Orangetheory Fitness for Runners

Orangetheory Fitness for Runners

**NOTE - while studios are likely closed across the country, you can follow along with their #OrangeTheoryAtHome online workouts.  

These are daily instagram videos that feature several workout circuits and demonstrations.  Plus, you don't need to be an OTF member or have any equipment! Visit their instagram here:


Orangetheory Fitness is a full-body, interval based workout class and a great option for runners in the winter off season as well as a solid complement to running in season to maintain strength and agility.

Marathon runner and Orangetheory Fitness member Jess Gillman uses the HIIT classes to maintain base fitness, incorporate strength training and as a fun and integral part of her preparation for the Boston Marathon.


Orangetheory Fitness is a one hour, HIIT, heart-rate based workout.

I have always had a love for HIIT workouts and cross-training, but I never really knew what love was until I started working out at Orangetheory Fitness three years ago.  Now I’m addicted!

The Orangetheory team pride themselves that the premise of their workouts stems from it being heart-rate-based training which helps drive and motivate your workouts. This is done by wearing a heart rate monitor that allows you to check in realtime to see what your heart rate is and quantify your training in numbers. These numbers can help guide your workouts and your goals for that session.

Speaking of goals for that session, most people are trying to achieve twelve or more “splat points” before the end of class. Splat points are the amount of minutes spent training in your body’s 85% or higher heart rate zone. Why twelve you ask?  Twelve splat points is twelve minutes spent in the orange and red zones combined which is said to increase excess post exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).  

This is the famous, “afterburn effect” which allows OrangeTheory participants to continue to burn calories for up to 24-36 hours after their initial workout.  'A comparison I like to use is when you are baking a cake, it still cooks for a short time after you pull it out of the oven,' Eli Ingram, coach and regional fitness director at Orangetheory Fitness, told SELF magazine. 'The body is the same.'


Orangetheory Fitness classes are usually split into two groups or Orange 60 as they call it, one starting on the treadmills and the other on the floor.  There are several different class formats offered, two groups, 3G, toronado and 90 minute workouts. But for the sake of ease and initial understanding, I will just focus on Orange 60.  

The floor section of the workout can include dumbbells, TRX straps, resistance bands, benches and occasionally ab-dollies and BOSU balls. The coach will demonstrate all the exercises and offer modifications in case anyone needs them.

For the treadmill portion, the coaches will be your guide to having a successful workout on the tread. They will help you establish your various paces and when to turn up or down the speed or incline.  Paces at Orangetheory vary for everyone and its important to listen to your body and monitor your heart-rate numbers throughout the workout.

At Orangetheory you can be a power-walker, jogger, or runner and there is a display on your treadmill which offers general guidelines for pacing. For example, runners set their base pace at 1% incline and 5.5 mph or higher for speed. A runner’s push pace is 1 to 2 mph faster than your base, and their all-out pace is 2 or more mph faster than your base.

Depending on the workout focus, the treadmill section might include a combination of all out sprints, hill climbs, or steady-state endurance running.

OTF heart rate zones


Orangetheory has three main focuses: endurance, strength and power.  On really special days, you get ESP or all these focuses in one class. With these in mind, the equipment, rep counts, duration on the rower and tread block cues used during class are based off of the workout focus for the day.

This is where I fall in love with Orangetheory; I never know what the focus will be that day in class and it is constantly switching which keeps you on your toes and keeps me coming back for more.

Strength days are focus on heavier weights, fewer reps and higher inclines. Endurance days are all about keeping you moving by suggesting lower weights, higher reps and longer efforts on the treadmill. Finally, Power days are all about improving agility and stability by providing little to no recovery on the treads and varying the interval speeds while having a mixture of lifts and exercises on the floor block.

orangetheory fitness studio sign


What makes Orangetheory stand out is how it engages its community on multiple different levels. From in-studio events to off-site workouts to running in the local 5K as an Orangetheory crew, the brand is all about creating a community that not only enjoys sweating together at the studio, but also hanging out together outside the studio.

Community is key for this group and it shows by their cult like following.  I can say that cause I have gulped the orange kool-aid and have loved every bit of it.

Others say that Orangetheory is successful because it stimulates its users on three main levels of the human condition.  According to an article in Inc. magazine those three conditions are, intellectual, physical and what I spoke to earlier, emotional.  'The experience is designed to engage brains, feelings, and bodies. Most fitness gyms accomplish only two of these three,' says Dave Schools of 'Orangetheory has a competitive advantage with the use of the heart-rate monitors and by using that data, one is constantly aware of their performance.'


The benefits for runners from HIIT and Orangetheory Fitness are strong in the off-season and during the season.

As a marathon runner, I first noticed that running felt less like a chore and more enjoyable due to the intervals and constant variation.  I was able to get my speed workout in one day and hill workouts in on others.  

The treadmills also help reduce joint stress by 40% compared to running on solid ground which means I was healthier going to the starting line of my marathons allowing me to run longer and stronger.

Runners can get stuck in a routine of just running to run, at Orangetheory it's impossible to do that! With the emphasis on cross-training you give your body a much-needed break from logging too many miles and instead activating muscles that will help you achieve your first 5K or marathon distance.


I am all about competition, with myself.  What drives me is how can I better previous performance and be my best in the moment.  The in-studio monitors showing perceived effort based off of the heart-rate monitors is one of the metrics I find the most useful. I find myself constantly checking in with myself and push or dial back accordingly.  This has helped me learn more about perceived efforts which has translated over to marathon pacing.

When it comes to mixing up the load on the body, I love the diversity of movements at Orangetheory Fitness classes. The classes are easy on my body after a season of running but on the same plain, I love working hard and they push me to my heart rate limits but I don't hurt the next day. It’s important for me to be able to recoup quickly so I can continue to log the running miles for Boston next season.


Jess Gilman is a runner with a speed problem. She is a three-time marathoner (3:11 PR) and a three time half-marathon runner (1:27 PR).  HIIT training has been an integral part of her training load and attributes her strength in running to the full body strength/cardio that Orangetheory Fitness has afforded her.

As a former division 1 college soccer player, she now leads social media and community partnerships at JackRabbit and is a professional mom of a lively three year old boy.  Say thanks on the JR social media channels to Jess keeping us all up to date on the pulse of running and training.

About Author

Melanie Mitchell

Transforming movement into adventure. Our Mission: To personalize the fit process, hand-pick the best products, and create unique experiences that grow active communities.

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