Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Fitness Science Project

One of my big initial attractions to Orangetheory, besides the novelty of running in a group class and the fact that it was clearly a REALLY good workout, was the fun of seeing my heart rate and calorie burn up on the big screen. Math and numbers and charts are my favorite things and combining them with exercise made me very happy.

I started going to barre about 3.5 years ago. I loved it immediately, got pregnant and disappeared for a while, and then came back with a vengeance at 6 weeks post-partum, attending class 5-6 days a week for nearly two years. I never had any real idea how many calories I was burning or what my heart rate was doing, I just knew I lost all the baby weight and dropped a pants size before coming back to work at 12 weeks and generally felt the healthiest and strongest I'd ever been. That was a very freeing thing- working out because it made me feel good- both the actual work out itself and the afterglow while shopping for new clothes. It's why I teach barre now- I truly love it and find it a powerful, beautiful, fun, seriously effective workout that I LOVE sharing with others while cheerfully yelling at them to do side planks.


also, the pants. I love the pants.

But numbers are fun. In Orangetheory you can rent a heart rate monitor for $5 a class or buy one for $59. Since I was hooked after one class and have a personal passion for charts, I decided to buy one, particularly after finding out I could use the monitor and their app to track my heart rate outside the studio. And so I've done precisely that, tracking my heart rate in every workout I've done for the last two weeks. I even accidentally ran the whole monitor and strap through the wash after a hot yoga session on Sunday and it kept on trucking. It knows it's doing this for SCIENCE.


And while the numbers aren't important and you should do things because they make you feel good, etc, etc, let's look at them anyway because I made a chart!


I learned that for a 60-minute workout, nothing is going to hit as hard as OTF. It's high intensity interval training and you run flat out in intervals for about 30 minutes and spend the other 30 doing cycles with heavy weights, TRX bands, and other strength work. I don't know that I could do it more than 2-3x a week, and you're missing out on the core work, stretching, and toning of all the supportive muscles that you get in barre, but it's definitely filled a cardio hole in my routine- look at all that time in the orange and red high HR zones! no other workout I do gets me there- and it's really fun. 


Orangetheory HIIT- 60 mins

(Note: the "zones" are based on percentages of your max heart rate: grey, blue, green, orange, then red. Orange is the goal at OTF and your heart is pumping pretty hard- 84% of your max- to get there. The "splat points" are the number of minutes you spent in orange or red.)

Luckily, for something I've been doing near daily for two years, barre is also a great workout! This was my chart as a student. It's nowhere near the high heart rate orange and red time as OTF, but still a great workout and since I remember that class vividly because of a seemingly endless series in chair pose at the barre, I know all my muscles were shaking- things were happening!- and I remember looking at my phone and being shocked my HR was still in blue. So it's a nice reminder that you don't have to be panting or have your heart pumping out of your chest to be building muscle, changing your body, and burning calories.


Barre student- 75 mins

All that said, WHOAH teaching is even better workout. I knew this because despite being in really good shape I nearly died the first time I taught- like heart exploding, lungs/throat closing, vision going dark, hmm I wonder if anyone in this class knows my emergency contact info kind of near dying. It's a whole new thing to do a class while narrating, explaining, and counting the entire time, all over the sound of your early 2000's club music. Man do I love it.


Barre teaching- 75 mins

Bikram yoga was a surprise to me. I go on Sunday mornings because it's my detox- my mental and physical challenge to stay in a 106 degree room for 80 minutes and move and meditate and wring everything out. I feel amazing when I leave and would continue regardless, but it was helpful to see that even if I eat nachos all week, I don't need to skip my sacred mat time in lieu of something more seemingly hard hitting and it's not just the heat that makes it feel intense.


Hot yoga- 80 mins

On Friday I joined a new yoga studio I'm a bit obsessed with (I'm a sucker for a new studio special- Core Power Yoga has one week free!), so my chart is unusually yoga heavy this week. A beautiful, fairly quick moving vinyasa flow looks like this:


Vinyasa yoga- 60 mins

So it's been super fun and maybe a little addicting to track my heart rate during my classes. Much like new pants, a new mat, or a new studio- anything novel that helps get you out the door is a good thing, and for the last two weeks, knowing I'd get to check my phone at the end and see my heart rate chart was highly motivating. 

And the results revealed what we already knew- all workouts are good workouts and the most important thing you can do is find something you enjoy and that you'll return to. That said, they do vary quite a lot in how much they work your hurt and get calories burning, so if your goal is to lose weight or improve cardiovascular health, you're going to want more cardio than barre or yoga can give you (unless maybe you're going to teach a class!). For me personally, the charts tell me that I'm definitely filling a cardio void with OTF. And my body tells me that OTF, for all its seductive big numbers and orange and red bars in the bar graph, doesn't give me the core and supporting muscle work I get in barre or the stretching, balance, and meditative work I get in yoga. It's all important and mixing it up keeps it fun.

And I love the pants and excuses to buy more of them. As part of my spring wardrobe update, I might have ordered all of these colorful capris. (They're buy one get one half off! and free shipping! what was I supposed to do?)


I'll take some back once they arrive, I promise

I'll probably stop recording my workouts, except for OTF and maybe when I teach barre, just because those are fun to see, but the novelty gave me a boost to do some extra classes over the last few days and I'm grateful for it. Just as I'm grateful that my one free week of unlimited yoga has me reconnecting to my mat in a way I hadn't in months. 

(For those interested in trying yoga- something I very highly recommend at any age or ability, I started my practice at home through some really wonderful (and free!) beginner classes on yogadownload.com. While I highly recommend a class because of the energy and invaluable instruction and corrections, I know I personally was too overwhelmed at the idea of being that out of my comfort zone in front of other people. Once I'd mastered the basics of the Sun A and Sun B flows and some other foundational moves alone in my TV room I felt more comfortable going to classes- and then once I started going, I realized I could have been doing that from day 1. There aren't many places more welcoming than a yoga class.)

(Also, my post about barre and why you should do it and what classes are like is here.)

So, that's more than you probably ever wanted to know about what my heart has been doing for the last 16 days, but if you wanted to know more, ask away!

16 comments:

  1. I love (LOOOOOOOOOVE) the graphs. You've officially sold me on OTF.

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    1. Yay! It's such a fun, tough workout. Let me know how it goes!

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  2. I'm curious how Orangetheory classes compare to the Insanity DVD workouts in terms of intensity.

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    1. I've never done the Insanity DVDs, but I talked to a friend who has and she thought it was similar in intensity except that Orangetheory gives you more cardio because of the 25 mins of treadmill intervals. She thought the weight circuits were comparable though.

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  3. I live in Lakeway and they're opening an OTF studio here in May. I'm going to try my first class next week at another location and I'm a little nervous. I do yoga, barre and outdoor running trails now (and am a former collegiate athlete, but that was 3 kids ago) but I still feel like I'm gonna get my butt kicked.

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    1. Yay! You'll be fine- one thing I enjoyed so much as a non-runner was getting to feel like a runner while running as part of a group. Also it's interval based- so you job in your "base pace" then do a segment of "push" and then occasionally and "all out," always returning back to your base. So I didn't run as far in 25 minutes as I might just going on the treadmill on my own, but it was WAY more fun and I actually got my heart rate higher and felt like I got more of a work out. And of course, you can go down to a walk any time you need or take a water break during the weights. With a barre, yoga, hiking background you'll have such a strong base!

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  4. Awesome!! I love OTF, too! Quick question though- how did you get your heart rate monitor to sync with your iPhone? Do you use a special app? I can't get mine to pair with my iPhone6, but I'd love to use it when I go running with the dog. Thanks! =)

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    1. Download the OTBeat app, click on Out of Studio workout, make sure Bluetooth is turned on your phone, and press the button to connect. I didn't have any trouble!

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  5. Love the graphs!! Since I know this would interest you, here's other info that makes this all the more intriguing. Both intensive cardio (or HIIT) and lifting weights is proven to increase something called EPOC. This basically means that, depending on how strenuous the workout, you will continue to burn even more calories in the 12-24 hrs after exercising than you would normally by just living your life as usual. It's got some sport-specific terminology, but this article here summarizes this all pretty well if you'd like to learn more: https://www.acefitness.org/blog/5008/7-things-to-know-about-excess-post-exercise-oxygen. And, whenever you're building muscle, that too amps up the calorie burn as your body repairs and strengthens while resting. I lift weights and do Crossfit, but I've tried barre, per your recommendation, and LOVED it. Sounds like OTF is an awesome activity in your rotation!! I really do need to give yoga a try...

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    1. I'd read about EPOC when I was researching Orangetheory! Thanks for the article- makes me feel like I can have a second margarita tomorrow after my OTF workout :). And yay, so glad you loved barre!!

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  6. Hi! This is kind of off topic from this post, but do you think you will ever go back to blogging about law? That was the reason I and probably many people got into the blog, and while I do love hearing about everything else going on, I miss hearing about the lawyer you. I follow quite a few mommy blogs, and this is an excellent mommy blog, but it was also an excellent law blog. This isn't criticism, just curious. Thanks!

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    1. Hi Sarah! Was it ever an excellent law blog? I always felt like an impostor calling it that because I pretty much never talked about law (or do you just mean working in law? work/life balance, days in the life, actual mentionings of what I do for a living?). This is also not a criticism of your comment, I'm just now curious- what do you miss?

      I'm going to address the content of what you're asking in a post I just started because I realized my reply got too long- it's basically a combination of my thoughts on blogging, the evolution of this blog, and my constantly evolving career plan. It appears they're all intertwined anyway and you gave me the perfect prompt to write about them all!

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    2. Hmm. I don't think of this blog as a mommy blog-- whatever that means since I don't read those. I do like reading about work life balance (your post 4 years ago on this was what got me here), exercise, books and food. Thank you for addressing at least three of these topics often and well. Sadly we do not have common book interests though I read as manically as you (just different taste).

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  7. Do you spin? I haven't tried OTF, but do spin. It seems like OTF may be more efficient than spinning. I need to look into it!

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    1. I do not spin. I tried once, 11 years ago, and it was the worst fitness experience of my life and the only time I have ever slunk out of a workout room before the group was finished. But I have a friend obsessed with SoulCycle and I'm wondering if I need to give it another try. But then I think, I have OTF and I love it and I burned 725 calories before work this morning and ran 3 miles and found it FUN, so maybe I'm good?

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    2. You have found your happy place. Spin can be a bit... manic and I don't think it would be any better than OTF (but I think I'll check out OTF to confirm). I'm spinning now because the studio is ridiculously close to my house. The less I have to drive the more likely I am show up!

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