November 7, 2015

Pricey Boutique Fitness Classes – Are They Worth It?

Last December, Orangetheory Fitness opened a new studio in Boulder, and they offered great deals for those who bought class packages before the New Year. Drop-in classes are $25 each, or you can get them $15 each if you’re willing to commit to a 30-pack. For the opening, though, I got 25 classes for $320, or only $12.80 each! It was definitely a great deal compared to the regular price.

Unfortunately, I mostly forgot about that class pack over the course of this year… so now I have 20 classes to use in the next six weeks before they expire. I went to Orangetheory in Boulder yesterday morning before work, and this morning in Arizona, I started my day with the 7:15am class at Orangetheory Gilbert. However, that pricing calculation above brings me back to a question that Adam and I were discussing yesterday.  The $25/class for Orangetheory isn’t even top of the line – check out this article Theodora wrote for DailyBurn on the priciest fitness classes. Is it really worth it to take expensive boutique fitness classes?

On the “nay” side, there are so many sources of free workouts out there – YouTube videos, Pinterest graphics (like those on my huge no-equipment workouts board), or even on-demand videos with your cable/Hulu/Netflix subscription. In most cities, you can get a monthly gym membership for less than $100/month, and then you’ll have all the equipment you need to do just about any workout. Even Beachbody programs like Insanity that sell for $150 may seems like a lot, but if you average that out over the 60 days you’re meant to do them, it’s only $2.50 a workout. (And it’s even less if you repeat the program multiple times!) So, how can people justify spending $25, or even my discounted $13, on boutique classes?

Well, my experience at Orangetheory this morning shows me why. It was a fantastic workout, and I was especially excited to see how much faster I was today on flat land than yesterday at altitude. It really does make a huge difference! The final segment on the treadmills today was a 1/4 mile sprint at 3% incline, then 250 meter row to recover and get your heart rate back down… repeated 4 times. I ended up doing the sprint at 11.0 mph (5:27/mile) for the last round, and it felt fantastic! I love a challenge.

Average heart rate = 147bpm! Orangetheory sends these email summaries after each workout, and I love it. Anyone know if there is a dashboard online to compare between workouts, like Flywheel offers, or do I just have to save the emails?

But that challenge is exactly why the boutique fitness classes are worth it to me. Sure, I know what to do to stay in shape… but I don’t always do it. When I am working out on my own, it takes a lot more motivation for me to push myself hard than when I can just follow along with the rest of the class. Working out in a group also make me a bit self-conscious, in a good way. I do realize that no one else in the class is looking at me or cares what I do, but somehow I still feel like others will judge me if I don’t go hard- so I minimize rest breaks and try to just keep up with whatever we’re supposed to be doing. In a tough class, this works me hard!

Plus, there is the fact that I sometimes honestly don’t know that I’m slacking. Today at Orangetheory, we were doing dumbbell thrusters during one of the weight sets. I was using 15 pound dumbbells, which I thought were plenty challenging, especially since I was doing them fairly quickly. But when the instructor came by, he said “oh, no, no no… let’s get you some 20 pounders.” It was definitely a lot harder and a lot slower, but to my surprise, I could still do it! I wouldn’t have thought I could push myself to that level if it hadn’t been for the instructor encouraging me to do so, and so I got a much better workout than I would have on my own.

Finally, there is the fact that if I’ve registered for a class and paid for it, there is no way I’m going to succumb to the lazy desire to sleep late and and skip my workout. I don’t want to waste good money on a late cancel! (Ramit talks about this “forcing you to show up” benefit in his great post on luxuries.) Some might consider $25/class a waste of money, but it’s a much bigger waste if I don’t go to the class at all.

Fitness is definitely a priority for me, so even though I’m trying to be careful with my money in order to pay off my house as fast as possible, this is one area where I don’t think it makes sense to cut back. So while I will continue looking for great deals on classes (like Classpass, which is $89/month for ten classes at a variety of studios), I think the extra motivation makes boutique fitness worth it.

What’s your take?


11 thoughts on “Pricey Boutique Fitness Classes – Are They Worth It?”

  1. I just fell into an internet hole 🙁

    I clicked on Ramit’s link who then Linked to Reddit on the relative value of $50,000 to Jay-Z (Spoiler – it is like $100 to the average american relative to his income and theirs).

    Anyway, I still have a REALLY hard time spending that kind of money on fitness. I feel like I spend way too much money on it anyway…. when like you said, there are already so many free options available.

    1. That is CRAZY about Jay-Z’s $50k being like $100 to us!

      I need to get you into some of these classes I love. Or maybe it’s just that you are so disciplined you don’t need the extra push?

  2. I am a big fan of fitness classes and you mentioned the reason why – I invested all of this money to go and I can’t skip it, unless there is an absolutely huge reason why not to (and lazy is not one of them). In my experience, I have also noticed that the instructors pay more attention to each participant and I often find that my form was incorrect. It is a big price to pay, but, I treat these classes as one of my top hobbies and budget for it!


    1. I’ve found corrections vary by studio – but to my point, my favorite studios (that I return to again and again) are those where I get lots of feedback throughout. If I don’t get feedback, I could just do it on my own! Refine Method in NYC is the absolute *best* at this, which is why I was willing to pay a premium for those classes.

  3. I agree with so much of what you’ve written here! I get SO much more out of classes than just a regular trip to the gym. For example, I feel like 5 Orangetheory classes are more valuable to me than a whole month of my gym membership, even though they are the same price. Even though I know how to workout on my own, I have serious motivation issues at the gym, plus I weirdly worry about getting the equipment I want and choosing the right weights. It is so nice to just show up at class and not have to think. I’ve tried YouTube fitness classes, and they just don’t work for me.

    1. I really like YouTube and Pinterest workouts in a pinch, but whenever it’s possible to take a class, it is just so much better!

      Although I have to wonder if I could get the accountability factor with something like the new DailyBurn video classes, where you work out at home but you’re on a webcam?

  4. I obviously have to answer the DB one here 🙂 The at-home participants aren’t on a webcam, but we do have things like chat built in to keep people engaged in showing up day after day because other community members are expecting them. It’s also the fact that those workouts disappear within 24 hours that motivates our users to get there daily so they can catch them before they disappear!

    1. Oooh I didn’t realize that you weren’t on video yourself if you were at home! That is a neat idea though to still have you check in with other people and build community.

  5. I’ve never been keen on fitness classes, nearly all of which are crowded and limited. I do have an inexpensive gym membership, less than $19 a month, which gives me access to battle ropes, sleds, and other equipment. But I’ve invested in adjustable weights and an adjustable kettlebell, and do most of my workouts at home on my own time. P90X with a few modified workouts mixed in. Most people I know who go to boutique fitness classes have seen no results, or have only gotten fatter. It all comes down to what you eat, when you eat, how much you challenge yourself during workouts, and how much you move outside of the gym.

    1. I agree that so much of it can be done outside of boutique classes! But when I book a boutique class, I definitely try to make the most of it 🙂

  6. bestgymequipmentforhome

    Your blog post about boutique fitness classes is very helpful. I’m glad to see you mention that every goal should have a happy hour at the finish line. I’m currently doing that with my new goal of being a better runner. Sometimes I feel like my workouts get too frustrating and I need to lighten up a little bit. Also, I’m glad to see you mention that Pinterest is a great source of free workouts. Thanks for sharing!

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