I've written about a number of emerging fitness concepts in a prior post. A friend told me to look into Orangetheory Fitness - a fitness brand under the Ultimate Fitness, LLC umbrella, and backed by a private equity sponsor. It is hard to label Orangetheory as 'emerging', given that it has nearly 600 franchised locations already (growth plan is to hit 700 locations by the end of 2017). The company's motto is "Keep Burning" and is endorsed by celebrity personalities like Erin Andrews - the longtime sports reporter who now hosts 'Dancing with the Stars' as well as covers the sidelines for Fox NFL.

So what is Orangetheory?

Orangetheory fitness utilizes studios that range from ~3,000 to 5,000 square feet and are based on one workout, aptly named 'The Orangetheory Workout'. In short, the workout is based on a 5 zone heart rate training program. The workout is predicated on high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which combines both cardio and strength training. The workout is constantly monitored by a heart rate device, which will acclimate the workout to achieve each individual's target zone. The studios have an on-site trainer monitoring the sessions and the traditional equipment that you'd see in any gym - weights, rowing machines, etc. However, the equipment is utilized in a way that achieves similar power with less impact on joints. Like most fitness studios, Orangetheory offers a number of different tiered memberships that range from Basic ($59 per month for 1 class) to Elite ($99 per month for 2 classes) to Premier ($159 per month for unlimited classes). All tiers are on a non-contract, month-to-month basis.

So why does Orangetheory work?

  • It is Inclusive: The majority of the new fitness concepts out there are very much geared for 'the pretty people' - the ones that are already in shape. In fact, the joke about Equinox, which is somewhat true, is that you should work out at a cheap gym to achieve a fitness level that will make you feel 'comfortable' around the people at Equinox. Orangetheory prides itself on catering to all people - from the person who is overweight looking to get in shape all the way to the fit athlete looking to maintain their fitness level or even extend it to a new level.
  • Metrics-Driven Personalization: Orangetheory isn't going to provide you with a one-on-one coach guiding you through the program like a personal trainer at a gym would offer, but by leveraging a heart rate monitor that is critical to the entire concept, it provides a real measurement of the efficacy of your workout. Numbers don't lie and your metrics will incite the 'instructor' to push you to pick-up-the-pace if you're falling outside of 'your' personal target heart rate zone. Additionally, after the workout, you , it provides each individual with a digital readout on his or her smartphone after a workout, which shows key metrics such as duration of the workout, average heart rate, and calories burned (see pic below).
  • Blending In While Standing Out: Perhaps the biggest reason why Orangetheory works is that it allows all participants to engage in a workout that enables each person to achieve his or her fitness goals, without the self-conscious undertones that often undermine other types of fitness offerings. At Orangetheory, participants are so engaged in meeting their own workout targets that they do not have time to stand around and 'people watch' like they might at another gym or studio. That type of 'anonymity' is likely the most undervalued asset of democratizing a fitness concept - it's about making everybody feel welcome AND enabling everybody the permission to hit his or her targets without the feeling of lingering 'on-lookers'. At the end of the workout, the trainer will stay around for a little while to help participants interpret his or her 'data' and provide tips to improve on future workouts.

Final Take

Fitness has become a dichotomy of social status - you have the super expensive concepts that provide an experience that the average consumer simply does not have the means to engage in - the 'high-end' spinning studios are great, but at $35 per session, it's hard to shell out $800 per month for daily workouts, or $400 per month for an every-other-day cadence. On the flip side, the once pervasive gym membership has fallen to $30 per month or in some cases, lifetime memberships at $500. While these memberships are cheap, the experience has become cheapened in the process - smelly locker rooms, broken equipment, and lack of decent sanitation standards. 

Orangetheory provides the middle-ground - a personalized experience at a reasonable cost. With a digital component that enables friction-less booking of workouts, and the use of heart rate monitors to create real-time measurement invoking a sense of personalized sessions, it has captured people of all levels of fitness who are looking to keep burning. And that's why there is a lot of brilliance in the juice squeezed out of Orangetheory.

Sample Workout Mobile Readout:

Sample readout after a workout from the Orangetheory mobile application.