Home » READY, SET, BURN! | Ellen Latham
I KNOW WHAT SHE’S GOING TO SAY. I KNEW IT THE MOMENT BEFORE SHE EVEN TOOK THAT HALF BREATH IN AND FINALLY, “WOW, YOU’VE REALLY LOST WEIGHT!” I SMILE POLITELY AND MANAGE A BRIEF, “THANK YOU” BEFORE SHE CARRIES ON, “SO TELL ME, WHAT’S YOUR SECRET?” “HONESTLY, JUST TRACKING MEALS AND WORKING OUT.” I REPLY, CASUALLY TRYING TO KEEP MY INNER RICHARD SIMMONS IN CHECK.
Truth is, there is no ‘secret’. After years of struggling with my weight, a myriad of failed fad diets, and roller coaster of weight loss and gain, I’ve finally come to the conclusion that the combination of both a good diet and consistent exercise are truly at the essence of successful and sustainable weight loss. And, as plain and simple as that sounds, it is a struggle and one that I dealt with for many years. I would not have gotten to this point without the help of a supportive fitness community that has motivated me to keep putting in the work and pushing myself to be better than the day before.
I found Orangetheory Fitness.
Founded by Ellen Latham in 2010, Orangetheory Fitness was developed out of her pilates studio in Florida. No stranger to fitness, she holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Education and a Master’s Degree in Physiology, she credits her father, a coach and P.E. teacher, for instilling in her the importance of focusing on what you have and not on what you don’t have. After losing her job and raising her then 9-year-old son as a single parent, she found the focus and drive to set up her own pilates studio. As her studio grew, she looked for ways to introduce a metabolic workout option apt for all fitness levels, finally devising her namesake “Ellen’s Ultimate Workout” which would eventually become the Orangetheory workout.
The workout incorporates a five zone heart rate training approach into a 60 minute, coach-led, high intensity interval training session. Coaches are there to guide the class, typically divided into 2-3 groups, that rotate through three stations: rowers, weights and treadmills. Throughout the class, coaches will cue members through three different levels of intensity: Base, Push, and All Out.
On large TV screens throughout the studio, you’ll see your name (or alias, no one will tell) and numbers displaying live stats like a Bloomberg ticker. The box itself will turn the corresponding “zone” color based on your heart rate monitor which you wear during class. Your goal is to “get to orange,” as this is where you’ve reached 84 – 91 percent of your maximum heart rate, and where your body will require more energy to recover oxygen and continue to burn calories 24-36 hours after your workout; this is known as Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, or EPOC. And thus the ‘theory’ in Orangetheory.
I recently had the opportunity to reach out to Ms. Latham to ask her a few questions about Orangetheory Fitness and what continues to inspire and drive her goals in fitness and life.
I had never considered myself a fitness fanatic before Orangetheory Fitness, and I love the way that the workout is built for all. No matter the fitness level, anyone can join a class and go “All Out” at their own level. Was this a key component in formulating the ‘ultimate workout’?
I had been teaching group fitness for 40 years and one of the biggest problems with that structure was: how do you make everyone successful when you have all levels participating? So the answer is yes, when I created the Ultimate Workout one of the goals was to make all levels feel they were able to complete the workout successfully, which is why I created a walker, jogger and runner category. I got rid of the word modifications and instead we offer options. Saying we offer options sounds less defeating to people. Going from a small local studio to co-owning a franchise that has over 600 studios open in over 12 countries was quite a leap. My partners and I were so excited about bringing a new fitness category to the planet. We wanted to truly change people, of all shapes and sizes, “one heartbeat at a time.” Our franchisees, our committed Orange coaches and staff and our very dedicated members is what personally drives me every day.
What were some of the drivers in making the jump from group fitness instructor to becoming one of the fastest growing private companies in America?
I was let go from a job and was a single parent of a 9-year-old son. That uncomfortable time in my life PUSHED me into taking all that I had been experiencing in the previous years in my career and giving the entrepreneurial path a shot. I was scared and nervous, but I decided to focus on what I had and not what I did not have, and I forged forward.
You began to build what would eventually become Orangetheory Fitness during a crucial time in your life, how did you find balance and sanity to keep pushing forward with your goals? What advice would you offer other single moms working to provide for their families?
What was crucial to me in accomplishing everything I have, all while being a single parent, was relentless focus. I had to eliminate distractions, so I could prioritize tasks. I then created timelines for accomplishing tasks. I used this process back then, and I still use it every day of my life. At the time I created this workout, I eliminated all distractions except for my son, my pilates studio and the creation of this workout.
What have been some of the rewarding aspects of taking this entrepreneurial path?
My most rewarding moments are when I hear stories like yours, or the woman that always got picked last for kickball in elementary school, or for the first time in her life she felt good about her physical skills, or Ben who lost 100 lbs and feels noticed for the first time. I am of course thrilled that my company is as successful as it is, but the reality is I got into this business 40 years ago for the same reasons I am in it today – helping others to live the best versions of themselves.
We know keeping an active lifestyle is important for you, what does a typical day look like for you? And what are some tips you can offer our readers trying to achieve healthier lifestyles?
I workout 6 days a week. At age 60, I have to maintain this schedule or else, from what I know about the human body, I will not age gracefully. I do three Orangetheory classes a week, two pilates and I weight train one time a week. I like to workout in the morning, so getting up at 5 a.m. is something I have to do a few times a week to get it done. My suggestion is to set up a schedule and repeat it consistently every week. That is what is so great about our program, we have classes on the hour, so you can find that ideal time and day, book your classes and stay consistent.
One of the many reasons I love Orangetheory Fitness is that I never have the same workout twice and yet, the studio experience is consistent from sign-in to cool-down, how do you ensure the same quality in every studio as in the studio you started?
Consistency in our brand is so very important to us, and we spend a tremendous amount of time and effort working on it.
Our workouts are developed at the corporate office by an elite group of coaches. We work every week on keeping them fresh, fun and ensuring that they work for all levels. I personally am still very involved in the fitness department and development. We have dedicated an entire department to education, and we have created a medical advisory counsel to support all we do. Orangetheory Fitness, as an organization, will continue to put in effort and money to ensure a consistent science-based product nationally and internationally.
In the studio, one hears ALL OUT often. Is this your philosophy in life too? How do you apply it in your day to day and how do you keep from not burning out?
Oh yes, ALL OUT. My philosophy is very similar to Base, Push and All Out levels of intensity in our workout. Base is a challenging but doable level, just like our lives most days; Push is when things get uncomfortable and they will, but the most important thing, just like in our workout, is how you come back to active recovery after a push. So when I have tough moments in my life (the pushes), it is more important how I actively recover after them. This kind of training of my mind, body and soul results in the ability to experience some All Out moments like I never thought possible…just like in our workout.
With the coaches encouraging us to push ourselves in every new way, what can you tell us about the future of OTF?
Unless the human body changes, we will not be changing the way we train you simply because…it works. What we will do is create more exciting and exhilarating paths for you to use this mode of training. Stay tuned we have only just begun!
Thank you again for starting a fitness movement that allows everyone to push themselves and discover their strengths in ways they didn’t see possible.
THANK YOU for your commitment and dedication to yourself and OTF.
MICHELLE BARRERA is a project manager by trade and is preparing to embark on the biggest project of her life this holiday season: bringing home her first-born baby girl. She currently lives in Ashburn with her creative husband, and you can follow her new adventures as “mom” on twitter: @michiebarrera.