As we approach the one-year mark since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I find myself overwhelmed thinking about how much the fitness industry has endured. From local boutique studios to country-wide chains, the pandemic has brought countless obstacles. The sad reality is that many great businesses lost the battle and closed doors.
This tumultuous year has taught everyone in the industry one major lesson: the power of resiliency. It’s something we’re all taking away towards a better tomorrow and here’s what it means to Orangetheory.
Resilience. There’s a sense of strength in the word itself. It sparks thoughts of innovation, grit and passion, which are key ingredients to an organization’s success. We see it first-hand with Group Dynamic Theory, which proves that the energy and mood of a group is more electric than that of an individual. When you see tenacity in numbers, it creates an energizing movement – and that’s exactly what our industry needs to survive.
As we continue to face challenges this year, there are two main reasons business owners need to consider the importance of resiliency.
1. Embracing disruption leads to ground-breaking ideas
Innovation has always been a core value of Orangetheory Fitness Canada (OTF), which pushes our boundaries in ways we never could’ve imagined. Even though the in-studio experience has dramatically changed over the course of the pandemic– the need for social interaction has not. That’s why we wasted no time after being hit from the first wave (and the one after that) to develop virtual fitness offerings and prove to our members we were ready to fight.
- Orangetheory At Home: To ensure safe at-home options were available to everyone (including members and the general public), we immediately developed our first virtual fitness offering that quickly became a staple for many Canadians in their new workout routine. We knew Canadians were craving at-home fitness options and that’s what we delivered. While the Orangetheory At-Home workouts were initially offered as a free product to the public early in the pandemic, going forward the on-demand product will continue to live on as a supplementary product for Orangetheory members.
- Orangetheory Live: The insights we learned from our first iteration of virtual fitness -Orangetheory At Home – built the foundation that would lead to our newest innovation, Orangetheory Live. Unlike most digital workout products, the platform delivers a real-time video experience with four key pillars that make each class unique; live coaching, workout templates developed by a board of medical experts, community experience and the ability to track your progress with technology. With Canada being the first market to launch globally, over 100 studios across the country deliver the accountability and motivation that can only be provided by a live coach and interactive session, akin to a personal training session. As we continue to make business decisions rooted with our members’ best interests in mind, we’re excited to continue offering this digital product even when we’re all “back-to-normal” so that Canadians have more options to satisfy their fitness needs.
- Outdoor45: One of the big revelations of the pandemic was that group fitness doesn’t always have to be indoors. In recognition of this trend, Orangetheory developed programming and class formats that allowed us to take the in-studio experience into large, outdoor spaces in close proximity to the studio. Utilizing some of our in-studio equipment, while formulating new coaching techniques and class formats, has allowed members to enjoy sunshine and the great outdoors while being motivated and inspired by their favorite coach. Winter has prevented the full launch of the program in Canada, but the spring and summer of 2021 will see this modality rolled out across the country in full.
2. Canadians are motivated by brands who make them feel strong – both on the inside and out
As leaders in the health and fitness industry, we have a responsibility to support the well-being of Canadians. In 2021, that starts with safety. A fundamental component to our business is our two-way communication model with the OTF community to ensure we respond and adapt to their ongoing needs.
We’ve worked closely with provincial health units and the Orangetheory Medical Advisory Board to develop a robust checklist of protocols to keep staff and members safe. We were also the first Canadian fitness brand to implement mask-only workouts during select times throughout the day. But as studios continued to face lockdowns, our members demonstrate a strength in class goes beyond studio walls – one that can’t be built by dumbbells or treadmills. As OTF members take more and more of our digital classes, their energizing spirit empowers us. We’ve laid the foundation for a unified community and members have responded with continued support and loyalty. And there’s nothing more encouraging to a business than to see these kinds of unmeasurable impacts.
Above all, it’s inspiring to see how motivated Canadians are to keep up fitness levels through a pandemic – that determination should inspire everyone in our industry to innovate for the better. As we reinvent what it means to operate in the personal fitness space, we need to continue to embrace and learn from the trailblazers, innovators and take note of the reckonings we’ve seen across the industry that will have long-lasting impacts. We just have to close the door on defeat and open the one to innovation – not only for the survival of our business, but for the survival of our community.
About Blake MacDonald
Blake MacDonald is the President of Orangetheory Fitness Canada and its corporate studio business with 17 studios in the Edmonton, Saskatoon and Toronto markets. He is also a Managing Partner of Franvest Capital Partners, a private equity firm that invests in companies with a focus on fitness and franchising. Blake has been actively involved in the management of the portfolio companies including TraceAbility Solutions, Windship, Club Fit, International Fitness Holdings, XS Flooring, Fresh Fit Foods Inc., World Health Edmonton Inc., and most recently OTF Canada Inc., OTF Edmonton/Affiliates Canada Inc. He specializes in the development of sales, financial, and operating systems.
Prior to Orangetheory, Blake gained extensive experience as a partner and Chief Operating Officer of Club Fit. In his role, Blake also presided over the Personal Training program at Club Fit and was responsible for developing a “best in class” personal training service model. After leaving Club Fit/IFH, Blake has pursued several consulting roles with various fitness chains across North America to help them develop their personal training and membership sales programs.
In 2012, Blake and David Hardy (along with a group of Edmonton based investors) purchased the 10 Edmonton based World Health Clubs under World Health Edmonton Inc. and then sold them again in 2018. In 2011, Blake (along with David Hardy) helped establish OTF Canada Inc. as the Canadian Master Franchisor of Orangetheory Fitness and simultaneously established OTF Edmonton/Affiliates Canada Inc. (to develop the Edmonton, Saskatoon and Toronto markets).