Ten years ago, I had my first baby. Ten. Years. And wait - get this - five years ago I had my last baby. So I have been more or less been sporting a dumpy mom bod for the past ten years, and I've had a solid five years to do something about it.
I have tried. You know, in the sort of way you try to not to binge watch the whole season of House of Cards in one week, but you know deep down it's going to happen anyway. I've gone on the odd diet, taken up jogging, tried online video workouts at home, and even joined a neighbourhood fitness support group. But I never really wanted it bad enough. I wanted to drop a few pounds to fit into my last pair of jeans. And once I did that, it was back to the same old bad habits: driving the kids around, spending hours a day in front of a computer, and drinking wine and snacking in front of the TV in the evenings.
Hot dang, Claire Underwood looks good in a pencil skirt. Pass the chips.
Then something clicked. I looked in the mirror and realized the body I saw isn't the body I need to have. I realized that there is no reason I can't be in incredible shape if I wanted to be. And, finally, I really, really wanted that.
So I was excited about the opportunity to partner with Orangetheory Fitness and YMC, and try out the group fitness studio class that is crazy popular in the States and relatively new to Canada. A 60-minute full-body, high-intensity workout that's science-based and incorporates wearable technology? SIGN. ME. UP.
After signing up, reality set in. Oh, no. What have I done? The truth is that after the excitement wore off, I was scared.
I probably hadn't exercised for a full hour since I was a teenager. What if I couldn't keep up? I pictured a class full of triathletes and fitness buffs in crop tops and short shorts. I would have to jiggle my way in and ask where they keep the three-pound weights. Oh man, what if I puked?
But I sucked it up and booked my first class. I'd committed, after all (both to my health and to writing this post for YMC.) And, honestly, going to that first class is the best thing I've done in years.
There were several of us trying out Orangetheory for the first time. There was a woman who just had her first baby three months ago. There was middle-aged woman who was starting to work out for the first time. There was another woman about my age who looked to be in pretty good shape. And, well, yeah, there was also a triathlete. Orangetheory Fitness is for everyone.
Us newbies arrived 30-minutes early to get an overview of how the classes and equipment work. The warm and friendly trainer explained that each 60-minute, full-body workout is broken into two halves. One half consists of strength training blocks using weights, TRX suspension bands, rowing machines, and other fun tools. The other half consists solely of high-intensity intervals on the treadmill. The kicker is that the entire time you are wearing a heart rate monitor and your heart rate is displayed on a screen so you can monitor exactly how hard you're working in real time throughout the session.
I'm surprised at just how much I love working out with a heart rate monitor. I swear I'll never go back. The "orange theory" is actually a science-based approach to exercise that pushes people to reap the benefits of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). (It's a legit thing! Look it up.) The idea is that if you work out hard enough to raise your heart rate to a target zone, you will boost your overall metabolism and your body will continue to burn more calories for up to 36 hours. Orangetheory colour codes five heart rate zones: grey is resting, blue is where you'll be during warm up, green is for moderate exercise, orange is your target, and red is when you're approaching your maximum recommended heart rate. For every minute you spend in the orange or red zones, you get a splat point. Splat points are good! You should aim to get between 12 and 20 every session.
Being able to track your heart rate throughout the workout is great for all kinds of reasons. If you are already in good shape, you have to work harder in order to hit those heart rate targets and this allows you to know if you are pushing yourself hard enough. If you're new to working out, you might be trying to ease into your workouts, but this will show you if you are going too easy. Or, if you are like me, you might be in pretty bad shape but think you are a superstar. So, in my case, the heart rate monitor shows me when I've been pushing myself way hard enough, thank you ma'am. When my heart rate ticks up into the red zone for too long it's my cue to bring down the intensity level a bit until my heart rate recovers and then push on again.
I must admit, I wasn't sure how a group class like this could be good for all fitness levels, but it truly is. The key is that while everybody is doing the "same" workout, we are all working at different paces and levels. During the strength-training blocks, a coach demonstrates each exercise and offers modifications for beginners or those who are injured or pregnant. ("Lady" knee push-ups, ftw! No shame.) Plus, there is a video playing that illustrates each exercise throughout the block, so you can make sure you've got it right. (Coaches are also amazing at offering tips to improve your form.) But it doesn't matter if you are slowly doing bicep curls with 8-pound weights or ripping through them with fifteen pounders. Everybody works at their own pace.
Ditto on the treadmill. You can decide if you are a power walker, jogger, or runner and then set a base pace for yourself that is comfortable. The coach will prompt you to complete "push" intervals that are somewhat faster or steeper and then bring you back down to "base." There are also a few "all out" intervals in which you give it all you have followed by a walking recovery. But even beyond that, you can adjust your speed and incline to find the groove that works best for you. Right now, I'm mostly a jogger, but I do some "base" intervals at a walk if I need to bring down my heart rate. I expect that will change over time.
That's the beauty. You will never outgrow this workout. The workout adapts to you! You won't get bored either, because it's a new and unique workout every single day. Orangetheory Fitness designs the workout in their head office and then sends it out to their studios. So every location is doing the same thing every day. (So you can message your friend across town to be all, "Omg, those power push ups. I almost died.")
As for me, I'm totally hooked. I actually look forward to working out. The hour flies by and I love walking out dripping with sweat. Who am I?! Even as I type this, I'm trying to figure out if I can get all my work done in time to catch the 12:15 class at the Parklawn location in Toronto. (Look for me there!) If the Parklawn location is not close by, there are currently 11 GTA studios and there will be another 10 added in 2017.
And as for my mom bod? It's already looking leaner and stronger after just a couple weeks. What's more, it feels stronger and I have more energy than I've had in years.