Skip to main content

I Tried Orangetheory Fitness for 30 Days: Here Are the Results

If you want highly-dynamic, coach-led workouts that push you to new levels of fitness, I recommend Orangetheory.

Gyms
30 min read2024-01-22T15:24:00.000Z
BPWritten By Brett Pharis

OVERVIEW

As Cofounder of GymBird, I’m constantly seeking out and exploring products and services in the fitness industry. If you’re in the fitness space, you’ve heard about the success of Orangetheory Fitness over the last several years.

As we take on the tall task of building the most comprehensive fitness center directory in the country at GymBird (we call it our Gym Finder), I’m also embarking on a personal journey to improve my health and fitness levels while becoming more acquainted with the various gyms available across the country. If you live in the US, it’s likely you can’t drive across town without seeing at least one Orangetheory location in your city. There are at least 14 locations within a 40-minute drive from my home in Salt Lake City!

While I’ve known a handful of people who have attended Orangetheory Fitness in the past, I wasn’t super familiar with the overall approach. Is it HIIT? Is it challenging? Is it a good option for beginners or those coming straight off the couch? I’ll do my best to answer those questions and many more by sharing my experience and what I learned in this last month or so of attending classes multiple times per week.

Joining Orangetheory Fitness

After writing about my experience and OrangeTheory overall, I realized that some of you may have come here just looking for some validation that it’s a good idea to join OrangeTheory. I can tell you that you should most definitely give it a try, for at least a month. I think 10 sessions will give you a really good sense of whether or not you enjoy the format and the particular location.

Here’s a very straightforward list of the process to join and get comfortable, as well as some of my recommendations for new members:

  • Sign up for a free class online
  • Fill out the necessary forms, add credit card information
  • Sign the waiver when your local staff member reaches out to you
  • Download the app after creating your account
  • Show up ~30 minutes before your scheduled Free Class for “orientation”
  • Decide if you’ll consider yourself a “walker”, “jogger”, or “runner” (start easier)
  • Meet with a coach briefly to discuss operating the treadmills, the leaderboard, etc.
  • Enjoy the workout and ask questions of your coach as they come up!
  • Meet with staff in the lobby after your workout to ask additional questions
  • Check for promotions!
  • Sign up for membership that makes sense for your goals and availability
  • Be prepared to also purchase a heart rate monitor if you don’t have one
  • Schedule your next couple weeks (up to 1 month) of classes in the app
  • 2G classes have two groups and fewer people usually, 3G classes have three groups and more people, Strength 50 classes are weight floor-only and focus on resistance training
  • It takes 5-7 classes to calibrate your personal max heart rate (default is age, gender based)
  • Try different class types and times to find the coach(es) you prefer
  • Rinse and repeat, get those Splat Points

Get our fitness newsletter

Stay on track with your fitness goals and get inspired! Sign up for the GymBird newsletter for twice-monthly expert fitness and nutrition tips.

Introduction to Orangetheory: My Personal 30-day Journey

Before I jump into the nitty-gritty of the Orangetheory experience I think it would be good to give you some background on where I’m at with my fitness and overall health.

I’ve always been interested in maintaining a certain standard of fitness for myself, but I wouldn’t consider myself the most consistent person when it comes to attending the gym. Some things about myself that hopefully provide context for the rest of the article:

  • I’m in my late 30s, married, with two kiddos
  • I tend to focus mostly on maintaining weight, fitness level, and lifestyle over getting markedly stronger or hitting a new max in the gym
  • I’ve committed to walking 10,000 steps a day on average for nearly 4 years (one of the main benefits in lifestyle that came from the pandemic and working from home)
  • I’ve tried all types of gyms over the years and have been a member at a CrossFit gym, Planet Fitness, a higher end boutique gym, as well as some funky fad fitness centers (stories for another day)
  • I’ve had periods in my life where I focused primarily on cardio and running outdoors to train for races, and other periods where I was committed to functional training, lifting heavier and improving my physique
  • I’m not a personal trainer, a medical professional, or anything near it–just a fitness enthusiast who happens to have cofounded a brand to help people progress in their respective fitness journeys
  • I didn’t jump into this Orangetheory trial with any specific fitness goals in mind, but rather the simple goal of understanding the workouts, community, and overall experience better to share with you

Because I didn’t know what to expect before my first Orangetheory workout, I started by jumping on the Orangetheory website and finding the nearest location to my home and signing up to “Try a Class.”

When you go to sign up, Orangetheory asks for your contact information, as well as an acknowledgement that this location is near you, and that you’re comfortable receiving text message reminders and communication from them. If you have a referral code, you can enter it as well.

After you enter this information, you’re asked to select a date and time for your free class. Once confirmed, you’re prompted to enter your credit card information and download the app before attending. You’ll receive an email, text, and potentially a phone call from someone at the location detailing what to expect upon arrival. They’ll also require you to complete a waiver–pretty standard stuff for attending a gym.

The rest of this article will outline what I learned during about a month of attending 19 classes at my local Orangetheory:

  • An overview of the Orangetheory philosophy and workout structure
  • Insights from the daily notes I took about my experience in each class
  • Details about what I learned from the data contained in the app
  • Some photos and screenshots of the above
  • My overall thoughts on who OTF is best for, how to prepare for your first visit, and how to get the most out of your experience and potential membership
Orangetheory logo

Orangetheory

Best for science-backed workout routine

A modified high-intensity interval training (HIIT) gym that uses heart rate monitoring technology to help members maximize their workout and burn calories both during and after their session.

  • Group classes

  • Community-focused

  • Tracked workouts & stats

What Is Orangetheory and How Did It Revolutionize Fitness?

As a person who was semi-aware of the fact that Orangetheory workouts include running on a treadmill, rowing, and some weightlifting I would have likely described the workouts as a form of high intensity interval training (HIIT). However, OTF makes it very clear on their website that their programming is not HIIT, but heart rate-based interval training.

According to OTF’s website, the physiological theory behind the workouts is based on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. Pushing your heart rate above 84% or higher of your maximum heart rate produces an after effect which can increase metabolism for up to 24 hours post workout.

With connected heart rate monitoring, you and your certified coach can monitor where you sit at any given point in the workout within the five heart rate zones:resting (gray zone), easy (blue zone), challenging/base (green zone), uncomfortable/push (orange zone), and all out (red zone). Your goal is to spend 12 minutes or more within “The Orange Zone” or Red Zone during a 60-minute workout.

What Are Orangetheory Splat Points?

Achieving one minute in the orange or red heart rate zones produces one “Splat Point” which is tracked on both the leaderboard and the equipment you’re using in real-time and is also viewable after your workout within the app. Achieving 12 Splat Points via elevated intensity and heart rate increases metabolism, burns fat, and burns more calories.

What makes Orangetheory unique is the focus on achieving this goal of 12 Splat Points in a fun, encouraging, and safe environment. Because many of the workouts are done as relatively short intervals or as components of a circuit, it makes it easier to achieve a higher intensity without extreme fatigue or burnout during the workout. The combination of a focus on data through connected equipment and the app via instruction from a certified coach in an environment that facilitates a community feel is what is truly revolutionizing the fitness industry.

My Experience with Splat Points

In my experience during my first 19 workouts, it’s been relatively simple to achieve the target of 12 Splat Points, especially when I start on the treadmill and attend a 2G class (more on what that means later).

In the two “Strength 50” classes I attended, I wasn’t able to get my heart rate elevated quite as much, but the focus and goals of those workouts is a bit different. Once my heart rate zones were calibrated correctly after a handful of workouts, I ranged from 35 Splat Points to 2 Splat points, depending on the workout structure and circuit durations. Beyond pushing yourself, your coach will be walking the floor using the leaderboard and your equipment’s screen to validate your effort level or give you a friendly push!

Breaking Down the Orangetheory Workout: A Comprehensive Guide

The Orangetheory workouts all follow a very similar structure. There are two main class types you can choose from when scheduling in the OTF app (you have to commit to a specific class and time, we’ll talk a bit more about this later). There’s a 2G (two group class) and a 3G (three group class) format. Both classes have a Treadmill, Rower, and Weight Floor component to them. The difference being that in the 2G classes there’s a group that starts on the treadmills and a group that starts on the rowers+weight floor, whereas in the 3G classes there will be a group on the treadmills, a group on the rowers, and a group on the weight floor.

OrangeTheory just recently introduced a third class type which is strength training focused, called Strength 50. In these classes, you’re guided through a routine that is strictly on the weight floor using dumbbells, med balls, resistance bands, BOSU balls, TRX straps, and sometimes a bench. There tend to be fewer of these classes available so they fill up quickly. I think it’s cool OTF is willing to address a potential gap in their training by offering this type of class and it shows their commitment to a well rounded, life-centered exercise routine - one about getting the most out of life, not just exercising for the sake of it or for vanity reasons.

TRX logo

TRX

Best for portable workouts

The ultimate all-in-one fitness solution for everyone! The TRX Suspension Trainer™ is a full gym experience powered by your bodyweight, for all levels and goals.

  • Fitness for all levels

  • Lightweight and portable

  • Industry leading functional training

I never asked, but my assumption is that 3G classes are meant to accommodate more popular class times and therefore more people (e.g. the early morning and early evening classes) and 2G classes tend to be offered mid to late morning and mid-day. From a workout perspective the main difference between the two classes is that you’re going to spend more time on the treadmill during a 2G class than in a 3G class.

Sample Orangetheory Class

My 2G class from this morning went something like this:

Treadmill

  • 3-minute base pace run to get heart rate up
  • 30 second push pace (1 or 2 mph above base pace)
  • 30 second base pace
  • 45 second push pace (1 or 2 mph above base pace)
  • 45 second base pace
  • 60 second push pace (1 or 2 mph above base pace)
  • 60 second base pace
  • 75 second push pace (1 or 2 mph above base pace)
  • 75 second base pace
  • 90 second push pace (1 or 2 mph above base pace)
  • 90 second base pace
  • 30 second all out (highest speed you’re comfortable with)
  • 2 minute walking recovery
  • Repeat above in ascending order

These two blocks took about 25+ minutes to complete.

Rower + Weight Floor

  • Overhead dumbbell press: 8 reps
  • 100M push row (high effort, not max effort)
  • Overhead dumbbell press: 8 reps
  • Dumbbell swing to upright row: 8 reps
  • 200M push row
  • Overhead dumbbell press: 8 reps
  • Dumbbell swing to upright row: 8 reps
  • X-Out Jump Squat: 8 total
  • 300M push row
  • Overhead dumbbell press: 8 reps
  • Dumbbell swing to upright row: 8 reps
  • X-Out Jump Squat: 8 reps
  • Inverted Row w/TRX Straps: 8 reps
  • 400M push row
  • Overhead dumbbell press: 8 reps
  • Dumbbell swing to upright row: 8 reps
  • X-Out Jump Squat: 8 reps
  • Inverted Row w/TRX Straps: 8 reps
  • Plank Jump High Knees: 8 reps
  • 500M push row
  • X-Out Jump Squat all out to finish

This block took a little over 25 minutes. Then the class finishes cleaning up equipment and cools down with some stretching to finish out the 60 minutes. A similar 3G class would simply have the weight floor component and rower components separated and all blocks would then be closer to 15 minutes long, instead of 25.

Orangetheory logo

Orangetheory

Best for structured workouts

A modified high-intensity interval training (HIIT) gym that uses heart rate monitoring technology to help members maximize their workout and burn calories both during and after their session.

  • Group classes

  • Community-focused

  • Tracked workouts & stats

Orangetheory Class Structure

Typically, there’s been either an endurance focus OR a strength focus for a given class and its respective blocks. The example 2G class above was focused on endurance, for example. A class focused on strength might have an incline component on the treadmill, a stroke per minute target on the rower, and more heavy, squat oriented lifts on the weight floor.

In the midst of any workout you’re able to see your heart rate, current zone (grey, blue, green, orange, or red), number of Splat Points, and total calories burned for the class on the rower or treadmill screens, on the leaderboards placed around the room. Your heart rate will typically be at its highest during push or all out portions on the treadmill and rower. I’ve found that my heart rate tends to drop quite a bit while I’m lifting on the weight floor, unless I’m in the midst of a circuit that requires pushing myself on a rower between lifts.

Your Target Heart Rate & Splat Points

In general, the heart rate zones are pretty intuitive once you complete a handful of classes for two reasons. First, you quickly get comfortable with the workout formats and what terms like “base pace,” “push pace,” and “all out” mean for your personal fitness levels and application within a given workout. Second, the OTF app is able to calibrate your actual max heart rate after a handful of classes because it has more than just your age and gender to work from.

You can Google “average heart rate for 37 year old male” and find the common calculation or table to get a rough sense. I’m fairly certain this is how Orangetheory calculates your max heart rate to start with and the ranges for your various zones. If you happen to be below the average fitness level for your age and gender, after a handful of classes your max heart rate will lower, making it easier for you to enter your orange and red zones and hit your 12 Splat Point target for each class.

My max heart rate increased in the app after five or so workouts, so my total Splat Points reduced and my time spent in any given heart rate zone went from being pinned in the orange and red zones, to being a bit more of a normalized curve, where I’m spending most of the class in either green or orange, with a few minutes in the lower and highest zones. Check out my first classes vs. a couple of my more recent classes, for example:

I personally haven’t had any issues with getting to 12 Splat points in most classes so I’m not actively thinking about achieving another Splat Point during the workout. However, I do my best to go into the workout with a committed mindset and the goal of pushing myself to get the most out of my time spent. For those who want to follow strict guidelines and give yourself the credit for showing up (nothing wrong with this by the way) you may need to commit to monitoring your heart rate zones and achieving those 12 Splat Points.

The other side of the coin is ensuring that you remain injury free, are able to complete the given workout that day, and that you can maintain consistency. So for those just getting back into exercising regularly or who have lower levels of fitness in general, you’ll want to make sure you don’t over-exert yourself in any given block.

Orangetheory says that if you enter the red zone at all, it’s best not to be there more than 30-60 seconds at a time, or you run the risk of burning yourself out, becoming overly exhausted, and potentially injuring yourself.

The Orangetheory heart rate zones breakdown something like this (these aren’t exact, but should give you the gist):

  • Red Zone: 90%+ of max heart rate
  • Orange Zone: 80%+ of max heart rate
  • Green Zone: 65%+ of max heart rate
  • Blue Zone: 50%+ of max
  • Grey Zone: resting heart rate

Note: Since you don’t know what the workouts will be until you arrive, I’ve found it difficult to know when to push myself a little harder or even when to maybe take it easier on the first section, so I’m not gassed for the second or third sections. My preference is to start on the treadmills, so there have been a few days where I’ve really pushed on an incline and then sat down to row without much energy left to perform. Not a huge deal, but something that potentially gets easier over time once you’re comfortable with all the various workout structures and styles.

Get our fitness newsletter

Stay on track with your fitness goals and get inspired! Sign up for the GymBird newsletter for twice-monthly expert fitness and nutrition tips.

Orangetheory Member Engagement

OrangeTheory is clearly committed to keeping their member base engaged. So far in the last month, there have been at least one, if not two or three challenges, community events, or calls to action at any given time.

When I started at the end of October it was “Hell Week,” which consisted of the most challenging routines of the year. Right now, there are two promotions going on for attendance based prizes going into the new year - attend 24 days before 2024 and be entered to win a free-month of membership dues.

On top of these extended challenges, there have also been a couple of team-oriented workouts where you’re pushing to hit a given target with another person in the class. Last week, we did what they called “Capture the Flag,” which was a routine done with a partner that required hitting certain targets for distance on the rower while completing a weight and treadmill circuit. As someone who’s a bit competitive, it was a fun way to challenge myself and add some accountability into the day’s routine - I’d be game for more of these!

Orangetheory Gym Layout & Atmosphere

The Orangetheory gym layout is very simple. All the treadmills, rowers, and weights are grouped together. The location I’m attending is not particularly large, which is nice when you’re doing a circuit that includes weights and a rower because you don’t need to walk far between the two areas.

If a 3G class is completely full, the space can definitely feel a little tight on the weight floor and near the rowers. This is especially true when you’re doing a med ball deadlift and reverse lunge next to your rower. I’ve had a few days where I felt like I might accidentally bump someone next to me as they were rowing, and I was trying to keep my balance during a reverse lunge next to them.

Overall, I’ve been impressed with how the gym is always neat and clean. The coaches pass out cleaning wipes after each workout block to wipe down your equipment, and you’re asked to put weights, bands, etc. away after you’re done with them.

Is Orangetheory Right for Fitness Newcomers?

The benefits of exercise have been widely published and, to our delight at GymBird, continue to be shared and discussed more and more regularly in the news, podcasts, advertising, and in our daily conversations with friends and family. At GymBird, we genuinely want everyone to make progress in their fitness journey, no matter where you’re starting from today.

If you just stumbled upon Orangetheory through an advertisement, driving past it on the way to the grocery store, or because a coworker mentioned they’d been attending one for a while, you might be curious what all the hype is about.

When you first hear terms like “Orangetheory,” “heart rate monitors,” and “intensity training,” you might get visions of sweaty former athletes shoulder checking you in the lobby to get to their favorite equipment. I’ve found the reality of the Orangetheory experience to be quite the opposite. At my gym, the staff is friendly. And the gym is welcoming to a wide variety of ages, abilities, and fitness levels.

Don’t let phrases like “high intensity” or “heart rate zones” scare you. The Orangetheory format enables each person to experience the same class differently and customize the class to their current fitness level. This is accomplished by the continuous real-time feedback you’re getting from your heart rate monitor, the highly engaged, friendly, and well-trained coaches, and the variety of equipment you have available in the gym. The reality is that “intense” does not translate to inaccessible. In fact, the opposite is true!

Orangetheory logo

Orangetheory

Best for Certified Coach-led workouts

A modified high-intensity interval training (HIIT) gym that uses heart rate monitoring technology to help members maximize their workout and burn calories both during and after their session.

  • Group classes

  • Community-focused

  • Tracked workouts & stats

Customizing Your Orangetheory Experience

When you join Orangetheory, on your first day you’ll be asked about potential medical conditions or injuries, as well as whether you’ll be most comfortable as a “walker”, “jogger”, or “runner” on the treadmills. I’d encourage you to be honest with yourself and staff as a starting point, and there’s really no risk in saying one over the other as you’ll have full control over the speed and incline on your treadmill anyhow.

As a newcomer, starting as a “walker” is probably a good idea. That just means that you’ll be listening for walking-specific instructions from your coach when he or she outlines the day’s workout. I started off as a “jogger” and now work mostly as a “runner”, but this is fluid day-to-day. For example, if you’re starting on the treadmills today your coach might say something like:

  • “Walkers, we’re starting at your base walking pace of 2.5-3.5 mph with a 4% incline”
  • “Joggers, we’re starting at your base pace of 4-5 mph at a 2% incline”
  • “And runners you’re starting with your base pace at 5.5 mph or greater, at a 1% incline”

In addition to self-selecting your level of intensity on the treadmills, there are also a number of stationary bikes and elliptical machines available on a first come, first serve basis. If you prefer one of these limited machines, I’d recommend getting to class a little earlier to sign up for your preferred machine. Both the bikes and elliptical are easier on your joints and allow for more control and stability. If those are concerns on the treadmill you can simply replace the treadmill portion of the workout with the bike or elliptical.

Beyond the intensity you select (which you control throughout the workout) and the equipment, the coaches are trained to be there to support you in your respective fitness journey. In my experience ALL of the coaches were extremely friendly and helpful when I have questions about the day’s routine. At least half the time I’ve been, the coaches have offered alternative exercises of varying difficulty to choose from on the weight floor–and I’m certain they’d be happy to give you ideas if you were to pull them aside for a quick second before jumping in.

Is Orangetheory Right for You?

The short answer to the question of whether Orangetheory is right for fitness beginners is, it depends. If you’ve been out of the gym for years, are overweight, or have injuries, it’s imperative you speak with a physician before committing to any new routine.

For most newcomers, engaging in an exercise routine that’s guided by a certified personal trainer or coach, (like at Orangetheory), is probably the best option because you get the benefit of oversight AND insight into your form, function, and application. For anyone who’s willing to commit the time and effort, Orangetheory is equally equipped and committed to you having a positive experience.

In my opinion, a big factor in your workout experience is the mentality you take into it. Don’t worry, I’m not talking about “mental toughness” or any other motivational trope. I’m talking about having the humility to know your limits and being comfortable working within them. Think about joining Orangetheory, or any other new fitness routine, as something you intend to do for an extended period of time where you can build skills and capabilities, one session at a time.

Orangetheory: Our Take
Starts at $69/mo

Orangetheory

Best for high-intensity trainer-led workouts

  • Group classes
  • Community-focused
  • Tracked workouts & stats

My Take After My First 30 days at Orangetheory: Expectations vs. Reality

After setting up my first free class for the next day, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I received an email telling me that it’s best to arrive 30 minutes early on your first day to allow staff to walk you through an overview of Orangetheory and give you time to ask questions.

The lobby has a front desk, some space to sit, a leaderboard like the ones in the gym, a couple bathrooms and a whiteboard where front-deskers sign you up for a specific place to start each day. All the treadmills, rowers, bikes, etc. are numbered, so you choose where you’d like to start and they write your name down.

Orangetheory Heart Rate Monitors

After the initial walkthrough and before jumping in to my first workout the woman who helped me get up to speed offered a heart rate monitor for me to use in the class. They have these available for Free Class trials and for members who forget their heart rate monitors at home or forget to charge their monitors.

There’s usually a fee for using the heart rate monitors, and the expectation is that you purchase a heart rate monitor if you become a member. There are a number of compatible options on the market, but OTF offers an option for about $125 that comes with an armband.

The heart rate monitor can be used with other fitness apps outside the gym, including the OrangeTheory app for at-home workouts so in theory I suppose the monitor wouldn’t fully go to waste if you end up canceling your membership down the line. So in addition to your monthly subscription you will need to shell out some money for the monitor - this was my first surprise as a newbie. Since I ended up going with the top tier membership (Premier), also purchasing a heart rate monitor meant my first month out of pocket expense was nearly $250. Pretty steep compared to other gym options on the market.

My First 5 Workouts at Orangetheory

I joined during “Hell Week” (end of October), so a few of my first workouts were designed to be more challenging than average. Three of my first 5 workouts were 3G classes, so there were more people in the classes than a 2G class.

After getting used to the workouts, having more people and limited space isn’t a huge deal, but I have to admit that my first couple classes were a little awkward as I was getting comfortable with how to set myself up for a given exercise with folks on either side of me.

After five workouts, I began to realize my preference was attending 2G class times (more mid-late morning times), which allow for more space and a bit more focused workout in the various stations around the gym.

I make my own work schedule and mostly work from home, so taking a class at 9 or 10 a.m. isn’t an issue for me, but I realize that may be impossible for folks who have set schedules or commute to work.

As I attended classes, I realized I preferred starting on the treadmills because I found it easier to warm up and get loose. It was also simpler to hit the Splat point targets. I had a couple workouts where I started on the weight floor, doing lunges and squats. After that, it was more challenging for me to get on the treadmill.

Like with any new exercise routine, I noticed the most muscle soreness and fatigue during the first few. While I had been doing some simple routines in my home gym, I hadn’t been actively pushing myself the way I was in a group class setting. I was able to stretch and focus on recovery by exercising more, eventually getting to a more sustainable post-workout recovery when my body was used to the workout, but this is 100% something newcomers need to consider as they begin their Orangetheory membership. Setting realistic goals and expectations for yourself is key!

I have detailed notes about all of my workouts in the first 30 days, but I’ll spare you the boring bits. I learned quite a bit about OTF in my first 5 classes. Specifically, after attending 5 classes I was able to pick up the new lingo like “Treads”, “push pace”, and “all out”. I was also able to judge how hard to push at the various stations after having a better understanding of the class format.

I don’t know anyone personally who attends this location and yet everyone has been extremely friendly; both members and staff alike. Both coaches and front desk staff made a point to ask me how things were going and whether I had any questions. This gave me an opportunity to ask a few lingering questions about how to judge my personal performance metrics and which classes to choose.

After getting through “Hell Week” (classes the week of Halloween), I found the subsequent classes to be more manageable and easier to follow. However, there are still some movements on the weight floor that can be a bit awkward, like a side lunge to a one-legged dumbbell curl felt somewhat unnecessary, but coaches are great about offering alternate exercise so don’t hesitate to ask for help.

After every class you receive an email with your performance summary that includes some highlights of your workout and words of encouragement, and all of your historical data is stored within the Orangetheory app. The email is focused on your heart rate zones, Splat Points, calories burned, and step count. There are additional stats at the end of the email and available in the app at anytime post-workout.

My Next 14 Orangetheory Classes: Getting Into a Rhythm

In my next 14 workouts, I learned a lot about my fitness level relative to the OTF workouts, how to use the app, and which coaches I preferred, and more in the first handful of workouts. The remaining workouts in my first month is when I really started to get into a rhythm.

I figured out that I like starting out on the treadmills, on either number 8, 1, or the last machine because you’re on the end of a row of rowing machines and are provided a bit more space when doing circuit training in concert with a rowing machine.

In this period, I got comfortable with scheduling classes in advance, rescheduling, and joining classes that had waitlists. I never ran into an issue and after a month I feel the scheduling process is easily integrated into my overall scheduling routine for work and family - the app really does make this simple!

Aside from getting into a groove with how Orangetheory was structured, I [re] learned some things about myself when it comes to this HIIT-style workout routine. I found coach-led group classes can be super motivating to me - at the very least they provide in-workout accountability. I noticed that I can get better at controlling my heart rate and this has obvious benefits during exercise, but also in other real world situations.

Knowing your own limits are huge, the more comfortable I got with the workouts the more I could pick and choose when to push myself to get the most out of the workout, and good music most definitely helps keep intensity up.

I could be doing more with my BOSU Ball (and other equipment) at home to maximize core strength and get workouts in when I’m unable to make time for a class. That said, I miss the strength training and resistance benefits from being in a more traditional gym - both OrangeTheory and my home gym present limitations on this front.

The mental health benefits of exercise are real! On days when I’ve really pushed myself, my mood improves throughout the day for longer periods of time. I enjoy the community vibe and being around other people working on themselves is fun and motivating! Outside of other members, I like when coaches make an effort to remember and address me by name. I also think it could be fun to do these workouts with a friend or family member.

Strength 50: New Classes to Address Strength Training Gap

Seeing the addition of a strength training-focused workout in the news recently (keep in mind, I follow fitness news), I was excited to try these Strength 50 classes out. While I found the workouts to be relatively engaging and challenging in certain areas, I do not see these classes as a replacement for committed, progressive resistance training.

Of course, any fitness routine done consistently is better than not going to the gym, or in this case lifting, at all, but I do think OTF’s core classes are much better designed and marry better with the stats tracked in the app.

If you’re a premium plan member with unlimited classes, I’d recommend giving the Strength 50 classes a try, but for all other membership plans I’d probably skip adding these to my routine. I think you’ll get better value out of a 3G or 2G class.

The Orangetheory App: Your Fitness Data and Scheduling Friend

For the sake of this review, I’ll focus on what I’ve found to be the most important aspects of the Orangetheory app for regular gym attendance and getting the most out of my membership: the Base, Classes, and Performance sections of the app.

Think of the “Base” as the app homepage. It has ways to navigate to various other areas of the app, and it calls out challenges, highlights promotions, and provides easy to access resources about your max heart rate and your performance.

How to Schedule Orangetheory Classes

The “Classes” tab is where you can see your upcoming classes, their respective coaches, format (2G or 3G, for example), date, and times. You can also cancel your classes or share them via text or with your calendar. You’ll see all of your previous classes, noting whether you attended or not. I personally haven’t missed any classes yet, so mine all say “attended”.

Keep in mind that for any membership tiers below Premier (Unlimited classes), you’ll need to cancel at least 8 hours in advance of the class time or that class will count against your monthly allotted classes.

When I first heard about how Orangetheory approaches class scheduling, it turned me off a bit. But after scheduling classes for a month now, I think I may prefer it. When I sign up for a class, I really commit to it and put it in my calendar,, rather than just thinking to myself, “yeah I’ll go Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning sometime.” It’s been a subtle way to add accountability and ensure that I attend after I book.

Tapping the big orange plus button at the bottom of the app screen allows you to schedule future classes as much as a month in advance. The default shows your main studio’s class times and coaches for any given day in the next month. You’re also able to filter by preferred start times, change studios, and see which classes have a waitlist. Coaches have assured me that you shouldn’t be afraid of a waitlist and that people often drop off at the last minute. So far, I’ve signed up for two classes with waitlists of less than 5 people and have been able to attend both.

Tips for scheduling your Orangetheory classes:

  • Schedule your classes as far in advance as possible for your schedule.
  • Prioritize scheduling early morning and Sunday times because there is higher demand.
  • Keep an eye on the class type if you have a preference.
  • Get a sense of when certain coaches are working if you have a preference.
  • Try signing up for a waitlisted class so you can get a feel for how that process works.
  • Add your classes to your calendar!
  • Don’t “hoard” class times if you think it’s likely you won’t be able to attend.

Performance Tracking and Other App Benefits

Aside from reserving your spot in classes, the other main function of the app is housing your performance data. If you tap the little graph icon, you’ll see your performance by workout with a graph representing the time you spent in each zone, the number of calories you burned, and your total Splat points. By tapping a given workout you can see even more data in the app:

  • Average and peak heart rate
  • Miles run on the treadmill
  • Meters rowed on the rower
  • Total steps
  • Speed and pace on the treadmill
  • Wattage and 500M split times on the rower
  • Your heart rate over time in the workout

The individual workout view is where you can rate the workout and your coach, and you can provide feedback if you want. The Performance section of the app is also where you can see your Challenge participation stats, as well as any benchmarks you’ve completed in workouts–like a 12 minute run for distance on the treadmill. On the Stats tab, you can see aggregate stats like total calories burned or total Splat Points for this month, or this year.

The app has very impressive functionality and a ton of features I didn’t touch on. The main benefits outside of scheduling, performance tracking, and overall stats:

  • Booking across any studio locations
  • Saving your favorite locations for easier booking in the future
  • In-depth performance breakdowns
  • Body composition changes via InBody scans
  • Ability to track out-of-studio workouts like runs or home gym, in combination with your heart rate monitor
  • Complete guided on-demand workouts
  • View/change profile, payment, and plan information

App Integration Room for Improvement

Given no one at my studio discussed InBody scanning, overall app functionality, at-home workouts, or on-demand options with me, it feels like there’s an opportunity for Orangetheory to engage members a bit deeper on a fully tech-enabled, integrated experience. I wasn’t aware I could add my heart rate monitor as a device in the app to tell me when to charge until my monitor died in the middle of a workout, for example. Some time spent with new members showing the most important parts of the app would be time well spent in my opinion.

Orangetheory logo

Orangetheory

Best for improving heart health

A modified high-intensity interval training (HIIT) gym that uses heart rate monitoring technology to help members maximize their workout and burn calories both during and after their session.

  • Group classes

  • Community-focused

  • Tracked workouts & stats

Real Results: The Physical and Mental Impact of Orangetheory

Most of us are aware of the positive physical and mental benefits exercise in general can have in our lives. I definitely experienced those most common benefits during my first 30 days including improved mood, reduced stress, more energy on non-workout days, and improved fitness levels.

I didn’t set out with a particular weight loss, body composition, or fitness goal in mind. I was simply focused on the experience and my general takeaways from the nearly 20 classes I participated in during the 30 days.

Individual goals will vary and my recommendation, especially for fitness newcomers, would be to set sustainable goals that are focused on consistency and the practical benefits of movement, as opposed to losing weight, for example. And, as always at GymBird, we highly recommend consulting with a medical professional before jumping into any new exercise routine.

Partway through the month, I wondered if having done an InBody scan, a VO2 max test, or some other measured benchmarking may have provided some additional interesting information to judge the OTF workout by, but those questions will have to be answered another time!

Orangetheory Pricing: Is It Worth It?

Orangetheory has a number of monthly subscription options, mainly based on how often you’d like to attend. Note that most studios are open seven days a week, and you get access to over 1,300 studios across the United States.

Orangetheory regularly features discounted memberships and promotional pricing, so check before joining.

Check out the table below for the membership pricing tiers. Certain memberships come with a Risk-Free guarantee, check out terms here.

Orangetheory membership features:

  • Month-to-month, no lengthy contracts
  • Access to the 1300+ studios across the country
  • Best-in-class app
  • Access to InBody body composition scans
  • Can “freeze” membership for 60-days, twice a year

Orangetheory Pricing Tiers

Membership/PlanPriceNumber of ClassesBenefits
Premier$169/mo*UnlimitedRisk-Free Guarantee
Elite$109/mo*8 Classes MonthlyDiscounted Add-on Classes
Basic$69/mo*4 Classes MonthlyDiscounted Add-on Classes
Class Packs$199, $359, $49910, 20, 30 class packsPay as you go

*Promotional pricing is quite common so be sure to ask the studio you’re interested in attending if there are any current discounts

Relative to other traditional gym membership pricing, Orangetheory is a bit expensive. That said, the ability to show up, be guided through a workout without pre-planning, have certified coach oversight, AND the accountability of a group class most definitely can be worth it to a lot of people. If you’re committed to attending the gym regularly and really want to experience the benefits of improved cardiovascular fitness and health, I believe an Orangetheory membership is well worth the price of admission.

Orangetheory Pros
  • No lengthy contracts
  • Certified coach-led routines
  • Fun, community vibe
  • Performance trend insights through data tracking
  • Varied workouts every class
  • New Strength 50 courses for broader training options
  • Intuitive, feature rich app
  • Friendly staff
Orangetheory Cons
  • High price relative to other gym options
  • Class scheduling required
  • Required to purchase (or have) heart rate monitor
  • Some balance and high impact exercises can be challenging for newcomers
  • New terminology to pick up
  • Popular class times can fill up quickly

Preparing for Success: Tips for Orangetheory Beginners

Attending a new gym can be intimidating! So kudos to you for considering joining and prioritizing your health. Even as someone who has experience in a variety of fitness centers over my adult life, there are still a ton of unknowns going into a new facility.

Here are some tips that come to mind for anyone starting out with the Orangetheory experience:

  • Arrive well rested, and hydrated
  • Wear comfortable athletic clothing and shoes
  • Bring a water bottle
  • Ask a ton of questions! Any questions at all, seriously
  • Start with low expectations and have fun
  • Be kind to yourself and enter with humility
  • If you’re unsure what to do next, ask a coach or a nearby member
  • Take it easy in the first class
  • Be prepared to be sore after the first few classes, give yourself ample time for rest and recovery
  • Don’t skip stretching at the end of class
  • Be engaged in your workout, stay in tune with what your body is doing and telling you

On the one hand, one of the main draws of Orangetheory and other coach-led programs is that you can show up without thinking much about what exercises you’re going to do that day and how long your workout will take.

On the other hand, it’s easy to float mindlessly through a group class setting without staying engaged in your performance, effort, and progress. Given the amount of data and information readily available to you as an Orangetheory member, it’s super valuable to monitor your progress and how you’re feeling throughout any given class, and over time, if you intend to achieve any specific fitness goals.

I’ve found that going into a class with a positive mindset while taking a moment to assess how I’m feeling that day has been most effective in getting maximum value from each class I’ve attended. On days I haven’t slept well or still have some soreness from a previous workout, I might give myself permission to take it easier on the weight floor, for example. On days I’m feeling particularly energized I might set out with the goal to see how hard I can really push my “all out” effort on the treadmill or rowing machine.

Orangetheory logo

Orangetheory

Best for achieving fitness goals

A modified high-intensity interval training (HIIT) gym that uses heart rate monitoring technology to help members maximize their workout and burn calories both during and after their session.

  • Group classes

  • Community-focused

  • Tracked workouts & stats

Some Questions Remain after 30 Days of Orangetheory

There’s no denying that Orangetheory’s workouts are highly engaging and offer a challenge for any fitness level. After attending 19 classes over 30 days I can definitely see why membership and studio growth has been so consistent over the past several years.

I intend to continue attending Orangetheory for the foreseeable future (at least until another GymBird review has me changing my membership) and the things that I’m still curious about are:

  • Where and how do I get an InBody scan?
  • How often are exercise benchmarks done?
  • Will my max heart rate continue to improve? What’s realistic?
  • Do I need to introduce some strength training into my routine independently of OTF?
  • What would a whole year of classes mean for my weight, VO2 Max, body composition etc?

Maybe I’ll do a followup later next year to answer some of these (and other) questions as I have answers. In the meantime, best of luck in your fitness journey!

Feel free to email me at brett@gymbird.com if you have any fitness or OTF specific questions - would be happy to chat.

Get our fitness newsletter

Stay on track with your fitness goals and get inspired! Sign up for the GymBird newsletter for twice-monthly expert fitness and nutrition tips.

Bottom Line

Even with the higher monthly membership cost and required heart rate monitor, I think Orangetheory is a fantastic choice for every fitness level. You can jumpstart your fitness journey or attain some serious fitness and athletic goals.

Orangetheory offers lots of regular promotions, discounts, trials, and “buddy” passes, so definitely ask friends and family who attend, do some hunting online, or call the studio you’re interested in before signing up online.


Note: A quick shout out to the Holladay, Utah Orangetheory location. Coaches Roc, Nicole, and Rileigh make classes fun and their insight on form and function during training has been super helpful. The frontdesk staff, especially Melissa, have been a massive part of my positive experience thus far. If your local studio is anything like this one, I’m certain you’ll become a lifelong fan of the OTF experience!