Orangetheory Fitness – A lesson in generating loyalty
26 November 2021
Hunter Murray

The “fit and healthy” trend has forced the fitness industry to rethink their model. Instead of individuals being told they need to keep fit and healthy (and reluctantly attempting), now, they want to.

The image of someone sweating it out on an elliptical after work, looking unhappy and inevitably quitting, has been transformed by new industry entrants. This has reinvigorated the fitness industry, which is now seen as a feel-good, social, and positive lifestyle-related activity.

Smaller group-based training, such as High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Pilates studios have been all the rage. These new-age gym models have taken full advantage of the fitness trend and are cropping up all over the place with their own ‘spin’ on working out. Interestingly, these brands are generating a very loyal following and the US founded Orangetheory Fitness (OTF) is doing just that.

The Model

Orangetheory is a science-backed, technology-driven, coach-facilitated, full-body group workout. What a mouthful! The theory suggests working out in the “orange” heart rate zone (84% to 91% of the maximum heart rate) is where the magic happens.

Coaches lead the group workout sessions, providing encouragement and correcting technique. The session incorporates a mix of rowing, cardio and strength training, and is designed to elevate an individual’s heart rate to the orange zone for 12 to 20 minutes (within a 60 minute session). Research suggests this boosts metabolism, burns fat and burns calories.

The Technology

Each member is required to use a heart rate monitor (starting out members can borrow one, but after a while members are encouraged to buy their own). The heart rate monitors are linked to large TV’s around the studio which display a member’s personal biometric data. At any time, a coach or another individual can look at the TV and see which heart rate zone a particular member is in. The leaderboard gamifies the experience and applies a sense of peer pressure, willing participants to work harder.

OTF also have an app, which displays the results of a member’s workout and facilitates scheduling for future classes. A results summary is emailed after each session with the individual workout statistics and a member’s all time statistics.


Splat Points

Members are awarded “splat points” for every minute they engage in activity within the orange zone. The genius of the design is the linkage to heart rate. The fitter one becomes, the higher the output requirements to reach the orange zone (and accumulate splat points), meaning the progress never ends.

Benchmark days

These are sessions with the purpose to test how a member is progressing against their previous benchmark and their demographic in general. The benchmark days allow members to physically see their progress and the comparisons act as a motivator to keep improving.

Hell Week

OTF periodically hold “Hell Week”, a week where workouts are more challenging. If a member completes a certain number of workouts within the week, they receive an exclusive T-shirt and OTF make sure that a sense of pride and achievement is felt through photos, social media shout outs, and the like.

Orange Everest

Another event to spark excitement and engagement includes an uphill run – on treadmills. Synonymous with running up the famous mountain, this challenge is met with similar pride and achievement.

Dry Try

OTF’s version of a triathlon with running, rowing and strength exercises. Again, pride and achievement is felt by members upon completion.

You get the idea. OTF have a knack for making fitness fun by incorporating technology, challenges, leaderboards, progress trackers, and a vibrant community.


Before Covid, members were regularly paired with other members during workouts. Group events, such as happy hour meet ups are organised and communicated through an engaged OTF club-specific social media page.

To add to the sense of community and belonging, coaches and staff remember the names of members greeting them upon arrival. This personal connection is created from the very first session.

Additionally, many clubs have a resident dietician and topical workshops (yoga, meditation, running technique, nutrition) are often held in the afternoons.

Refer a friend and if the individual signs up, the referrer will go into the draw to win a free year’s membership.


Social Identity Theory states that “a person’s sense of who they are is based on their membership of different groups”. In the case of OTF, it certainly seems as though this rings true. People are proud to be associated with the brand and want to engage in both fitness and non-fitness related activities as part of the OTF group. Powerful stuff for a gym.

What’s next? With a membership base this loyal, a lot is possible. However, as with all loyalty programs, evolution of the program is essential. The introduction of new workouts, events and promotions is a great start. OTF may also benefit from a formalised loyalty program to tie the existing program aspects together and potentially expand its offering into new areas – think intangible and tangible rewards, affiliate offers, access to OTF clubs overseas, and enhanced personalisation. 

<a href="" target="_self">Hunter Murray</a>

Hunter Murray

Hunter is a Principal Consultant (Europe) at Loyalty & Reward Co, the leading loyalty consulting firm, based in London, UK. Loyalty & Reward Co design, implement, and operate the world’s best loyalty programs for the world’s best brands. Hunter has previously worked in the financial services industry across multiple strategy and operational roles. Hunter applies his skills across all aspects of the business, including loyalty program design, implementation and operation, data collection and analysis, and loyalty strategy.

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