Theory about heart attacks debunked at Orangetheory

Posted: August 26th, 2016 | Columns, Featured, Gen-X in a Millennial World | No Comments

By Genevieve A. Suzuki

One of my longtime fears of working out is that I will work out so hard I will have a heart attack.

It’s a completely baseless fear. In fact, the one time I went to the emergency room for what I thought was a heart attack was merely anxiety to which I was prescribed “a nice big glass of wine.”

That feeling of my heart going “Boom! Boom! Boom!” in my chest after exerting myself for a few minutes historically had me freaking out enough to sit down, drink a big glass of cold water and resume couch potato position.

Unfortunately, the best way to lose weight and get healthy is by giving you and your heart some exercise. It isn’t enough to just take leisurely strolls that allow you to carry on 30-minute conversations with a best friend. (Well, unless those strolls are Forrest Gump-type strolls that take you clear into Arizona.)


Genevieve A. Suzuki gives a thumbs up to exercise now that she knows it won’t give her a heart attack. (Photo by Genevieve A. Suzuki)

So it was serendipity when I was on Facebook several months ago and spotted the ad for the new La Mesa Orangetheory Fitness. My interest was initially piqued by the bright, happy color surrounding the smiling fit people in the photo.

But then I saw that it was interval training and I began to have images of me clutching my chest in pain as I fall off a running treadmill.

Still, I knew I had to do something. I really wasn’t sweating enough with the minimal exercise I was doing. So I called to sign up for a trial session.

Studio manager Erin patiently listened as I laid out my worries of having a heart attack. She chuckled a little before assuring me I would probably not have a heart attack and in the unlikely event my heart did accelerate to an unhealthy rate, they would see that on the screen.

See my heart rate on the screen? Say what?

That’s right. You see, I discovered the orange studio isn’t really what it’s all about. What it’s really all about is that each individual has a heart-rate monitor hooked up to him or her so they can monitor their progress on the screen. If your heart rate is at 84 percent or higher of your maximum heart rate, you will be in the orange or red zone. You really only want to be in the red zone for five minutes or less. (I figure the fact it is paired with the color red says enough.)

The theory behind this method is if you can get 12 minutes or more in the orange zone, you will continue to burn calories 24 to 36 hours after your workout. Additionally, every minute spent in orange or red earns you “splat points,” which egg you on the next session to get more to beat your score.

And that’s where it’s really at: competition. I also recently signed up for the weight loss challenge, which kicks off on Sept. 11. You can compete with other members to see who can lose the most percentage of weight for a cash prize. It’s exciting and it gives you motivation to attend more classes.

So far, I’ve really enjoyed my Orangetheory membership. And while I really like trying to accumulate splat points, I especially appreciate the fact I can continually monitor my heart rate to keep myself off the couch.

—Genevieve A. Suzuki is a La Mesa resident who practices family law. Visit her website at

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