At the end of every Orangetheory workout, there’s only one thing that matters. It’s not the number of reps you did in the weight room or the speed you set on the treadmill. What counts is the effort you put into reaching your goals during the workout.
“You might be the fastest in the class speed-wise, but you can have the exact same heart rate and cardio response as somebody who’s power walking,” says Orangetheory Fitness coach Lindsey Shanley.
Power walking is a low-impact exercise that’s accessible for everyone, whether it’s your first class, you’re recovering from an injury, you’re pregnant or postpartum, or you simply want to achieve an increase in muscle mass.
“One of the really cool things that Orangetheory offers is this lower barrier to entry. Because we have a walker category, it allows people to feel like it's OK to be a beginner, and that’s really powerful,” says Dr. Rachelle Reed, senior director of health science and research at Orangetheory.
As a power walker, you’ll set your treadmill speed between 3.5 to 4.5 miles per hour and adjust the incline between three to 10 percent, depending on if the coach is cueing a Base Pace, Push or All Out. As the incline gets higher and higher, the muscles in the backs of your legs, like the hamstrings and glutes, have to work harder and harder, ultimately increasing your heart rate.
“Even the arms are engaged, especially in power walking,” Dr. Reed says. “So, it's an efficient way to utilize most of the muscles in your body, inclusive of your core to keep your posture up to help with your breathing.”
While fitness trends will tell you that in order to see results you have to do high intensity, heavy load workouts, Dr. Reed says, “What we know to be true from decades of research is that a lot of these health benefits that we can attribute to exercise or physical activity actually come from the stimulus of walking.”
Progress for power walkers, according to Dr. Reed, can look similar to the benefits of running. Right after class, you’ll notice an improved mood and burst of energy. Even after one workout, she says, there are small changes on a cellular level that will slowly start to improve your health.
Met with the consistency of going to class two to three times a week over the course of at least four to six weeks, you’ll notice changes to your cardiorespiratory fitness. Reaching a new threshold, you may realize you have to increase your speed or incline on the treadmill to get the same number of Splat Points as before. You could also start adding more weight on the floor because you aren’t feeling as winded after every rep.
Even considering the science behind power walking, it’s still human nature for you to want to match the pace of another OTF member you see sprinting out of the corner of your eye. But Shanley stresses that, ego aside, workouts come in various forms and with different objectives.
“Everybody thinks the fastest and strongest is the highest performance, but it's all based on goals,” Shanley says. “You could be the fastest runner, but if your goal is to put on lean muscle mass, you might not get to your goal as fast as somebody who's going slower on the incline.”
Shanley remembers coaching a class in Rhode Island where an Olympic athlete was running on the treadmill right next to a woman in her 70s who was power walking. “She was getting the same number of Splat Points, getting the same level of workout for her ability,” she says.
From athletes vying for gold metals to fitness first-timers, everyone in class is pushing the limits of their own abilities. The next time you step onto the treadmill during an Orangetheory class, think about what it is you want to achieve, and how choosing to power walk could help you reach your goals.