Some of the scariest nights on the Orangetheory calendar come in late October.
That’s typically when, as the air turns crisper and studio decorations turn more ominous, members know to expect that each workout will be more daunting — and each accomplishment more satisfying — than the last.
Hell Week, now in its eighth year, has kicked the butts of anyone brave enough to try it and tough enough to survive it. It’s pushed members to trust that their bodies are more capable than they realize, that they’re ready to run faster and lift heavier than ever before.
The Halloween-themed event, as terrifying as it is ultimately gratifying, has tested willpower, determination, discipline and endurance.
“Everyone loves a good challenge and enjoys the push they get every single day,” said Kati Milam, Head Coach at both Franklin and Murfreesboro, Tennessee, studios. “But that extra little bit of discomfort, that extra little challenge behind a week’s worth of tougher workouts gets people fired up. It’s definitely fun … It’s not over the top for anyone, by any means.”
There’s also, of course, more at stake than bragging rights for members who complete five workouts in eight days.
Those who prove they’re up to the challenge and not the least bit intimidated by the higher-intensity routines are rewarded with a sought-after, limited-edition T-shirt or tank to add to their growing collection.
“After the first year, when [members] started telling their friends about how much more challenging the workouts were, and people saw the shirts and saw the pride on people’s faces for completing the workouts, I think that made them jealous,” said Caleb Barnes, Head Coach at Wesley Chapel, Florida. “It makes you want to do it when you see your friends rocking it … It’s so cool seeing longtime members rocking their [past] Hell Week shirts and still proud of them to this day.”
But there’s something different this year, a glitch in the Hell Week Matrix, if you will, that all members will be tasked with decoding.
Spooky ghouls and evil demons are no longer haunting OTF studios. This year, Hell Week has been taken over by computer hackers, who will give the event a whole new identity.
With a few strokes of the keyboard, a flash drive and a deceptive phishing scheme, they’ve infiltrated the Hell Week database, locking up past workout files and replacing them with fully encrypted new ones.
So those nightmare-inducing, horror-movie-themed routines members loved to loathe for seven years? They’ve been shut down and locked behind a firewall.
For anyone daring enough to take a crack at the new routines and stand up to the anonymous cyberattackers, you’ve been warned: There will be hell to pay.
Worst of all, the workout names are cloaked in secrecy, as are the identities of the hackers lurking in the shadows. There might be supersized rowing blocks on Day 1, or perhaps the source code calls for sprints clocked 2 mph over your Base Pace. The security breach might mean that on another morning members will advance through relentless repetitions of upper- and lower-body exercises, with countless sets of bicep curls, push-ups and jump lunges.
You may even encounter mysterious bonus exercises sprinkled throughout the week or discover moves you’ve never heard of uploaded to the Hell Week servers.
There’s no way to know until Oct. 24, the first day of this year’s Hell Week — and unfortunately, the undo command has been disabled.
But the good news for those petrified by the jailbreak, Milam says, is that no matter what, coaches will always be there to lend a hand to members, both new and experienced.
“You’re probably going to be a little more nervous than in the past, but there’s no need to be scared or anxious because the coaches are always going to have your back,” she said. “They’re always going to get you through the workouts and provide you with options to succeed.”
And, needless to say, the uplifting camaraderie inside studios will never dissipate and can help motivate a participant in a moment of doubt.
“In any event that we do, you can tell Orangetheory [members] want that encouragement and they want to encourage others, as well,” Milam said. “I’ve had so many people, new and not new, introduce themselves to people who are there for the first time or have been there for five years. Everyone is there for the same reasons, so that positive environment [...] shines through, especially [during] Hell Week.”
Each year, no matter the theme, OTF coaches are frequently asked some variation of the same question from those who’ve been too frightened by the physicality of Hell Week or dubious it will be enjoyable.
Can I do it?
Am I going to get through it?
Will it actually be fun?
“My answer is always ‘yes,’ no matter who you are, because Orangetheory can be tailored to any fitness level,” Milam said. “Even though it is a good challenge and it is a much tougher week than an average week at Orangetheory, it’s still the same principles behind what we always do. That makes it extremely doable for [anyone], which is why it’s so cool and why you should definitely expect it to be a lot of fun.”
For newbies, it’s also important to find a comfortable pace and monitor their level of exertion, Barnes adds. That might entail boosting or lessening mile times, for instance, to make sure your body can withstand not only Day 1, but Days 2 through 5.
It’s equally important to take time to properly rest and refuel in between classes in order to maximize your OTF results.
“You need to start listening to your body, listening to your heart rate and paying attention to how you’re feeling,” Barnes said. “I think that the coaches do a really good job of making sure people don’t overtrain, even if the workout template might be a little less recovery focused.”
With registration for Hell Week beginning on Oct. 1, and studios filling quickly to capacity due to high demand, members are encouraged to register on the Orangetheory app or in-studio.
Even though she coaches each workout, Milam books herself into Hell Week classes to get firsthand experience of what participants endure and she confidently tells members that they, too, will persevere.
Since joining OTF in 2016, she’s never missed the signature event, and is already preparing retaliation against this year’s cyber criminals.
“I tell people, ‘You can’t do one Hell Week and then not ever do another one again,’” Milam said. “That’s just never going to happen!”
Be sure to view our additional Orangetheory “Events” articles to learn more!