Getting in shape is important - but for the most efficient workouts, you'll need a full set of professional-quality equipment. That's where sports gyms like O2 Fitness come into the picture. Here's what you should know about this company before deciding whether or not it's the right place for you.
What Is O2 Fitness And How Does It Work?
O2 Fitness is a chain of gyms located across North and South Carolina. At the time of our review (early Fall 2018), they had 27 gyms open and another five scheduled to open in the next few months. O2 Fitness also owns the East Shore Athletic Club, although this part of its operations has mostly been lumped in together with the main business.
O2 Fitness does not currently have any locations outside of the Carolinas, nor do they have any public plans to expand out of these two states. If you don't like close to their existing locations, you're better off looking for a different gym instead.
As a sports gym, O2 Fitness focuses on the things that most gyms do - exercise and everything related to it. The company focuses on four primary areas: membership, personal training, group fitness classes, and special events. Let's take a look at each of these in a little more detail.
The core of O2 Fitness is - surprising nobody - a membership with the gym. Memberships include two free sessions with a personal trainer, access to more than 50 different group exercise classes, and access to all of their locations.
On-site equipment and options for members include strength machines, weights, cycling studios, locker rooms, two hours of childcare, yoga, Pilates, small group training classes, and more. Memberships are run month-to-month, and Corporate Memberships are available for businesses that want to provide gym access as a perk for employees.
If you don't know how to exercise correctly - or need some guidance from an expert - O2 Fitness has a selection of personal trainers available at each of its locations. The primary benefits of working with a trainer include faster results, professional guidance to ensure you're safe, a better overall experience, and accountability to help you stick to your goals.
The downside is that aside from two free sessions at the start, personal training is only available at an added cost. Not everyone is willing (or able) to pay the standard fees for a trainer, so try to get the most out of your free initial sessions.
Group Fitness Classes
Exercising can be more fun as a group - and O2 Fitness offers a wide selection of group classes. These are broadly split into four areas, including:
Aside from all of the traditional workouts, O2 Fitness occasionally hosts special events. Events include things like free Personal Trainer days, grand openings, races and marathons, and similar special events.
The company usually hosts at least one major race each month, though you may need to travel between the two states if you want to participate in all of them.
What Makes O2 Fitness Unique?
The main things that set O2 apart from the competition are its focus on group exercise classes and its dedicated childcare support. Both of these are designed to get people in the door, of course - after all, $10/month for on-site childcare is a whole lot better than calling a babysitter for several hours three or four times a week.
That said, group classes have to be coordinated ahead of time, so you can't simply join in whenever it suits you. Each class happens when it happens, and unfortunately, there's not much anyone can do about that.
Unfortunately, O2 Fitness isn't as transparent about pricing as it should be. Their website focuses on promoting a free three-day trial of the membership, which includes unlimited group fitness classes, access to the machines, access to the Kids Club childcare system, towel service, and high-speed Wi-Fi at each of their locations.
The rest of their website encourages people to call or visit one of their gyms so they can talk about pricing with a membership representative. Quite frankly, we don't like this. You shouldn't have to hear a sales pitch just to figure out if a membership fee is something you're comfortable paying. Fortunately, we were able to track down a few pieces of information.
First, looking at some articles about the company, we found that the cited cost of a monthly membership is usually $39 to $49, subject to change at the company's discretion. Some reviews cited a higher price, but we don't know if that's standard for everyone or the result of a particular plan. The website also advertises that the Kids Club is available for $10/month.
Sessions with personal trainers beyond the first two have an added cost (also not listed on their website), but group exercise classes are included with memberships.
Public Perception (Other O2 Fitness Reviews)
Public perception of O2 Fitness is average at best, with most reviews hovering between 2.5 and 3.5 stars. That's not great for any business. However, starred averages never tell the whole story, so we decided to dig a little deeper and see why people think this way about the company.
We started with a visit to the Better Business Bureau. As a chain location, O2 Fitness has several results, but most of them are linked to a primary company page. The results here were not good - a rating of F from the BBB, with an average of fewer than 1.5 stars from customer reviews. Just one of these reviews was genuinely positive - the rest were all sharply negative.
Interestingly, most of the negative reviews from the BBB focus on the customer service side of things - not the gym itself. Many of the 1-star reviews we read praised the gym itself, often mentioning a good selection of equipment and acceptable cleanliness.
There were, however, quite a few problems with billing and memberships. Several reviewers cited that they'd been outright lied to, and they often had a hard time canceling their membership when they wanted to. A few people mentioned that they were charged for several more months than they wanted to be, which is a major red flag for any company.
Still, the BBB tends to attract negative reviews. While they were informative and helpful, the inherent bias of the BBB means we had to look at other reviews, too.
Yelp has reviews for several locations, and we started with the Falconbridge facility, which had a 2.5/5 rating after 34 reviews when we checked. The reports here echo those of the BBB page, but more of them are positive. Comments from favorable reviews include things like "the staff is friendly", "they have everything I need", and "the machines are well kept."
Negative reviews on this page mostly relate to billing issues, with several people citing problems with canceling and, worse, having charges that they didn't authorize and couldn't easily reverse. This is a
major problem, and far too many people referred to it for us to believe it was a single mistake. This is compounded by reports of employees that were either ignorant of policies or outright lying. Whatever the truth, these reviews are a warning sign.
For balance, we decided to look at the Yelp reviews for another location. The Hanover Center location
has a review of 3.5/5 after 14 reviews, which is better than Falconbridge (though still not as high as we'd like to see).
Positive comments for this location emphasize that the location is clean, the equipment is newer, and
overall the place feels inviting. That said, several of the reviewers here noted that the personal trainers
were becoming more like salespeople and that a message of "you can't do it without us" was
Negative reviews continue to focus on billing and customer support issues - most notably, one of the
reviews outright accused O2 Fitness of violating its contract and refusing to issue a refund when one was warranted.
We'd like to note that many people wanted to pause memberships for medical reasons, like recovering from injuries and being genuinely unable to visit. The focus on continuing to charge people whenever possible is a big drawback.
At this point, we feel like we've seen enough reviews to draw some conclusions about O2 Fitness - we hear the same thing everything we check, and that's enough to consider them trustworthy. What we've learned is:
- 1The gyms themselves have equipment that's usually kept in good shape, and
- 2Canceling your membership can be a nightmare.
Public Perception (Other O2 Fitness Reviews)
This is difficult to say. O2 Fitness is one of the biggest gyms in its area, and they have repeatedly acquired other gyms to spread their brand around. In other words, it's hard to compare them to anyone else because there's no one else to compare them to.
However, the consensus from the reviews is that, on the whole, it's probably not worth the monthly membership price they're currently charging. One person mentioned a current cost of $54/month, which is higher than in the past and does not include things like childcare.
What We Think
This was a tough one for our team. On the one hand, even most negative reviews believe the gyms themselves are good. They have a lot of equipment, the classes are good, and they're not too crowded most of the time. Most of the gyms are also quite clean, and that's a significant plus.
However, the billing issues are a major red flag. Sports gyms are known for being hard sells - and they're reluctant to part with existing customers. The problem is when a desire to keep people around morphs into outright lying about contracts, and that's precisely what numerous reviews have accused this company of doing.
Ultimately, we've decided not to recommend this gym if there are any other gyms nearby that are better for your fitness needs. The deciding factor was this: reviews mentioning large bills for things customers didn't sign up for. Some people mentioned being charged hundreds of dollars for long-term memberships that they didn't want. Any false charge is bad, but that's just ridiculous.
There's some regret with our team over this - if it were not for the billing problems, we think O2 would be a great gym to be a part of. As things stand, however, the company has too many problems (despite the excellent equipment) to be worth supporting. If they change their business practices and make a real effort to improve, we may change our minds. For now, however, stay away if you can.
Coupons And Deals
O2 Fitness occasionally offers discounts and deals, particularly for new members. Past deals have included things like $1 for the first month and discounts on sessions with personal trainers. That said, chances are you won't find any long-term discounts on your membership. That's their primary source of income, and like most gyms, they want to earn as much there as they can.