In six short years, Orangetheory Fitness (OTF) has grown from a workout created by trained physiologist and fitness lover, Ellen Latham, into a worldwide phenomenon. Originally from Niagara Falls, New York, Ellen landed in Florida and used her lifelong passion for exercise to build the ultimate workout. A passion rooted in positively influencing people physically, mentally and psychologically continues to drive Ellen’s business. As she approaches 60, she is honored to have a platform as large as Orangetheory Fitness to spread this influence. Read on to learn more about Ellen, Orangetheory Fitness, growing a business and getting back into shape! Today, welcome Ellen Latham as our FACES of the South. 

Meet Ellen Latham Orangetheory Fitness founder

Ellen Latham was on the hunt for a fat-burning, measurable workout. This led her to create “Ellen’s Ultimate Workout,” now known as Orangetheory Fitness (OTF). In six years, she has helped grow the company exponentially while maintaining the quality of the workout!

When did Orangetheory Fitness open, and how has it evolved?

Well, I have been in the fitness industry for over 40 years and, nine years ago, I created a workout, “Ellen’s Ultimate Workout.” I couldn’t find a one-hour group workout out that really, metabolically, charged the body (a fat burning workout) and appealed to all levels of people, not just very, very fit people. I wanted all people to be successful and have a workout that was measurable. I created the workout on my own and, in 2010, I was approached by a franchise company.

I partnered with them in 2010 and we are now in 2016. We have 450 studios open; we have over 1,000 studios sold; we are going to be in 20 countries by the end of next year; this workout is done approximately 2 million times a month; and we have about 300,000 members in our population right now. So, it has moved very rapidly and in a very short period of time, to say the least.

Let’s face it, working out isn’t always fun to do; it isn’t always the first choice to do. You have to be kind of uncomfortable to do it well and right. It is tough to get the masses sold, but we seem to be doing that really well and, again, I believe it is because you get great results in this workout. The workout changes every day and it is for all levels. And it really is for all levels. There is a walk category, there is a jogger category and there is a runner category. Everyone works at their own pace, meaning no one has to come in and feel fearful of not being able to do the workout.

What makes Orangetheory so special? Find out here

As a physical education teacher and high school football coach, Ellen’s father help foster her love for health and fitness. When she she grew up, she wanted to be just like him. So, she went to school to be a physical education teacher and continued her training until opening a gym of her own!

What sets Orangetheory apart from other workouts?

It is called Five Zone Heart Rate Training. The whole science behind this workout is that you get your heart rate in Zone 4 or Zone 5, for 12 to 20 minutes. When that occurs, you get what is called EPOC, Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption — a scientific term for how the body uses calories. When you get that 12 to 20 minutes — which we are monitoring — during the next 24 hours after your workout, you burn approximately 20 percent more calories. So, if you burned 400 calories in that hour, then you get to add 80 more calories. You might think that is not much, but it adds up week after week, month after month. Your body shifts to become a different body, a metabolically charged machine that is looking for its EPOC. Your body becomes an efficient, fat-burning system.

People ask, ‘Well is my bootcamp at the park doing the same thing?’ Well, I don’t know because it isn’t being measured. We have a very measurable system that can, specifically, tell you how many minutes you were in zones 4 and 5; and if it was over 12, we can say that you will experience EPOC. Maybe the spin class is doing that, maybe the bootcamp is doing that but unless it is measured, I can’t for sure tell you that. Every single person knows when they exit here if they got EPOC because OTF is a measurable fitness program.

In this world of technology, people want information. They don’t want to just guess. We are using technology that exists out there and we are looking to constantly expand on this technology while continuing to lead in Five Zone Heart Rate Training.

How many times a week should the Average Joe do the workouts?

Typically, doing the workout two to three times a week can get you in the best metabolic shape. For people who are looking to drop body fat, we suggest going three to four times (just for a month or two). Interval training is not something you should do every day. We have to give the body some appropriate rest in between.

Meet the founder of Orangetheory Fitness!

You can find Ellen listening to old rock tunes from the likes of Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers, with a few new tunes mixed in!


Learn about one of the first measurable fitness programs!

With Orangetheory Fitness‘s OTBeat heart rate monitor and in-class screens and app, you can see how your workout measured up!

What has been the hardest thing you have had to learn starting your own business?

With Orangetheory, the speed and the volume of what we are doing as a company has been the most challenging. It is a good thing to see that the company is thriving but there is challenge in never wanting to be less than stellar in quality. We never want to give anything less than fantastic service.

I believe the most successful people and businesses know their “Why.” Why are you doing what you are doing? What lights your fire?” The “Why” of OTF is knowing how to metabolically charge the body better than anyone else. We know what our “Why” is and it is explained in a very consistent manner.

Give us a glimpse into your typical day.

I probably get up about 5:30 a.m. because I like to workout in the morning. I vary my workouts between interval training, Pilates and weight training. Then, I am off to my studio (Ellen’s Ultimate Workout, which is in Davie, Florida) to teach morning classes. Then, I go to the OTF corporate office to take care of business. From there I go home — I am pretty exhausted by then — and try to catch up on emails, communication and that kind of thing. And I try to have a little bit of a personal life.

Are you as disciplined with your diet as your workouts? Do you have any indulgences?

We don’t give specific diets with OTF. We really believe in more organic and well-rounded eating. And look, I am Italian so the pasta is not going away. Balance is the name of the game. You might overdo a little here, then you take away there. That is life. Try to figure out a way to make it so that you are living the best version of you.

Pizza and pasta are a Sicilian’s way of life. That’s what I was reared on — and good red wine. Every good Italian will relate to that!

What are some quick tips for getting back in shape?

You develop discipline by first creating habits. A habit is built in 66 days. Most people don’t realize that. Don’t run a marathon if you have been sitting on the couch for 6 months; just start to create a habit of movement.

Find out why 300,000 people are doing this workout!

Ellen is using the platform of OTF to inspire and positively influence the masses!

What is the best piece of advice you have received, and from whom?

I think from my father … it is called momentum shift up (a sports term). Basically, a human body can momentum shift up or down. What it means is you see the glass half empty or the glass half full. My father — he was a momentum shift-up coach who always told his players what they had instead of beating them down.

What are three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends?

Working out, a good slab of dark chocolate and learning something new.

Thank you to Meghan Littlejohn, OTF owner, for opening her studio for us to meet Ellen as she trained OTF staff from across the state! And thank you to Ellen Latham for making the trip to Nashville and sharing a bit about Orangetheory’s past, present and future with us! 

The fabulous photography is by Leila Grossman of Grannis Photography. See more of her work here.


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