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Is Orangetheory Worth All the Greenbacks It Costs?

It’s not Peloton expensive, but it’s not Planet Fitness cheap either. What exactly am I getting for the workout it’s giving my wallet, though?

Orangetheory Fitness is as much a fitness app as it is a gym. In fact, for more than a decade, Orangetheory has been beating the drum for workouts structured around maintaining heart rates in prescribed training zones indicative of exertion levels. 

It’s definitely worked. Today, Orangetheory has well over 1,000 boutique gyms or fitness studios, and more than one million members, who pay a hefty price for access to its classes. The hour-long classes are bifurcated into stretches of strength-training and two types of cardiovascular training, while trainers and coaches provide a sustained, supportive presence, offering instructions and shouting out encouragement. 

All of the shouting and thumping music of this team-building environment is enhanced by trainee-worn sensors, referred to as OTbeat technology, which project each user’s vital information onto a video screen — sort of like the defense force in Jurassic World right before they all get wiped out by the Indominus Rex.

It’s this real-time, stat-referencing feature that Orangetheory receives its name from. The information displayed on the screen separates trainees’ effort levels into five different training zones based on the rate of their heartbeats, with the stated goal being to spend at least 12 minutes in the orange “uncomfortable” zone, thereby enabling you to “boost your metabolism, burn fat and burn more calories.”

Again, in order to lock you into the orange zone for the requisite amount of time while comprehensively training your body, Orangetheory separates its specialized workout into three distinct segments: 

  1. Rowing: Making use of something in the neighborhood of a Mr. Captain Rowing Machine
  2. Cardio: Takes place primarily on a treadmill. Apparently, rowing doesn’t count as “cardio” in this setting.
  3. Strength Training: Appears to encompass light dumbbell use, fitness ball use, TRX suspension training, and some additional floor-based exercises like push-ups and burpees.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that members’ devotion to Orangetheory has been described as “cult-like.”

It’s expensive, though, right? If that’s the case, is it worth it?

Let’s begin with the most basic membership package at Orangetheory. It costs roughly $59 for four classes a month, or roughly one a week — which isn’t nearly enough unless you’re supplementing somewhere else or with similar equipment at home. Because to properly kick-start a workout regimen, you should ideally be engaged in both weight training and cardio at least three times a week, if not five.

As a comparison point, you can gain access to a Planet Fitness for 24 hours a day, seven days a week for about $10 a month, and the personal training sessions are free. Basically, you can spend $120 for year-round access to a Planet Fitness, or closer to $720 for 48 Orangetheory workouts a year. 

Last but not least, there doesn’t appear to be any sort of guarantee that you’ll even be granted access to an Orangetheory class prior to your entrance to the gym if you haven’t signed up for a specific time block well in advance. So your involvement in a class is by no means guaranteed even if you’ve paid the exorbitant membership fee.

Isn’t there an option that can grant me year-round access to an Orangetheory gym?

Yes, but there’s a catch.

Orangetheory does have a membership option that will avail you of the club’s classes on a year-round basis, which costs $159 a month, or $1,908 per year. The thing is, for that sort of money, you can purchase the high-end cardio machine of your choice and a top-quality assortment of free-weight equipment. 

Essentially, this is what it would cost to effectively replicate an Orangetheory boutique gym in your own home: A Mr. Captain Rowing Machine is around $600, a new treadmill with incline control costs around $1,200, a pro series TRX suspension trainer is $220, a set of Bowflex 552 SelectTech Dumbbells is usually available for under $450, and if you really need a full set of rubberized fitness balls, you can usually acquire them for under $300. 

All things considered, you can have 24/7 access to the essence of Orangetheory’s equipment offerings in your own home — minus the bells and whistles of the video screen, the wearable OTbeat technology, the roaming fitness coaches, the mobile app or the garish orange colors — for $2,900 on the high end. To put this in perspective, you could personally own all of the required equipment and still pay an accomplished personal trainer to come visit you at home once a month to check on your form, for less than the cost of two years of an Orangetheory membership.

But isn’t this really all about access to the bells and whistles of the training package?

Honestly, it all really comes down to your preferred training methods. If you require constant guidance, you revel in a tech-heavy atmosphere, you need a coach who provides constant encouragement and guidance and you couldn’t possibly see yourself excelling — or even succeeding — under another system, then your access to a club may very well be worth the nearly $2,000 per year you’ll be spending to reserve daily class access. 

But again, given what you can spend that money on to have a more permanent solution at home — that’s constantly available to you no less — that price point leaves me seeing, well, orange.