Hong Kong is no stranger to trendy workouts, but one new name rolling off the tips of tongues this summer may be shaking up the fitness scene with its scientifically backed system (and colour) — Orangetheory. Calling itself a “group personal training” workout, Orangetheory Fitness franchises have been sweeping the United States for the past six years already with over 550 branches in the country, and just opened this June in Hong Kong, its second branch in Asia. Located on the 23rd floor of Soundwill Plaza II – Midtown, the spacious studio allows you to look out onto the rooftops of Causeway Bay, but chances are you’ll be too focused on the intensity of your workout to really notice the spectacular views.
The idea behind Orangetheory is for you to work out in the “Orange Zone” — each participant is strapped with a heart rate monitor at the start of each class — where your goal is to work at 84-91% of your maximum heart rate for at least 12 minutes. This makes your body activate what is called Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, or EPOC, which stimulates further metabolism and energy post-workout, allowing you to burn more calories even up to 36 hours after the class. With the idea of “group personal training,” the group fitness class is still led by an enthusiastic trainer, but it’s a trainer who knows your name, your capabilities, and pushes you with individual attention — you even get your own work station for the workout.
One of Hong Kong’s head trainers here at the studio’s opening is Sarina Taylor, who’s previously worked at the Tustin and Irvine branches in Orange County. Originally from Saskatchewan, she moved to California over 10 years ago while working in the restaurant business, but decided to embark on a career in the fitness industry in pursuit of health and respite from the long strenuous hours of the F&B world.
I became a trainer… because to be honest, I just got sick and tired of working in the restaurant business. I saw no future. It came to a point where I wanted to figure out what I wanted to do in my life, based on something that I enjoy. I realised I preferred group instruction, so I taught spin classes at my gym, as well as other spin studios. Not long after that, I applied to Orangetheory. Coaching Orangetheory classes is exhausting, but the time goes by fast because I love teaching classes because you get to interact with the members — we spend a lot of time with them, we get to know people’s personal lives, we get to know what makes them tick, what makes them laugh, and the best part of it — you see people’s lives changing in front of you all the time.
My fitness philosophy… is that fitness should be a social thing. I grew up active my whole life, but I never went to a gym until I was about 25 years old. I grew up playing hockey, fast-pitch softball and volleyball. It was never a physique thing for me, but at 25 — not like I gained a ton of weight — I just wanted to stay moving. I started going to the gym with a friend, but it was hard for me going from as a team athlete to just going in and lifting weights.
I was getting up at 5am to go to the gym. When you start to see the same people every morning, you just have more motivation to go in, because it doesn’t feel so foreign, it starts to feel more like home, and that’s why people keep coming back. It’s always intimidating, your first Orangetheory class: you walk in and know nothing about Orangetheory and there a bunch of crazy people doing crazy things. I want everyone to know this is our studio, and everyone feels welcome. We don’t want anyone to ever feel left out or confused. Camaraderie is always a word we use to describe Orangetheory.
The key to staying motivated… is feeling the energy and seeing your progress. People come to us from personal trainers, or just from going to the gym by themselves; but the biggest thing everybody says about the group environment is the energy in the room. We create that as coaches, we know when to take the intensity up.
Our workouts are written by professional personal trainers, designed with a personal training aspect in mind. The workouts are sent to the entire world every day, and they never repeat a workout. The workouts focus on core, hip and glute strength. They also make sure they hit every body part to make sure people don’t get any muscle imbalances. We have endurance, strength, and power days. The whole point is so that your body doesn’t get used to what it’s doing. It’s that old saying of muscle confusion. Your body cannot adapt to one type of workout. By confusing it, you’re always seeing progression, whether if it’s weight loss or building your strength.
As the studio matures, we’ll hold challenges and put a leaderboard up. It’s not so that people can compare themselves to others, it’s so that they can compare with the old versions of themselves. We know that people are going to continually see better numbers. That’s a fact. That’s how they see their progress.
My favourite workout… is called the run-row. You go from the treadmill to the rower back and forth for half the class, but you do specified distances. It teaches members to utilise the machine to get their heart rate up, and not to over-recover where their heart rates drop quickly. It is probably the closest thing to death you will experience, if you do it right!
Before I workout… I have to have coffee. I have to get up an hour before, I have to be awake. I can’t come in all “space-cadeted” in my head.
For power food… carrot cake! Only kidding. I just drink amino acids.
I believe in eating… clean. Eating clean is what gives me the most energy. So if I eat sugars, I would really feel sluggish for a couple of days. Especially ice cream. We get meal preps delivered to our house Monday to Friday. I’m on a low-carb one, but I carb up on the weekend.
For cheat day… it’s pot pies at The Globe. Sometimes I like doughnuts too, but there’s not many doughnuts that are good in Hong Kong, except at the Wellcome — there’s a little bakery inside the Wellcome and those doughnuts there are the closest thing to America that you will taste. I go through spurts. I will also wreck Mrs. Fields cookies like they’re going out of style. Uncle Tetsu’s, the Japanese cheesecake store, they make these cheese tarts and I can eat six in one night. But now that I’m in my late-thirties, it goes right here to my stomach, and it takes three or four days to get rid of it. It’s what keeps me from eating that kind of stuff like breads, because I can see it; the sugars, I feel it.
The best five minute exercise for weight loss is… Intervals on the rower, like 20 seconds on [hard] 10 seconds off. Rowing uses approximately more than 80% of the muscles in your body. You’re going to use more energy to use all those muscles, so you burn more fat. It also depends on the person — if you can get someone to give their true effort on the rower, you’re going to get more out of it. The thing with the rower though is that you can stop for a split second — you have the luxury of going too slow, whereas the treadmill forces you to not give up because the belt is moving.
What do they do when they’re not teaching or working out?
We watch a lot of TV and Netflix. I’m waiting for Orange is the New Black to come out, that will make me very happy. I’m a big hockey fan, I watch it every morning.
My workout playlist includes… whatever is on the app RockMyRun. It’s an app Orangetheory works with, which is provided to all the studios, so there are preset playlists. We don’t have to worry about newer coaches fiddling with the music rather than paying attention to members. I listen to everything from Johnny Cash to Motley Crew to 90s dance music. It just depends on the day.
Follow Sarina for more fitspo on Instagram @sarinaotf, and try out a class at Orangetheory Fitness – Causeway Bay, 23/F, Soundwill Plaza II – Midtown, 1 Tang Lung Street, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, +852 5804 9081