Ever since I graduated college six years ago, my weight has truly been all over the place. When I left school, I weighed in at about 120 pounds. And while I was certainly thin, I wasn't exactly taking the best care of myself. In the years since, thanks to working out inconsistently and having a desk job, I packed on 32 pounds. Because it was a gradual gain, I didn't notice it at first. But when I stepped on the scale in late December and realised I was 152 pounds, I knew something needed to change.
While I knew at 5'4" I wasn't disastrously overweight, the fact that I had been getting a little too much into the wine and cheese since my July wedding hit me like a burst of cold water. As a former college athlete, I knew I could do a lot more to improve my overall health, and I desperately wanted to carve out new healthy habits.
While my foray into Orangetheory Fitness started with the goal of simply shedding some pounds, it quickly became much, much more. I first learned about OTF when POPSUGAR's Senior Editor Kate Schweitzer made it a regular habit. After having two gorgeous daughters, she started hitting classes five times per week at her local studio. And while she's always been in good shape, it was hard to deny how toned her arms had gotten during our weekly meetings.
Fortunately, Kate wasn't the only person who was drinking the Orangetheory Kool-Aid; Sarah Wasilak, our fashion editor, also went to class a few times per week. And thankfully, she not only attended our local studio in Jersey City, but she also enthusiastically offered to take me to my first class. As a person who had generally loathed group exercise classes in the past, I was eager to try an OTF class but overwhelmed. Why did they need to track your heart rate the entire time? What in god's name are Splat points?
While my initial goal was to lose weight — and hey, it still very much is! — in just five weeks, my body has begun to transform.
Nervous but cautiously optimistic, I headed to my first class with Sarah one day at 7 a.m. As soon as we arrived, we were greeted by studio employee Wesley Barranco, who had one simple question for me: "What's your goal?" After confessing my love of cheese — I kept the wine out of the convo for obvious reasons — and telling him about my weight-loss goals, he gave me a confident smile and the rundown. While his spiel was certainly informative, I didn't at any point feel intimidated, which is key for those trying to get back on the fitness horse.
Eventually, I was introduced to Herlentz Mesidor, the head coach of the studio and the person who'd no doubt be bossing me around for an hour. As the big kahuna, Herlentz is obviously a very fit man. It's also worth noting that he is one of the few people on god's green earth who can pull off wearing a sweatband on his head.
Herlentz spent 15 minutes teaching me how the class is formatted and had me jump on a rowing machine to evaluate my form. (Spoiler alert: I've been rowing incorrectly for my entire life!). After getting set up with an OTbeat wearable device, we got to it, and honestly, I was amazed.
While I normally get bored in classes that just focus on cardio, the three-pronged format OTF offers — time spent running, rowing, and lifting weights — really suited me. Additionally, Herlentz didn't scream into the microphone the entire time. On top of pumping us up, he also made his rounds to ensure we were lifting with the correct form and using the treadmills properly.
At the end of my first class, I'd burned 650 calories. I've never had a more efficient workout since I played lacrosse in college. On top of that, I truly felt great. Maybe it was the endorphins, but I immediately signed up for a package of classes and have been going two or three days per week ever since.
While my initial goal was to lose weight — and hey, it still very much is! — in just five weeks, my body has begun to transform. I have noticed more muscle tone in my legs, and I've lost considerable weight in my face. I feel more confident in a bathing suit, and when I sit on a hard chair, my tush feels . . . perkier? Although the sensation is hard to explain, it sure feels good!
More importantly, my fitness goals have been turned on their head. Thanks to the treadmill portion of Orangetheory, I've cut a full minute off my mile time. In fact, on a six-mile run earlier this week, my average pace clocked in at 8:26. That's pretty good for me! Feeling more confident than I have in years, I officially bit the bullet and signed up for a half-marathon. Although I've toyed with the idea in the past, injuries have always gotten in the way. Because of OTF, I'm very much looking forward to running my first race.
Thanks to the welcoming — and nonintimidating — community I've found at OTF, I've learned that there's something powerful about testing your physical limits. Sure, I've lost 10 pounds, but it's not just about getting in a good sweat. Rather, it's about self-improvement and conquering goals, whether you're trying to beat your personal 2,000-meter row record or simply get back into jogging again. Have I met my official weight-loss goal yet? No, but Orangetheory gives me the confidence to keep on trying.