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Orange you ready to work out? New exercise routine challenges you with real-time results

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2 Orangetheory Fitness Houston January 2014
Oufitted with heart monitors, exercisers can see how hard they're work out in real time. Photo courtesy of Orangetheory Fitness
Suspension Training at Orangetheory Fitness
The workout includes weight training exercises with suspension bands. Courtesy of Orangetheory Fitness
Participants training at Orangetheory Fitness
The session begins with interval training on the treadmill. Courtesy of Orangetheory Fitness
Personalized Training at Orangetheory Fitness
The workout ends with a few stretching exercises led by a group personal trainer. Courtesy of Orangetheory Fitness
2 Orangetheory Fitness Houston January 2014
Suspension Training at Orangetheory Fitness
Participants training at Orangetheory Fitness
Personalized Training at Orangetheory Fitness
Clifford Pugh newest column mug head shot

Orangetheory Fitness is new to Houston, so it seemed like the perfect workout to try out while the New Year resolution glow still remains. But I knew nothing about the workout before going in. Is it cardio? Strength training? Group class? Individualized instruction? (Hint: it's all the above.)

And, more importantly, what should I wear?

Orangetheory Fitness Explained

Orangetheory Fitness is a crisp, hour-long class that combines high-intensity interval training on treadmills and rowing machines followed by free weights and core-strengthening exercises using suspension straps under the supervision of a personal trainer. Classes are small — the one I participated in included only eight exercisers and the class is capped at 24 max.

Each participant is outfitted with a heart-rate monitor to maintain a target zone while exercising. The results are flashed on big-screen TVs in real time, so participants can see how many calories they are burning while they work out and what target levels they are achieving. 

Fitness levels

When done all-out, 900 calories can be burned per session with an extra calorie burn up of around 200 to 240 calories within 24 to 36 hours after each workout, according to the program's organizers. However, participants can go at their own pace. I have a bum knee, so the trainer instructed me to go at a fast walk during the treadmill portion, while the person next to me, who was much younger and fitter, went on an all-out run most of the time. I burned around 500 calories during the hour-long exercise, fewer than many others in the class.

However, the competitive spirit does kick in. At one point on the treadmill, when I saw that I was lagging behind in the number of calories burned, I picked up my pace a bit in order to score a respectable number on the screen.

Even though I teach strength-training classes at another gym, I found the strength training portion of the Orangetheory Fitness workout particularly challenging because I have never used suspension straps. For those unfamiliar with such rubber band devices, it will likely take a few classes to master the workout. But practice can make perfect.

Where to find it

The first Houston location of Orangetheory Fitness is located in a strip-shopping center on San Felipe near Voss. It's easy to spot due to the orange hue. The workout area isn't nearly as brightly colored, so it's OK to wear comfortable workout clothes of any shade.

Workouts constantly change to keep exercisers motivated. Sessions cost between $14 and $20 each, but the first class can be taken for free with a pass printed from the website. And specials, like this CultureMap Insider Offer, are available.

The benefit

Even before I got to my car, I received an email showing a brightly colored graph of my workout, which offered motivation to try again. The workout may be challenging for a beginner, but the group dynamic encourages participation at any level.

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