As a non-elite, busy working mother-of-three, when I first started running, my only goal was to find a convenient and easy way to get a workout in. Eventually, what started as a desire to be able to run five miles with no concern about my speed turned into a regular ritual that turned every day I ran into a good day. Now that I’ve gone from couch to marathon, for the first time, I find myself with the desire to get faster and stronger and see just how far this body can take me.
Being an avid running reader, I know that getting faster involves doing sprints, practicing hills, strengthening my core—all things that, left to my own devices, I will not practice. Initially, I thought about hiring a running coach, but as a regular 10-minute mile runner with a job and three kids, I’m not at the point of spending the money or the time on hiring a personal coach. I decided that before committing to a coach, I’d take at least 6 months to see how much I can improve my speed on my own. Enter Orange Theory Fitness.
Orangetheory is ‘the new black’ for me—and here’s a few reasons why:
Heart Rate Monitoring
When I run on my own, I get lost in my thoughts. I pay very little attention to how hard I’m working, what level of effort I’m putting in, or what my heart rate is. At OTF, my heart rate is being monitored all the time, and I can see what portion of the class I’m spending in the various heart rate zones. I know that the goal is to spend at least 12-20 minutes in the orange (84 percent or higher of maximal heart rate) zone, and knowing that makes me ensure that I’m working as hard as I can. At the end of class, I get a performance summary emailed to me, which lets me know how I did. I can follow my summary over time to see how my performance is improving, and let’s just admit that as much as we like to deny it, we runners are generally type A people who are all about the numbers.
I hate doing sprints and speed work. That’s the main reason I wanted to hire a running coach, so that I would have someone who would meet me at the track and make me get it done. At OTF, while you spend some time running at your base pace, every time you are on the treadmill, the trainer also has you do some sprint intervals at “push” and “all out” paces. Dreaded speed work is part of the package.
Hill repeats or speed work, which one do I hate more? Both are components in getting faster. Maybe where you live is hilly and all your outside runs are hill repeats, but not for me. At OTF, we often do intervals where we increase the treadmill incline by 2 percent per round. Mandatory hill workout is done.
It’s all about that CORE
To become a faster runner, you need to strengthen your core and not just your legs. You probably know by now that your core actually involves a lot of different muscles, and doing crunches is not going to exercise all of them. Many of us maybe be doing all variations of plank challenges at home, but probably at most a handful of us own any type of rowing machine. At OTF, every time you use the rowing machine properly, which they ensure you do, you engage your core.
Cross-Training and Strength-Training
Yet another activity I dislike. You may notice a pattern here: I just like to run. There is nothing more boring to me than lifting weights, whether I’m doing it at home with a DVD or improvising on my own while catching up on reality TV. Strengthening all your muscles is necessary not only for getting faster, but more importantly, for protecting yourself from injury. When do you use the muscles involved in lateral movements in running? But you need to make them strong to protect your knees. Then when the 1,000th non-runner asks you, “Aren’t you worried about your knees?” you can say, “No, I’m not, but maybe you should worry about your own knees.” At OTF, strength-training involves all different types of fast-pace routines using not just free weights, but also medicine balls and TRX. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have TRX equipment chained to my family room wall.
That could be enough said right there, but let me just add that they do actually walk around and make sure that you are doing all of the above correctly with good form. The last thing you want to do is use bad form in your attempt to strength train and cause injury rather than prevent it. I don’t know about you, but again, I’m not TRX certified, so I’m happy to call over said cute trainers for assistance anytime.
If you do have a running injury, then you can actually skip the treadmill and use a stationary bike or the elliptical to get in your cardio/endurance training.
Finally, if you do manage to push yourself and spend 12-20 minutes with your heart rate in the orange zone, then you continue to burn another possibly 150 calories or more after the class is over. With my extra calories, I either enjoy a nice glass of heart-healthy red wine that evening, or an ice-cold craft beer, which apparently may be the new preferred post-run drink for runners, but you can decide what to spend your 150+ after-burn calories on for yourself.
I’m fairly new to Orangetheory Fitness, but so far, I am loving it. The hour class challenges me every time, and the time there flies. We’ll see in a few months if I need that personal coach, or if I’ll just continue with wearing my new black.