21 Aug 2014
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Orangetheory Fitness Manages to Personalize Group Workouts

The personal training center is looking at a February 2014 opening on Central Street in Evanston.

Orangetheory Fitness Manages to Personalize Group Workouts
Written by by  Michael Sewall 

Orangetheory Fitness, which is opening at 2800 Central St. in Evanston this February, is probably unlike any gym you've seen. 

The rows of cardio and weight machines are traded out for a smaller group of treadmills and strength training stations. The televisions typically playing sports are gone, instead showing the heart rate of those working out. And instead of everyone isolating themselves with headphones, they all wear a heart rate monitor. 

"There is a level of intimidation when someone says strap on this heart rate monitor and let’s do this workout together," said Brad Ehrlich, the Illinois area developer for Orangetheory. "They feel their performance is going to be measured by how long or fast they can go. But workouts are designed to work out each person against their body, and it absolutely helps everyone understand their body better." 

Orangetheory members work out in groups of 24 people at most, splitting the time between a treadmill and strength training. The entire time, they're wearing a heart rate monitor, which displays the members' target heart rate and percentage of that target on big screen TVs throughout the gym. The goal at Orangetheory, and where the gym gets its namesake, is for everyone to spend 12 to 20 minutes in the Orange zone, or about 84 percent of that target. What that helps do is continue to burn more calories for 24 to 36 hours after a workout.  

Ehrlich, a Palos area native, opened the Naperville location in January 2013 and the Orland location in July. Gyms are coming soon in Evanston and Wheaton, and he said there are plans for many more to open in Illinois over the next year. Founded by the executives behind Massage Envy, Orangetheory now has more than 60 locations and another 200 planned to open. 

For what Orangetheory lacks in regard to the traditional thinking of gyms, it makes up for it in its style of workout. A personal trainer leads the small groups through the workout, directing them through a microphone, but will turn off the mic to give one-on-one advice to members. 

"We’re taking all the best aspects of having your own personal trainer and blending that with the value and the camaraderie that group trainings bring," Ehrlich said. "We know all of our members. Unlike the big gyms, when you scan your card and you’re just a number, when you walk into an Orangetheory you know everyone."

And the way the members can track their progress throughout the hour (and over the course of time, as Orangetheory maintains records of members' workouts) gives them an understanding of the workout they're getting. Tinley Park resident Paul Stratton has been coming for a few months after he couldn’t latch onto other gyms.

“I have never, ever liked going to a gym. I was bored by it,” he said. “I could play sports all day because there’s a score. And that’s the way I feel here, they track everything so I know how I’m doing.”

Stratton said it’s nice to work in small groups, too, because you get to know everyone. He even brought his co-workers by for a special group workout. Having the personalized guidance while working out with friends is a big benefit, Blue Island resident Blanca Delgado said. She's been coming to the Orland Park location since it opened, and recently invited her friend, Alsip resident Colleen McKeown, to join her. 

"They keep you moving," Delgado said of the trainers. "And it's never the same workout." 

Orangetheory understands the fatigue that can come with redundant workouts, so the strength training—which includes stations like abs, water rowing, squats and more—is always something unique. 

“People don’t know what they’ll be doing when they come here, so they can’t count themselves out,” Ehrlich said.

Learn more on the Orangetheory Fitness website

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