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

By Orangetheory Fitness

You’re drenched in sweat, with a huge smile on your face. Your coach is giving you a giant high-five, and you feel like you can take on more life. This is the feeling you have at the end of every Orangetheory class. That sense of accomplishment comes from our science-backed workout and the support of the community around you. Our goal is for you to leave every class feeling great.

How do we do that? It’s through our trifecta of science, technology, and coaching. We know that you need each of these to achieve your best – physically, mentally, and emotionally. 

Workouts are based on the science of interval training - giving you bursts of higher intensity work followed by periods of recovery. We use heart rate monitoring technology to personalize these zones using your Max Heart Rate (MaxHR). 

Max Heart Rate isn’t fancy, it’s simply the highest number of beats per minute your heart can perform. Your heart rate zones are a percentage of this number, and our colored zones are based your personal MaxHR. As an Orangetheory member, you should recognize that HR zones provide a great way to estimate exercise intensity and thus improve your fitness.

Here’s how it works: When you join, your age is plugged into an industry-standard formula to estimate your MaxHR. After taking 20 eligible classes in 120 days, our custom OTF algorithm adjusts your MaxHR to more accurately reflect your in-studio performance. From there, your MaxHR will automatically adjust as needed with every class you take under the orange lights.

It’s heart rate data that literally doesn’t miss a beat! In fact, as you get stronger, we get smarter.  

Scott Brown, VP of Fitness at Orangetheory Fitness, says: “Our goal is to ensure the highest level of heart rate zone accuracy for every member, every class, to provide the best possible workout experience leading to improved results. We set up the system to adjust each members zones as they become more conditioned over time. They are designed to seamlessly adjust with the member on their fitness journey and ultimately should just "feel right" in each class where the zones match the perceived exertion levels.”  

Accurate HR zones are important because they help you work at the right intensity. Brown also adds that personalized heart rate zones “allow the coach to accurately monitor each member throughout class, so the coach can provide the personal touches OTF is known for”.

Orangetheory classes are based on the 5 heart rate zones, with each color representing a different zone. Our goal is for you to spend time in each zone within each Orangetheory class. 

  • Gray Zone (50-60% MaxHR): This is your light activity zone. Aim to be here during warm-ups, cool-downs, and active recovery periods. 

  • Blue Zone (61-70% MaxHR): This is your “slowly start jogging, power walking, or rowing zone.” You’ll start to feel your breathing increase and talking becomes just a bit harder.

  • Green Zone (71-83% MaxHR): You’re here with Base Pace and active recovery between intervals. It’s a challenging but doable pace.

  • Orange Zone (84-91% MaxHR): This is an uncomfortable zone achieved with Push pace and All-Outs. You won’t spend long periods of time here.

  • Red Zone (92-100% MaxHR): You might hit this zone during an All-Out effort. If you do get here, it should only be for a super short period before returning to the Orange or Green zones; and know you don’t have to get into the Red Zone to experience maximum results. 

Now you know, when you’re in class and you see the colors changing on the screen, it means you’re working between the different zones. Moving between the zones is what interval training is all about and what makes Orangetheory the smartest 1-hour workout!

But it’s not all about the data and challenging yourself. Earning Splat Points is a fun way to check how long you’re spending in each zone within an Orangetheory class. It’s simple, for every minute you spend in the Orange and Red Zones, you earn 1 Splat Point. Classes are designed to achieve 12-20 Splat Points per class. 

While it can be super tempting to stay in the Orange and Red Zones to get as many Splat Points as possible, it’s the variations between zones that’s important. In fact, the more time you spend in the Blue and Green Zones, the better your long-term training gains will be and the lower your risk of injury, burnout, and overtraining syndrome. 

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. 

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.

Are you ready? Grab your OTbeat™ Heart Rate Monitor, take your 20-classes in 120 days, and get the most personalized workout experience possible. Remember, if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. We’re your accountability partners.