Ellen Latham and the creation of Orangetheory Fitness
Imagine you’re laid off from a job. A job that not only provides for your 9 year old son but a job you also happen to love.
One choice is to lie in the foetal position and whimper quietly to yourself. Tempting but it doesn’t pay the rent.
Another would be to put a huge dent in a bottle of Tequila then go job hunting for whatever you can find.
Yet another would be to take a deep breath then decide to start something completely new, all by yourself.
Ellen Latham was always going to opt for the third choice.
She adopted the mindset instilled by her father who was a physical education teacher.
Focus on what you have, not on what you don’t.
Latham got to work and created the Orangetheory fitness system. Let’s keep in mind she built a massively successful business in an industry that was already full of trends and innovations.
Today Orangetheory has over 1000 worldwide studios training and has topped over 1 million members. In 2019 Orangetheory brought in over 1 billion dollars in revenue.
Nice choice Ellen.
At the time Latham was an accomplished group fitness instructor and specialized in Pilates. This she could do.
Buoyed by a “Why not me?” mindset plus an exceptional work ethic, she started teaching Pilates classes in a spare room of her house.
She was very good. Word of mouth grew as did her bookings.
Latham was soon teaching classes from 6am until 9pm with a constant rotation of clients through the doorway.
Time to expand.
With a solid client base Latham then borrowed money and leased a building that she transformed into a Pilates studio. She set up a separate workout room in the studio that was to be the foundation for Orangetheory.
Ellen wanted to create a workout that would be accessible for all fitness levels. It had to be a mix of cardio and strength training to give the ultimate bang for buck.
Latham delved into her physiology training and the proven concept of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or (EPOC) for us mortals.
Put simply – the more intense your workout, the more calories your body continues to burn after exercise.
She structured a workout that was based around reaching 84% of someone’s maximum heart rate or “orange zone” for 12 – 20 minutes of a session.
The 12 minutes didn’t have to be consecutive but a total of 12 would lead to higher post-workout calorie burning.
Latham split the workout between using cardio machines such as treadmills and rowers with dumbbells, kettlebells and medicine balls.
Fittingly she named it “Ellen’s Ultimate Workout”.
It was a hit.
The classes were wildly popular and were quickly filling up. It wasn’t long before a member approached Latham and suggested she franchise the workout.
The member’s husband Jerome Kern worked in franchising and he and his partner David Long decided to meet this woman who had people fighting tooth and nail to make a class.
In 2010 Ellen and her partners launched Orangetheory in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and the company took off from there.
“Orange” was for the vibrant, energetic color of high intensity and “theory” for the scientific basis of the workout.
She also introduced a special heart rate monitor for each participant that would show individual exertion levels anonymously on screens throughout the gym.
Exertion rates are divided into zones, with the goal being to spend 12 minutes of the workout in the orange zone.
The blue zone indicates exercising in the 61% – 70% zone of your maximum heart rate. Green is 71% – 80% and the all-important orange is 84% – 91%.
Members can track their progress through the workout and adjust accordingly.
Latham also wanted the element of surprise in each workout so when members arrive for a class they don’t know what to expect.
Maybe a strength focus on one day and then an endurance or speed – based session the next. This is all done to keep the body guessing, adapting and becoming stronger and fitter.
People of all fitness levels can challenge themselves in a class which is a massive part of its appeal. There are always exercise alternatives for those wanting to progress or regress the level of difficulty.
Today Orangetheory operates in over 20 countries and is continuing to grow.
Latham has taken blessings in disguise to new heights.
While secretly hoping to be fired in order to achieve greatness isn’t exactly necessary, the power of her mindset can’t be ignored.
“Woe is me” might be good for an hour or two, but “Why not me?” might be the start of something huge.