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Orangetheory Fitness offers ‘plateau buster’
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Member Jessica Jurewicz, center, shows everyone how it’s done on the rowing machines at Orangetheory Fitness Clearwater.
CLEARWATER – If you’re not working hard, there’s no way to hide it – either from yourself or your fellow workout participants.

Just glance up at the flat-screen TVs that show each person’s heart rate in real time, along with a color that adds meaning to the numbers. Gray means very light work, blue means light work, green means moderate, orange means hard, and red means maximum.

At Orangetheory Fitness, the goal is to have spent at least 12 total minutes in the orange zone by the end of the hour session.

Whether in competition with others or just yourself, everything from the heart rate monitors and the energetic instructors calling out times and directions to the upbeat, club-like music and the fast-paced exercise circuits encourages people to push themselves to their next goal. The green zone is good, but slipping into the blue zone could be a clue to keep pushing yourself, even if you’re tired and would otherwise want to stop.

Deann Venuti, managing partner and one of the owners, relates to all of her members and their fitness goals and struggles because that’s how she started, too.

“I was a member at St. Pete’s Orangetheory which was the third built in the country and first one to the area,” Venuti said. “I became a member and lost about 30 pounds in the program very quickly, and I fell in love with the program. I was hooked from day 1 and was passionate about it and told my friends and family about it and couldn’t shut up about it.”

When one of the managers there half-jokingly asked her if she wanted a job, that lit a spark that just wouldn’t dim. She had worked for 13 years as a financial planner and no longer enjoyed it. Fitness, however, was something that excited her.

“I’ve always had a passion for fitness because I’ve struggled with my own weight pretty much my whole life,” Venuti said.

Her financial planner background led her to cautiously take that manager up on his offer, so she managed his studio for about two years, learning from the best, and then she gained some partners and financing and in February 2014 opened with already more than 500 members signed up.

“The workout itself is amazing,” Venuti said. “We’re changing people’s lives. I just love that piece of it. From weight loss to people getting off of heart medicine. … People are getting faster, too. It’s not just about weight loss.”

Some people come in because they want to build muscle and improve their times on the races that they already compete in. One such woman trained for six months and achieved the muscle tone she desired and shaved about five minutes off of her race time, Venuti said.

Other times the benefits can come in unexpected ways.

“This girl, she was in our weight loss contest and she lost some weight and was happy about it of course. She lost 9 inches, and she lost 4 inches in her breast. And at first I said, ‘I’m so sorry,’” Venuti said with a laugh. “But she said, ‘No, I’m actually really happy’ because she found a lump that she would not have found before, so she had it removed and is fine, so she actually thanks us for that.”

There are about 60 classes offered weekly at the Clearwater location, and every day is different.

“We’re always trying to change it up. The workout is always going to be different,” said Natalie Brazzell, head coach. “But (it has) the same basics. So you’re always going to have half your time doing cardio, half your time doing strength training. It’s just broken up differently. When it’s a crazy one, we’ve done ones where you do one-minute switches on all three sides. And then we have switches, but our basic workouts is 26 minutes cardio, 26 minutes strength training. And the rower is mixed in with the weight training.”

The heart rate monitors help both the individual participants and the coaches know how hard everyone is working – when someone may want to push themselves a little more, and when someone may want to pull back a bit. After class, everyone is emailed a personal readout of their own statistics during the workout, from their maximum and heart rate, calories burned, a breakdown of the time and percentages of the class spent in each heart rate zone, and a summary of the workout as a whole, including any personal bests.

“The goal is to spend at least 12 to 20 minutes of the hour in the orange heart rate zone,” Brazzell said. “That’s 84- to 91-percent of your maximum heart rate. … And if you get that 12 to 20 minutes, you’re going to burn an additional 200 to 400 calories in the next 24 to 36 hours. So we call it ‘after burn.’ But the actual science behind it is EPOC, which is excess post oxygen consumption, and that’s what makes you burn more calories.”

Venuti relates this to revving an engine or like coals on a fire.

“You know how you can still cook something on the coals because they’re so hot? That’s what’s going on with your metabolism,” Venuti said.

Orangetheory was founded in Fort Lauderdale in 2010 and is billed as the “plateau buster,” Brazzell said. Its high interval training is highly effective, and the heart rate monitor system “helps us help you,” Venuti said. Brazzell also loves that the high-quality rowers are added into every workout, which is ranked the No. 2 most beneficial nonimpact, full-body cardiovascular workout, just behind cross-country skiing.

“The water rowers, you wouldn’t normally see those at a typical gym,” Venuti added. “It’s really the closest you can get to being a true rower. It’s very smooth and true to the actual activity.”

Brazzell said they have actually had members of rowing teams come in and are amazed by how closely it feels like doing the actual sport.

The other great thing about the workout is that anyone can do it, Venuti said. They even have a deaf member, and Brazzell signs the basic instructions to him.

Though the demographics end up being about 65 percent women, plenty of men participate, too. The general age range tends to be between 27 and 65, with the core group in the 35 to 55 range. However, they even have some teenagers and an 82- and 85-year-old who can run circles around younger people, Venuti said.

Venuti and Brazzell recommend people attend at least three classes a week to meet their fitness goals, or at least one to two if the person participates in other regular fitness activities. The average woman can expect to burn between 400 and 600 calories, and the average man can expect to burn between 500 and 800 calories.

There are also various challenges, such as the upcoming six-week weight loss challenge beginning in September. Brazzell said that she was thrilled that the last winner of the challenge had previously never worked out a day in her life, proving that anyone can start and be successful.

“She’s 68 (years old,)” Venuti added. “She beat a 35 year old. They actually lost the same amount of weight, but she (the winner) lost the most percentage. That’s awesome because you don’t usually see that in that age group. She did great.”

Each top male and female winner receives $500 as an additional incentive, Venuti said.

Venuti owns Orangetheory Clearwater along with her husband, Joe, and friends Chris and Jen Elmore. Added perks of the center include lockers, and showers with shampoo and conditioner. Orangetheory Fitness Clearwater is located at 25853 U.S. 19 N., Clearwater.
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