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How Ellen Latham Made Orangetheory Fitness a Global Trend

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During a trip to Austin, Ellen Latham shared with Austin Woman her Orangetheory Fitness success story and how other women can find purpose and healing in life.

By Shelby Woods, Photos courtesy of Orangetheory Fitness 

If we are uncomfortable during a workout, it means our muscles are growing. If we are uncomfortable in life, it means we are growing. Orangetheory Fitness Co-founder Ellen Latham lives by this mantra and, as a single mother and entrepreneur, has learned it through experience.

At age 40, Latham was running a high-end fitness spa in Miami Beach, Fla. With a bachelor’s degree in physical education and a master’s degree in exercise physiology, Latham had always had a passion for fitness. She thought she had made it and was living her dream life until one day when she went to work and was let go.

“I don’t even know how I got home,” Latham says. “I was devastated.”

To support her 9-year-old son, Latham knew she had to make ends meet. She took a job as a group fitness instructor at a Gold’s Gym and began teaching Pilates out of a spare room in her house.

Her business grew through word-of-mouth and her clients from her group fitness classes encouraged their friends to attend Latham’s house-bound workouts. With her classes continuing to grow, she borrowed money to open a Pilates studio inside a spare room in a spa. She created what she called Ellen’s Ultimate Workout, which is the workout practiced in Orangetheory today.

“I didn’t want to just create the next fad workout,” Latham says. “I wanted to base it on science.”

Latham launched Orangetheory in 2010 and describes it as a “science-backed, technology-tracked, coach-inspired workout.” The workout combines high-intensity interval training with a heart-rate monitor for longer-lasting impact.

“You’ll never have to compete with someone next to you because you’ll be measuring your own heart rate in real time,” Latham says.

The workout is designed for all levels of fitness and coaches are there to inspire rather than discipline like a personal trainer.

“People need that in fitness,” Latham says.

The concept went viral. Orangetheory currently has more than1,000 studios in 23 countries and the workout is taught in eight languages. For the past few years, it has been at the top of the list of fastest-growing women-owned businesses. In the Austin area alone, there are more than 20 studios.

“When I sit sometimes in my quiet moments and think 800,000 individuals’ lives are being affected, I get a few goose bumps,” Latham says.

Latham believes her success originates from her philosophy of “being big.”

“You have to have presence,” Latham says. “You have to be able to walk in, hold your own, carry on a conversation intelligently and know your stuff.”

Latham encourages women to learn as much as they can about whatever they can. She says knowledge grows your presence.

“Don’t just show up. Make sure you’re ready to perform,” Latham says. “Too many people in the world are just showing up.”

Asking yourself, “Why not me?” is another important exercise Latham uses. Latham says she tells all young entrepreneurs who come to her for advice to ask that question regularly.

“Sit in the mantra of ‘Why not me?’ ” Latham says. “I was working people out in a bedroom in my house. If I didn’t sit in moments of believing ‘Why not me?’ I wouldn’t have kept going.”

She also believes it’s important for women to take moments to think about their purpose in life, to sit and simmer. After she lost her job, she realized she wanted her purpose to be helping people live healthier lives.

“It’s OK to be uncomfortable,” Latham says. “Use it in the right way. You don’t let it make you smaller. You go, ‘This is going to make me bigger.’ ”

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