Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Guest Post: Mark Fisher on Orange Theory

For a number of reasons, Orange Theory has come across my radar with greater frequency over the last few months. Full disclosure - I have never attended a training session at an Orange Theory, so my own opinions have been formed based on (what I consider to be) experience in, both as a participant and as a coach, similar training sessions and protocols.

Now, that being said, today I came across a couple of pieces on my Facebook feed about it. The first was an opinion piece that was written by Kelsey Miller for Refinery 29 (you can see the original article here), and the second was the response to the article by Mark Fisher, of Mark Fisher Fitness (www.markfisherfitness.com) in New York. Now, I've come across a lot of Mark's material before - interviews on podcasts like "The Fitcast" (hosted by Kevin Larabee - a resource I highly recommend), posts he's written on Facebook, and, frankly, the hugely positive reviews I've read by both clients and other fitness professionals I highly respect.

So when I saw he'd posted a response to the article on Facebook, I was immediately interested in hearing his thoughts - and after reading it, decided that he'd basically said what I would have liked to, but probably better. I immediately asked him if he minded me reprinting it here on the blog, and he said "No problem". It means this is a longer post than I normally write, but hey - just keep the tab open and come back to it later. :D

Thus, without further ado - Mark Fisher on Orange Theory, ladies and gentlemen.

"I have to start this post by first qualifying I am a fitness agnostic; you've never seen someone more committed to "don't make the perfect the enemy of the good" than I am. However, I do want to share some thoughts about this...
  • While I understand the appeal of heart rate monitoring to provide objective feedback, my concern with applying it en masse continues to be that we know not everyone's heart rate fits into the box. As much as 20% of the population is seriously above or below what standard heart rate calculations would indicate. This means you could have some folks working too easy, and more potentially troublesome, some working too hard. Particularly if you have hyper competitive people. If you use the Karvonen formula and take into account resting heart rate, that seems to be better, but I have a feeling that's tough to do at scale? Not sure how they do their formulas here. Admittedly, I would actually like to integrate this into MFF at some point with MyZone or Polar, I just haven't figured this piece out yet. (Because many people I respect use it in their group training, I assume they have and I just don't get it yet haha) 
  • I think the progressive circles of the industry have started to understand the need for moderate doses of cardiac output work (which is now cool, because it's no longer dangerous steady state cardio or even more uncool, "aerobics"). Particularly with deconditioned populations, it's helpful to build some capacity here before trying to live anaerobic dreams, not just for performance but also for recovery (which I maintain continues to be underappreciated when the goal is fat loss). To some extent I think this is self regulated when new folks join a gym and can run their own race. However, if you're immediately going after a (potentially inaccurate) anaerobic heart rate goal, I imagine developing this base could be compromised.
    • Two other subnotes:
      • You could actually program aerobic capacity work WITH heart rate monitors if you developed your programming around it. And potentially even more effectively. You'd just have to buy into the value (which not everyone does, and that's fine, you do you.)
      • THE BODYBUILDERS WERE RIGHT ABOUT THE VALUE OF STEADY STATE hahahahaha (I know, I know, they often did higher volumes, but still...)
  • There may be a missing movement proficiency piece in all of this. I do think it's possible to get so focused on movement that you lose out on other fitness qualities. But I still think part of our mission as fit pros is to develop some base movement capacity as a foundation. To me, this feels like an important "life thing." Otherwise, if you take a deconditioned person and make them jack up their heart rate while doing exercises with uncertain technique, you're at the risk for training in some less-than-ideal patterns at best, and injury at worst. This doesn't seem to address the goal of "getting up and off the ground at will as one ages."
  • Now again, I'm an agnostic. I don't think this is "wrong," and I don't mean any of this as a critique, I'm just thinking out loud. And I DO call the Ninjas my baby/girlfriends, so I know I can be an overly worrisome Mommy/ Boyfriend who wants the best for his beloveds haha. I'm always a fan of people moving, I know there's more than one way to skin a cat, and I'm supportive of anyone looking for progressive ways to take care of people in small or large groups. I think making group training fun and effective for the general population is important to help our whole society embrace the gift of movement and fitness.
I'm the first to admit I don't have it all figured out, but I would just gently suggest there may be a more sophisticated way to do this. I don't think we have to choose between fat loss and good movement (particularly since the former is largely driven by diet). Additionally, if the goal is to balance short term results with longevity, I think there "could" be challenges to the latter with gamifying things like fat loss and heart rate with super driven people who intuitively think more is always better.

Admittedly, it will likely be harder to scale because it will require more coaching, but such is life."

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