But Orangetheory survived. And now it’s pushing ahead on expansion plans.
“Without that really tough partnership and working together, we might not have been able to sustain the whole year,” Dave Long, Orangetheory co-founder and CEO, told CNN Business.
Long and his team got to work on a virtual workout app while helping studio owners access government aid and negotiate deals with their landlords.
Months later, despite the worsening pandemic, about 90% of Orangetheory 90% studios are open in some capacity, relying on social distancing, masks, cleaning, smaller classes and outdoor workouts where weather permits.
Orangetheory is optimistic enough about the future that it’s opened nearly three dozen studios since August, most of them in the United States. Some of these were slated to open this spring and summer but were delayed by health restrictions.
“We always were confident that if any fitness brand could pull through, we would be the one,” Long said.
Despite the new studio openings, though, Orangetheory itself is hardly running “all out,” as the company’s trainers would put it.
Depending on the location, between 20% and 40% of membership accounts remain frozen. Orangetheory still has about 10% fewer corporate jobs than before the pandemic. And it faces new new challenges as state governments relaunch health restrictions.
“We know we’re not out of the woods yet. There might be another three or four months of really hunkering down,” Long said.
PPP helped — but more aid is needed
“It was definitely a helpful stopgap. Unfortunately, because of the length of what’s happened, it really wasn’t enough,” said Long. “Another round would not just sustain Orangetheory, but fitness brands in general through another wave.”
Though coronavirus vaccines could be authorized within days, Long said Orangetheory is modeling very conservatively for 2021. The goal is for revenue to total 55% to 65% of 2019 levels.
“We’ll still be in a position to bounce back even if this extends through the back half of next year,” Long said.
Can virtual training substitute for in-person workouts?
To get through the winter, Orangetheory will lean heavily on technology.
In Canada, the company recently rolled out OT Live, a virtual platform that allows members to get real-time training and motivation from coaches who can see their workouts and even their heart rates. Members can choose who in the virtual class can see them.
“It gives you the same flavor and feel of being in a studio,” said Long. “Our bread-and-butter is live coaching. Members want to be accountable for a certain time and be motivated and supported.”
OT Live, which costs the same amount as a regular class, is launching in California next amid the return of health restrictions there. Long said the long-term strategy is to bundle virtual classes as part of the regular membership.
As for in-person classes, Orangetheory is stepping up cleaning procedures, requiring social distancing, shrinking class sizes and strongly urging members to wear masks in studios.
Wearing masks could make an already challenging fitness routine that much tougher, so Long said members are encouraged to “slowly ease” back into their workouts with them.
“We’re giving people options so if they don’t feel safe to come back, they can just wait for as long as they need to until they feel ready,” he said.
Orangetheory is betting people will eventually overcome their health concerns, especially as they look for release.
“The last nine months have been the most stressful time of most people’s lives,” Long said. “People need exercise and wellness more than ever.”