Orangetheory and ME

November 5, 2017

I go to the gym almost every single day. Working out gives me the chance to listen to silly pop music and use the immaculate showers when  finished, (I live with two teenagers).

As you’ve probably guessed, I’m not  a gym rat. I’m as coordinated as a newborn giraffe. I carry baby weight 17 years after having the baby, and living with the teenager has probably added a late night when-the-hell-is-he-going-to-start-packing-for-college Breyer’s induced pounds. I wear glasses, my hair refuses to stay in one of those adorable high ponytails, and my torso, when tucked inside a yoga top, looks like a well stuffed sausage.

When a person acknowledges they go a health club to listen to Shakira and hit the steam room, it’s an indication this person should take their workout up a notch. When I received a chance to try out something new, I took the leap.

I was curious about Orangetheory, a fitness studio that opened a year ago in Quincy Center. There are about two hundred franchises nationwide, and the chain is growing rapidly.

Each gym is set up the same way, with treadmills along one side, a large area in the center for rowing machines, and an open space for strength training that includes TRX cords, free weights, and gravity balls. The colors are- you guessed it- tangerine orange, and slate grey.

Along the wall in the separate workout areas are flat television screens that flicker on when class begins. Every participant has their first name listed alphabetically on the screen in day glow letters. During the workout, people can track their heart rate and  see how they measure up because of a special Orangetheory heart rate monitor strapped on their arm. The studios are dark, and the music is loud.

I knew all this beforehand because I’d been peering thru their window for weeks, while sipping coffee from the cappuccino shop next door.

On the day of my visit, I went to the Friday afternoon 4:30 class. As soon as I opened the door, I was surrounded by three different employees.  All of them greeted me with the enthusiasm shown for adorable babies wearing cute hats and tiny little athletic shoes or socks with bunnies on them. They knew my name, were eager to answer all my questions and, four separate times, assured me I didn’t need to be nervous

This made me nervous. After they strapped the heart rate monitor onto my forearm and led me to the waiting area filled with female twenty something fitness models wearing perfect ponytails and shiny spandex and one very male body builder type, I was very nervous. Looking at the body builder helped a little.

My trainer decided I would start on the treadmills, and explained that even though most (all would have been the correct term) of the others were runners or joggers, power walking was fine. I walk fast, and I stroll, but I have never power walked.

Power walking was a thing in the eighties. Today there are occasional outbreaks at the mall before it opens because some brilliant activities director at an assisted living facility is nervous about residents wandering around the parking lots trying to get their steps while dodging cars, dogs, visitors, and wheelchairs. It came back yesterday to downtown Quincy, Massachusetts, thanks to me, because I only jog when I’m running outside to chase Sophie The Best Dog Ever, (obviously there might be a better dog that doesn’t slip out the door for a game of tag during rush hour,) find the newspaper, or realize someone is driving away with my phone.

Megan went over what my target numbers would be,and explained about the incline, monitor, and large tv screen where my name was right in between Jenna and Kylie. Somebody turned up the music, and I checked for the fourth time that I’d double knotted my sneakers.

During those twenty minutes on the treadmill, I worked really hard. When using the elliptical, I have access to the same data that flashed over my head at Orangetheory, heart rate, calories burned, and distance traveled. What made me work harder than I ever do at my gym- the data is posted in different colors, according to what your heart rate is. I really wanted to make my numbers RED.

I wanted to make my numbers red so much, I jogged. I even ran. It felt like running anyway.

After twenty minutes on the treadmill, we headed over to the water rowers. There is something significant about these rowers because they are powered by water, but they just seemed like nice looking rowers to me. Rowing is hard, but since I knew everyone could see exactly how much effort I was putting into it, I kept up. When I rowed, I rowed like I was actually trying to go somewhere. (I’ll remember that for next time.)

Because of my unique approach, the fact that it took me about two minutes to strap my feet into the pedals didn’t do too much damage. It only took me one minute to unstrap my feet out of the pedals because I was looking forward to the strength workout.

I’d had the chance to watch two groups rotate thru the exercises posted for us this part of the class, and felt pretty confident I could handle them. After all, I had jogged. I’d figured out the buckles on the rowing machine. I wasn’t wheezing, or asking someone to call my mom.

There are three different sets of exercises during the strength interval, designed to work most major muscle groups. The first set of exercises were one legged deadlifts, spiderman arms on the TRX, and pushups. It’s hard to do one legged deadlifts in a dark room with a Techno soundtrack, especially after running and rowing. I wobbled a bit, but didn’t fall down, so I’ll call that a win.

For the Spiderman arms, I had to position my body at a forty five degree angle, leaning backwards, while I clutched onto cables. I had to use my arms, like hinges, to pull my body up, one arm at a time. My moves were less Spiderman climbing a building and more clumsy person flails on resistance bands. But I flailed less with practice.

Finally, I made it to the pushups. I kept my back flat. My eyes faced the top of the mat. I didn’t bend my knees. I completed five of the best pushups ever before realizing everyone was back up doing the one legged dead lifts again.

At the end of the workout, everyone came together to stretch. I looked around the room, and realized that I hadn’t noticed anyone during my hour session, except so I could figure out what I was supposed to be doing. I  had run faster than I have ever run in my life. (As a child, my games of choice was not tag or soccer. They were backgammon and reading books; the latter isn’t a game and might explain a lot about my lack of coordination.)

The next day, they sent me a wrap up of my work out-

484 CALORIES BURNED
146 AVG HR
83 % AVG
29 SPLAT POINT

Am I a horrible person for pointing out the expected goal for a first time clients is around 12 Splat points and thatthe numbers are cut off, my Splat points were 29? Splat points refer to the amount of time spent in the red and orange zones, when the heart rate is elevated. Of course, my heart was racing! I ran, and I don’t run, I rowed, and I even ended the workout doing mountain climbers. (At my regular gym, I usually just hold a plank. Not a climber, either.)

At the end of the day, what I’m most proud of is that I took on something new, in a room full of people I didn’t know, and I did things I decided a long time ago I don’t do.

It’s really nice to surprise the world. It’s even better when one of my kids looks at me with respect and says ‘Mom, you’re doing such a great job.” But what I learned at Orangetheory is how wonderful it feels to surprise myself.

Next week, I’m going to try Acroyoga. I’ll let you know what happens.

Last week I wrote a piece about the places in my life that make me happy, that make me feel at home, and let me move thru them without stropping to try to remember where the bathroom is.

Right after I click publish, there is a brief period of post-post afterglow, (sometimes I think that brief period after I’ve put something out there for the “public”, when I’m just thrilled with the simple fact that once more- I found something to say- it’s bliss, it’s relief, and there’s a dash of excitement in the mix… What if nobody reads what I so carefully offered to them, what if there are better things out there on the interweb, and all of my readers finally found out about them! Oh sorry, that causes a mild blip of terror, the excitement sings when I think about what if someone new finds my words, and they work in publishing, or run the New Yorker, or are a big time Broadway producer who thinks so far out of the box she can imagine my musings as having the potential to make a wonderful musical. Off off Broadway. (As long as I got rid of my son, the snakes and the turtle, and at the beginning of the second act lose my husband for a while to a crack whore, later saved by my 9 year old daughter, who put on a show so Daddy could go to rehab.) You never know, I suppose, but for the record, I wouldn’t get rid of my son or the snakes, but the turtle, well, I would be open to a discussion.

Right after the brief period of post-post afterglow, I remembered what I forgot. Nowhere in musings did I mention one place that I have had a love affair with for years. So intense was this relationship, I went back to school so I could get a job to work at this place. It is the Quincy Y,a local branch of the South Shore Y.

We first joined when my daughter started attending preschool at their Early Childhood Education Center. We moved up to next level when she signed up for swim team, and I began to work out while she was at practice. I’ve never been a mom that could happily sit by any pool, even to watch her youngest swim laps for an hour. Pool sides are for when you are in St.Croix and I have a thick book and a really hot waiter that wants to bring me martinis. I am a kind person, if someone wants to bring me martinis, I accept them, with grace. Pool sides at the Quincy Y are places where I put my stuff before I go swimming. My daughter didn’t think it was a terrific idea for me to do laps with the team. And so…

I ventured to the world of strength training and cardio. Soon I flirted with the classes, found out I loved Zumba, and Body Pump and Definitions.

Katy left preschool, and I signed her up for a cheaper swim team in Dorchester, but I found myself spending more a time there.

Long story short, and I could essentially turn my slow journey into the world of the workout into a very, very long story, I decided to go to school to study Exercise Science, in hopes of one day working at this place that had become such an integral part of my life. I took the classes and got the job, and am proud to say I am an Ace Certified Personal Trainer working at the Quincy Y.

I’ve only been there about six months, but in that short span of time, I’ve made many friends. When I walk in that door, and glance at the woman at the front desk, I know her name. I know where the lost and found is, and that a pair of headphones wouldn’t be found there. They go in the drawer behind the desk. I know what to say to the six teenage boys sitting in a corner on Nautilus equipment, texting their friends and showing off their sneakers, I show them how to get to basketball court. In case they forgot since the last time I showed them yesterday.

But I hadn’t gone all the way, and it wasn’t that the Y didn’t make me feel welcome. So many of the trainers have become really good friends. And the members remember my name, even my name tag on order.

It’s this. I am a exercise science major. I passed my Ace exam and am a real, certified by the great people at Ace to train people.

And I’m not in amazing shape.

I work out every day. But this summer, I became a little obsessed with swimming and hiking. It has been… um… two months since I’ve lifted anything, other than my daughter off a wall. I thought about doing a plank when I was looking for my car keys under the sofa, but then I found them so I had to drive someone somewhere. But by the first week in September I knew it was time to get to the business of building the muscles, and I really do want muscles, I have wanted muscles long before Michelle Obama started wearing short sleeve shirts. So when fall came, I was happy. I knew that cold weather would soon send me inside to the elliptical, onto the sweet seat of the chest press and the assisted chin, and others.

And I would, with the help of my fellow trainers, build and lift and wave ropes around in the air until I finally got a body that looked like it belonged on a personal trainer. Since I am a personal trainer, this is probably a good idea. Swimming and hiking all the time count for something, but mostly they give you really bad hair, and an excellent cardiovascular system.

I knew once I had some muscles, the Y would be right up there with church,kids, woods and water as one of my homes away from home. And it would have to stay that way iif I wanted to keep all those muscles.

But two weeks ago, the Quincy Y succumbed to time, a water pipe exploded and the building shut for good. They are hoping to reopen the new facility the end of October, the beginning of November.

And so I’ve been missing it. I miss my friends, the seventy two difficult teenagers, and that feeling I’d get when Kim, my boss, 6’2″, told me she had something to talk to me about. I miss hearing Dani talk about Crossfit, and Angela telling enthusiastically showing off the bruises she’d gotten in kick boxing class with Mickey.

So tonight, I realized I have some work to do. I need to squat those squats and curl those hammers, I need to conquer the world of free weights, and work on my push
ups. I am going to ready when the new Y opens. I will be ripped, and taut, and strong. People will look at the new Y, and look at me, in my tank top, and they will wonder if I built it all by myself.

On opening day, when I walk in to our new state of the art facility, I will be worthy. And if I’m not quite there yet, I know I can count on a little help from my friends.