How the Fastest-Growing Women-Owned Business, Orangetheory Fitness, Is Taking Over America

If you’ve been keeping up with the various fitness crazes sweeping the country–like yoga, SoulCycle, and CardioBarre to name a few–then you’ve already heard of Orangetheory Fitness. The company has made a name for itself in the fitness industry with its high-intensity workouts that skillfully bring together a mix of cardio, strength training, and endurance.

In fact, as of last month, the business reported nearly growth of nearly 100,000 new members since 2016, and it landed the #1 spot on the Women President’s Organization list of the 50 fastest-growing women-owned businesses. With annual revenue of more than $40 million, Orangetheory has also now expanded to more than 500 studios with over 500 more currently in development.

But the road to success wasn’t a piece of cake for Orangetheory founder, Ellen Latham. In fact, it was a huge challenge. Says Ellen in a Huffington Post interview,

“I was a single parent, my son was nine years old, and I lost my job. It was the most frightening time of my life. The beauty was, I had this amazing father who was a football coach and P.E. teacher. He taught me ‘momentum shifting up.’ As a coach he believed you should coach your players to focus on what they have and not on what they don’t have. He also parented us like this. This is what got me through that time in my life.

I focused on what I did have, which, at the time, was a pilates certification. So, I started doing pilates classes in my house and it got to the point where I would have all these women pulling in and out of my driveway. I did this for not quite a full year until I got the nerve and momentum to open up a small pilates studio.

Opening that studio started the whole ride of me becoming an entrepreneur. The breakdown experience itself taught me how to push through very uncomfortable moments by concentrating on what I have, not what I didn’t.”

So, what makes the fitness franchise so much more successful than its other equally trendy counterparts? Well, several things.

According to Orangetheory founder, Ellen Latham,

“When I looked at the metabolic workouts, spinning, bootcamps, etc., I couldn’t find a workout that I saw that scientifically met all the needs to achieve results. I also wanted a workout that wasn’t just for the 10% of fit people who attended the group fitness classes. I wanted a workout that the maybe not conditioned people didn’t feel scared to attend. With this in mind I decided to create my own.”

Unlike normal workout classes–such as a routine spin class or circuit class–Orangetheory actively monitors your heart rate and activity throughout the class. At the end of the hour, you receive a total of your splat points, which are a measure of time you managed to get above 84% of your maximum heart rate.

Naturally, the way Orangetheory offers concrete statistics about your performance throughout the session is invaluable for those who operate best with feedback–something missing from many other fitness classes and programs so far.

The classes also offer a mix of different activities; students will run or bike, row, and lift weights in every 60-minute session. Varying the types of exercise available to participants actually encourages members to improve their weaknesses. Say, for instance, that you’re a runner who doesn’t have much upper body strength. The running portion of the class–around 30 minutes–would come as a breeze and be super enjoyable, but the fact that you’d have to work on building your strength would serve as a challenge to keep you coming back.

Finally, Orangetheory instructors are known to foster high-energy, supportive, and challenging environments for participants to push themselves. Gathering a team of fantastic leaders is by far the easiest way to create a loyal following–and, evidently, Orangetheory knows what it’s doing.

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