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Orangetheory Fitness has gained popularity with its unique fitness approach centered around heart rate training. With over 1,300 studios in the United States and more than 25 countries worldwide, Orangetheory offers a total-body group workout experience combining science, coaching, and technology with cardio and strength training elements in a one-hour session.
I had the unique opportunity to immerse myself in the Orangetheory Fitness experience and gain firsthand insight into what sets it apart. With an open mind and a genuine curiosity, I participated in multiple Orangetheory classes, which allowed me to gain a better understanding of their heart-rate based workouts and how heart rate training works for overall health and weight loss.(1)
For my Orangetheory review, I'll take a closer look at what the studio offers, including membership options, trial periods, coaching, classes, available equipment, amenities, and the overall value of the Orangetheory experience. Ready to see whether this is the workout for you? Let’s dive in!
What is Orangetheory Fitness?
Orangetheory Fitness is a distinctive fitness approach designed around heart rate training, differentiating this program from traditional high-intensity interval training (HIIT). During each workout, members are led by certified coaches through various exercises and workouts across three different stations: floor, cardio, and rowing machine.
Orangetheory uses connected technology via the OTBeat Burn™ heart rate monitor (specific to Orangetheory and available for purchase) which links to the studio's virtual platform and tracks heart rate zones and effort throughout your workout. Coaches are there to guide participants through five specific heart rate zones. Each heart rate zone has a corresponding color helping you to easily keep track of your performance: gray, blue, green, orange, and red.
The goal for every class is to spend a minimum of 12 minutes in "the Orange Zone." Every minute in the Orange Zone earns a "splat point" and is tracked on-screen during your workout and in the accompanying app. Throughout the session, you can see your splat points, the total amount for the class, and other pertinent workout metrics such as current heart rate, minutes in each heart rate zone, and caloric expenditure.
My Personal Experience
I had the opportunity to attend five classes and really get a feel for what they're all about. From the start, I was impressed by the knowledgeable, professional, and friendly staff. The head coach at my location was as approachable as she was professional, making the experience even more enjoyable.
"My experience at Orangetheory was, in a nutshell, fantastic."
Each class was divided into two or three groups, starting with either the cardio, rower, or floor station. When checking in at the front desk, I got to choose where I wanted to start and was assigned a number that corresponded to a specific rower, treadmill, and floor area. It's a well-organized system that keeps the class in check and able to move quickly between stations.
When using the OTBeat Burn™ your monitor will display live fitness statistics and allows you to track your workout metrics throughout the class. These statistics include time, current heart rate, time spent in each heart rate zone, splat points, and caloric expenditure. Additionally, the floor area has large monitors displaying correct form visuals for each strength movement of the day.
Honestly, I had some doubts at first about the workout because there seemed to be a lot happening at once in one class. How could one coach effectively handle each group doing different things? However, once I walked into the studio, pounded it out with the coach (which is how I was greeted at the beginning of every class), and started the warm-up, I was thoroughly impressed by the atmosphere. My coach Emily was on top of everything and didn’t miss a beat. She provided clear instructions to each group, modeled every movement, and made sure every member understood the workout.
The transitions between stations were seamless. I was pleasantly surprised at how the coaches kept the flow efficient, allowing members to make the most of every minute of the 60-minute class. Wipes were provided at each station to clean equipment before moving on, and everything was kept super clean and in good working order.
During the actual workout, Emily was encouraging without being pushy or annoying. She circulated the stations, corrected my form, provided modifications when needed, and ensured everyone was feeling well. After my first class, she even took the time to review my stats and help me understand what they meant.
"The workouts themselves vary each day, keeping things interesting."
Some days involve frequent transitions between stations, focusing on short, intense intervals. Other days may have longer periods on the treadmill or rower. The element of surprise is intentional, as Orangetheory believes it adds to the appeal of the workout experience. If you're concerned that a workout may include an exercise you feel unable to perform—I have an old back injury that I need to be mindful of when training—your Orangetheory coach can provide alternate options for movements that you can safely perform.
Orangetheory’s app was really impressive. I could view and sign up for classes at multiple studios, look over workout summaries for every class taken, track challenges and benchmarks, and even track out-of-studio workouts. I found the app very user-friendly, and in the few weeks I used it, I never ran into any glitches.
As for the downside, despite my experience as an athlete with a background in endurance sports and weightlifting, I didn't accumulate the coveted 12 splat points during my workout. My fitness level and naturally low heart rate made it challenging for me to reach the Orange Zone. Even during sprints, I could barely reach the higher ranges of the Blue Zone. But to be fair, I have raced triathlons for years, am an avid CrossFitter, and cycle several times a week, so my heart rate is naturally low. The staff explained that the Orangetheory computer program automatically calculates your heart rate zones based on data collected over five classes. Perhaps my numbers would have looked different if I continued with Orangetheory.
So, if you're looking for a killer workout that combines strength and cardio, Orangetheory may be a great fit!
What I Like
- Heart-rate based
- Classes move fast
- There is a good amount of variety within each class
- Mobile app is easy to use and filled with great info
- Instructors are great and knowledgeable
- Community feel
- Membership provides access to over 1,300 studios
What I Don’t Like
- You can not see classes beforehand
- Only 1 trial class
- Only 1 bike and 1 strider available for those who did not want to row or run (Note: other studios may have more options)
- No amenities or childcare
A Closer Look at Orangetheory
- Cost: Prices vary by location
- Trial period: 1 free class
- Commitment: Monthly membership with no long term commitment
- Coaching: One coach per class
- Class type: Heart rate interval training
- Available equipment: Treadmills, water rowers, dumbbells, medicine balls, lightweight benches, Bosu balls, kettlebells, bikes and ellipticals
- Available amenities: None
- Locations: 1,300 in the US, 1,500 globally
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, here is a quick history lesson. Over two decades ago in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Ellen Latham, armed with her expertise in exercise physiology and years of teaching, devised a metabolic workout for private clients from her home gym. Little did she anticipate that this program would transcend borders and attain worldwide fitness acclaim.
Dubbed the Orangetheory workout in 2010 by Ellen Latham, Jerome Kern, and David Long, Orangetheory now stands tall as a prominent fitness franchise, both within and beyond the borders of the United States. Boasting a remarkable membership base exceeding one million individuals, it has garnered recognition in over 20 countries.
This workout program hinges on the physiological principle of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).(2) By incorporating heart rate monitoring and strategically crafted exercises, it aims to stimulate metabolism and enhance overall fitness, making it one of the most popular 60-minute exercise routines available.
Orangetheory provides three levels of membership at all of its locations. The highest tier is the Premier Membership that offers unlimited classes. This membership is ideal for individuals attending three or more weekly classes.
The Elite Membership is a level below Premier. It is a good choice for those planning to attend an average of two weekly classes. The Elite package also provides discounted add-on classes in case you wish to exceed eight in a given month.
For those looking to attend just a few classes a month, there is the Basic membership that grants access to four monthly classes and, similar to the Elite membership, offers discounted add-on classes.
Check with your local studio as prices do vary from city to city.
Orangetheory provides a complimentary trial session for which you must arrive 30 minutes early, allowing the instructor or front desk staff to explain the class structure and guide you through the workout fundamentals. They also ask basic questions regarding your fitness level and possible injuries that may prevent you from participating in some movements. This half-hour was really informative. Given that I had no prior experience with Orangetheory, I would likely have been lost in class without that one-on-one time.
I had the opportunity to participate in five different classes, each featuring distinct exercises and workout focuses. For instance, one class emphasized endurance, while another concentrated on shorter sprint intervals involving frequent transitions between the treadmill, rower, and floor exercises. Offering only one trial class really does not provide sufficient insight into Orangetheory's diverse programming. Personally, I think a trial period of three classes or a week-long trial would offer people greater opportunities to evaluate and decide if it is something they want to continue.
Unlike many studios, Orangetheory does not require members to commit to a lengthy contract. Membership is billed and paid on a month-to-month basis; you can also cancel your membership at any time. Additionally, Orangetheory has a 30-day risk-free guarantee. They are so confident that people will enjoy their programming that they will give you your money back if you have taken 12 classes during your first 30 days and are unsatisfied. I have stepped in my fair share of gyms and fitness studios and have never seen this kind of guarantee, so I was pretty impressed.
During each class, a certified coach or instructor circulates among the three stations to help you throughout the workout. I was not surprised to learn that becoming an Orangetheory coach is no easy task. Applicants must complete a week-long intensive in-person training experience called the OTFit certification program. Once hired, the coaches undergo continuing education to stay up to date and expand their knowledge base, with mandatory webinars and meetings every month. That said, Orangetheory does not provide one-on-one personal training sessions.
Most Orangetheory classes are 60 minutes long, although some studios offer one or two 90 minute classes. Depending on your location, you may also find pure strength classes, referred to as “Lift 45” which are 45 minutes. At the studio I attended, there were a slew of classes offered daily. On a typical weekday, there are eight or more classes starting as early as 5:00 AM (my favorite time to train). The last class has a 7:00 PM end time.
The classes at Orangetheory are carefully pre planned monthly. Each month promises a unique combination of exercises, ensuring variation. The daily workouts are consistent across different OTF studios and coaches. Whether at one studio or another, you can expect the same workout schedule.
While the exact equipment may vary slightly, every Orangetheory studio does have WaterRowers (row machines), treadmills (with flex decks) and floor equipment including dumbbells, benches, TRX suspension trainers, medicine balls, and BOSU trainers. As an alternative to either the run or row portion, studios also have striders and bikes.
At Orangetheory, the focus is on being a dedicated group fitness studio. As a result, they don't offer many amenities that you might find in regular chain gyms, so don't expect to find saunas, pools, basketball courts, childcare, or other similar perks here. This could be a deterrent for some who need to be able to hop in the shower after an early morning sweat sesh before heading to work.
Personally, the lack of child care would be a problem. As the mother of three young kids, I rely on childcare to get my workouts in during the day.
Orangetheory boasts an impressive 1,300 studios in the United States. Their reach extends beyond national borders into more than 25 countries across the globe, with a total of more than 1,500 studios.
Orangetheory Cancellation Policy
All of the Orangetheory membership options are offered on a month-to-month basis. A written cancellation notice is required 30 days before your next billing cycle.
Is Orangetheory Worth It?
At the risk of sounding noncommittal, I would say that Orangetheory is worth it for some but not others. If you desire a workout that combines cardio with strength training, Orangetheory should be right up your alley. The classes are designed to provide a balanced mix of both, allowing you to push your cardiovascular limits while incorporating resistance exercises.
As for cost, Orangetheory falls within the range of similar fitness studios. Keep in mind, some studios may lack amenities such as showers, childcare services, or swimming pools. Depending on your personal preferences and needs, this could be a factor to consider when weighing the overall value of your membership.
Ultimately, the decision of whether Orangetheory is worth it or not will depend on your fitness goals, preferences, and individual circumstances. It's always a good idea to thoroughly evaluate your needs and expectations before committing to any fitness program.
FAQs About Orangetheory
Does Orangetheory have squat racks?
No, Orangetheory does not have squat racks but they do have a wide range of dumbbells.
Is Orangetheory open 24 hours a day?
No, Orangetheory is not open 24 hours a day. However, most studios offer multiple classes throughout the day.
Is there a dress code at Orangetheory?
There is a dress code at Orangetheory. Members must wear closed-toe running shoes, athletic shorts or pants, and an athletic top.
How long will it take to see results from Orangetheory?
While individual results may vary, many members see results within 30 days when consistently attending at least three weekly Orangetheory classes. A healthy diet combined with consistent training will yield the best results.
Is Orangetheory actually a good workout?
Orangetheory is an excellent workout for anyone looking to incorporate cardio and resistance training into each workout session. Backed by science, Orangetheory focuses on levels of intensity based on individual heart rate zones, making it a good option for beginners and advanced athletes.
My Final Takeaway
I enjoyed my time at Orangetheory and would love to pop in once in a while, but the workout didn't fit all my training preferences. That said, the classes are well-organized, challenging yet doable, and go by quickly which can make the cardio portion more enjoyable for those who are cardio-averse. While it may not have suited all my fitness needs, I believe this program is a fantastic option for fitness enthusiasts at every level. The first class is free so give it a shot!
Who Tried It
My name is Kristine Golden, and I am a fitness writer who has competed in every distance triathlon, from sprint and Olympic to half and full Ironman races, earning a spot to race in the 2012 Age Group National Championship Olympic Triathlon. As for now, I maintain an active lifestyle with regular cycling, CrossFit, and keeping up with my three young boys.
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- Mahaffey, K. (n.d.) Heart Rate Zone Training: Does It Work or Not? NASM. Retrieved June, 15, 2023 from https://blog.nasm.org/heart-rate-zones-do-they-work-or-not
- Lecovin, G. (n.d.) Exploring Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (Epoc): 'Burn Baby Burn!' NASM. Retrieved June, 15, 2023 from https://blog.nasm.org/excess-post-exercise-oxygen-consumption