Orangetheory's fast growth is remarkable. To put it in perspective, Gold's Gym has been around for over 50 years and has just under 600 franchises globally. Planet Fitness, founded in 1992, has just over 1,000.
"I do think it's crowded and getting more crowded," said Sean Naughton, an analyst with Piper Jaffray, but he added, "you have people doing low cost gym memberships and then augmenting that with Orangetheory or CorePower or Barry's [Boot Camp] or SoulCycle, whatever your class du jour."
Orangetheory is a class-based workout, not a traditional gym. The technology-based training is the draw. Each person wears a heart rate monitor, and trainers move them from treadmills to rowing machines to weight-training stations, simultaneously moving their heart rates on a color scale. Cardiac output is measured from green to orange to red and participants can watch all their stats, including calorie burn, on the multiple wall screens. The idea is to spend at least 12 minutes per exercise in the target orange zone, while steering clear of too much red, which may be too intense. You also don't want to hang out in the green, or easy, zone too long.
Helaine Reaves joined Orangetheory in Washington in September and said she is hooked on the workout; she credits the technology and the competition it creates for her results.
"I'm very competitive, so you think that you're going to compete with others, but it's really just you and yourself, which I think is what moves you a little bit quicker and makes you dig in deeper," she said. "You can see what you're doing. I have my app at home. I've got all my workouts since September, so I can see what progress I've made, seeing where I need to add more workouts or back off makes it easier."
In a world where fitness offerings are more plentiful and varied than fried foods at a state fair, and words like "boutique" and "core" and "high-intensity" run rampant in the conversation, technology seems to be the winning hook. Tracking every move, every calorie, every heart beat, apparently makes sweating more palatable — and perhaps even more fun.
"I think technology enables the consumer to see results, understand how to work out better and, up until just a few years ago, I think the lack of technology made it very hard for people to hit their fitness goals," said Long. "How are they tracking progress? How are they understanding what things they're putting effort into are delivering results or not?"
And other newcomers are tapping into Orangetheory's success. Chuze Fitness, a much smaller chain based in Southern California, also offers heart rate monitoring. Chuze is a basic gym model, but also offers small trainer-based classes and has movie screens on the walls — showing films though, not heart rates.
"We've added amenities to really include what some of the big box clubs out there are offering, as well as bringing in the boutique studio concepts inside these big boxes, like the Orangetheories and some of these small studio concepts," said CEO Cory Brightwell.