me and I'm a lazy millenial female, so I put that thought away and promptly forgot about Orangetheory.
Well that is, until I learned that Orangetheory would be opening a studio in Azabujuban.
A Triathlete Meets Orangetheory
I'm first and foremost, a triathlete. I may be a little softer around the edges than I was earlier this year, but I maintain a strong base and keep myself fit year-round. That said, my last race was at the end of August and even though I know the importance of taking advantage of the off-season to "mix things up" and introduce a broader variety of cross-training, this hasn't actually happened IRL.
I'm also a certified TRX instructor and before triathlon, I used to spend a lot of time in the gym. Orangetheory has been on my radar for literally, years - and it totally lived up to its hype! I'd been dying to try it out because the workouts incorporate so much of what I used to do at the gym before turning my focus to triathlon - Bosu, TRX, weights, erg (rowing machine), speed and incline intervals on a treadmill, etc. What's more, I knew I would be able to push myself more in a class setting than I would by myself in the same amount of time. For me, I can't think of a better cross-training experience than spending just an hour doing exercises I'm familiar with, while also not having to think of sequences and timing.
Halp...What am I Doing?
Okay, first, don't show up last minute like I did. Before each workout, the Orangetheory coaches will brief everyone about the type of workout (Endurance, Strength or Power) to expect and answer any questions. For the uninitiated, it's a valuable review of the upcoming workout that'll prevent you from bumbling around the studio like a lost puppy. I quickly changed in the locker room, grabbed my HRM at the reception, and followed the rest of the class into the studio.
Every class is split up in two - one group starts on the treadmill, the other on weights and the erg. Since I came late, I wasn't sure where to start, but they put me on an empty erg and I started rowing. Each treadmill, erg, and weight station has a number - you'll have been assigned a number and throughout the class, you'll use only the machines or weights that correspond to your number. This was probably all explained in the pre-class briefing that I missed and I only caught on to the numbering system later when a coach took pity on my apparent confusion.
BRING THIS TO THE STUDIO
change of clothes
Reps, Sets, and Blocks
I started on the erg and rowed for a few minutes as a warm-up before jumping over to the back of the studio to start a series of circuit exercises. A TV monitor displays one block of 3-5 different strength exercises in motion, the number of reps for each exercise, and the recommended number of sets within the block's time limit (usually 5 to 8 minutes). Once the time is up for a block, the coach demonstrates the next block of exercises. I have the memory of a goldfish, so it was nice to have the TV to refer to as I moved through each exercise. Every now and then a coach came by to fix my form or give an encouraging smile - Orangetheory is definitely not a shouty drill sergeant, bootcamp type of environment.
We did 3 blocks of 3-5 strength exercises, which means at least 9 different exercises working every part of your body using everything from weights, TRX bands, Bosu balls, and the erg, as well as body weight. I felt myself activating muscles I rarely use in triathlon and I became very aware of my woeful lack of cross-training beyond swim/bike/run. It's not so important during strength training but at this studio, the HRM monitor display is by the treadmills (where you'll usually earn the most "splat points") and erg, so when you're doing the strength training circuits in the back part of the studio, you won't be able to see your heart rate.
Treadmillin': Base, Push, and All Out
After about half an hour, we took a quick break to hydrate and shuffle around the studio. Now on a treadmill, I was happy to start moving my legs - running is my happy place and I was ready to crush the second half of the workout. Ultimately, it devastated my legs and made me walk like a crippled giraffe for the next few days but I LOVE the intensity of treadmill intervals. I find it challenging to push myself through this kind of work alone so it was great to have the coach's instructions and really just focus on my own movements rather than watching the clock or thinking about the next interval.
On the treadmill, the coach will call out one of three cues: "base pace," "push," and "all out." There are handy notes on each treadmill indicating what each pace should entail in terms of speed and incline. The coach had us running primarily between the base and push pace, with a few all out sprints sprinkled in. I chose to run on the treadmill but you're free to set your own pace and walk or jog. Those going at lesser speeds are instructed to set their inclines higher than those moving at higher speeds.
Heart Rate Zones, Splat Points, and the After Burn
If you don't usually workout with a HRM, the treadmill portion of the workout will show you what your body can handle, or when you're reaching your physical limit. It's hard to argue with a heart rate monitor and the big screen displaying your heart rate, percentage of your maximum heart rate, calories burned, and "splat points". Being able to see those numbers quantify my workout in real time (without having to stare at my Garmin) was seriously motivating!
At Orangetheory, heart rate levels are represented by colors and you earn a "splat point" for every minute you spend in the orange or red zone. The orange and red "after burn" zones occur when your heart rate reaches 84% or higher of your max heart rate, allowing you to burn an expected average of 15 to 20% more calories above your standard resting calorie burn for up to 36 hours. Basically, you get a point for every minute of bustin' your tail!
Being able to see those numbers quantify my workout in real time was seriously motivating!
My performance summary - I will have to work harder next time!
OMG...Let's Do It Again
At around the 55 minute mark, we stopped what we were doing and gathered for some light stretches. While leading the cool-down, the coaches said a few words about our efforts as displayed on the TV monitor. No need to try and remember the numbers; Orangetheory will directly email a performance summary from your workout post-session - you've probably seen your friends' humble-brag and post it on Instagram.
Having caught my breath and sneaking horrified glances at my sweaty self in the mirrors, I returned my HRM, slowly moseyed on to the locker room, took a hot shower, and got dressed for the office. In the locker rooms, there are lockers, a small vanity area, and fully equipped showers (5 for women, 4 for men) - all you really need after your workout is a towel and a change of clothes. After class, I was lollygagging a little bit and took my time to get ready for the rest of the day, but I can't tell you how kick ass I felt being able to get such a great workout in and still be at the office by 0900.
Bottom line, I fell in love with Orangetheory. The HIIT-style classes are intense and it would be a great addition to my workout routine - I would love to return to Orangetheory! Unfortunately, I'm not paid well enough to afford the membership fees. I actually wish the studio had open gym hours because they literally have all I need in a gym, but that's not an option. Even if you don't live in downtown Tokyo, Orangetheory Fitness intends to open several more studios across Japan over the next several years...when that happens, we highly recommend taking advantage of the free trial class (for newbies only) and getting your butt kicked at Orangetheory!
Try Orangetheory Fitness
If you've never been a member of Orangetheory, you're entitled to one free trial class at an Orangetheory studio.
- Call your Orangetheory Fitness studio of choice to schedule your trial class
- Show up at least half an hour before class
- Check-in at the reception and change in the locker room
- Put on heart rate monitor (HRM) and receive a briefing from the Orangetheory coach
- Work up a sweat for 55 minutes
- Return HRM, shower and/or change in the locker room
- Burn an expected average of 15 to 20% more calories above the standard resting calorie burn for up to 36 hours.