Back to Navigation

Personalized Max Heart Rate, What It Means and How it Helps You Achieve More Life

By Rachelle Reed, PhD

As a science-backed brand, Orangetheory is constantly evolving to make the workout experience more personalized and effective.

Orangetheory workouts are based on heart rate-based interval training. More specifically, the workouts are designed to elicit fluctuations in both heart rate (HR) and intensity, and those fluctuations are known as intervals.

While challenging yourself during a workout is important for results and progression, you also want to ensure that you are allowing your body proper time to recover between higher intensity efforts. This fluctuation between higher and lower intensity efforts is the premise of interval training on our treadmills and rowers, allowing you to challenge yourself more during the Push and All Out moments.

We express your relative intensity using HR training zones; these zones give you real-time feedback on how hard your heart is working during the workout. To make your HR zones as personal as possible, we base your zone distribution on something called “maximal heart rate” (aka MHR, or the highest number of beats per minute your heart can perform). The zones categories are a percentage range based upon your MHR and help you make the most of your workouts. 

The more accurate your MHR is in the OTbeat system, the better your member experience. So while you get stronger, we get smarter.

Here’s how it works: At first, we use a standard equation that plugs your age into a formula to estimate your MHR. After taking 20 classes in 120 days, our personalized OTF algorithm adjusts your MHR to more accurately reflect your in-studio performance. From there, your MHR will adjust as needed with every class you take under the orange lights.

Accurate HR zones are important because they help you work at the right intensity.  Let’s take a moment to analyze what each zone means:

  • Gray Zone (50-60% MHR) – This is your very light activity zone, which you may experience as you walk into the studio and prepare for your workout. All movement, even very light activity, can have some positive health benefits.
  • Blue Zone (61-70% MHR) – This is your “slowly start jogging, power walking, or rowing zone.” This zone safely elevates your heart rate, systolic blood pressure, and body temperature, preparing you for the higher intensities to come.
  • Green Zone (71-83% MHR) – This zone is achieved with Base Pace and active recovery between intervals. The intensity is challenging but could be continued for 20-30 minutes. The goal is to spend 25-35 minutes of an Orange60 workout in this zone.
  • Orange Zone (84-91% MHR) – This is the most important zone in the Orangetheory workout and is achieved with Push pace. Our Orange60 interval training workouts are designed for you to spend 12-20 minutes in the orange and red zones combined. Spending time in this zone with interval training has been linked to improvements in both metabolism and cardiorespiratory health.
  • Red Zone (92-100% MHR) – This is the highest zone you might achieve when you empty your tank with an All-Out effort. You do not need to reach this zone to experience maximum results. If you do reach this zone, you will only want to be here for 30-60 seconds at a time, before returning to the Orange or Green zones.

Whether you’ve participated in one class or 100 classes, know that Orangetheory is always striving to find ways to give you more life.

“Participating in at least 2 OTF classes per week can help you meet or exceed the dose of physical activity that's linked to many health benefits, including lower likelihood of type 2 diabetes and hypertension, improved mood and sleep, and improved quality of life,” says Orangetheory’s Senior Director of Health Science & Research, Dr. Rachelle Reed.

And, as an Orangetheory member, you should recognize that HR zones provide a great way to estimate exercise intensity and thus improve your fitness — OTF’s core mission from Day One. Dr. Reed explains that the color-coded HR zones “provide quick visual cues for members during class. This, paired with the inspiration and instructions from our coaches, helps members get a very personalized workout within a group setting. Research suggests that moderate and vigorous intensity exercise is key for certain health and fitness adaptations, and our Fitness team programs workouts with that in mind."

Each minute spent in the Red or Orange HR zones, where the heart is working at its highest intensities, equals one Splat Point – OTF’s signature metric. The goal for each workout is to achieve 12-20 Splat points; training in the Orange and Red zones to accumulate as many Splat points as possible is not the goal.

"Staying in the Orange and Red zones for the bulk of the workout indicates you are likely performing steady state vigorous intensity training, rather than the interval training our workouts are designed around. This may be a sign for you to lower your paces or effort levels, and to allow yourself to adequately recover when needed," says Dr. Reed.

When you have the overwhelming urge to push yourself to the extreme, listen to your own body – and your HR data – to tell you when that push is OK, and when you should scale back a bit.

In your workout summary after class, you’ll see a visual of time spent in each HR training zone. If you can keep your Splat point total close to the 12-20 range, you’ll see a pyramid-shaped output, like the one here, where the Green Zone (or your base pace on the treadmills) captures the largest proportion of your time.

Your heart is literally at the center of everything we do. So, if you’re not currently monitoring your HR during class, what are you waiting for? Take advantage of our proprietary OTbeat™ heart rate monitor to get more personalized results.