Mention fitness successes, and most of us think of weight loss. But as Orangetheory Fitness coach Vanessa Vossler will tell you, the greatest fitness victories have little to do with pounds lost.
“When people walk through the door, you can’t assume they all want to look good in a bikini,” says Vanessa, director of sales for Honor Holdings, Orangetheory’s largest franchisee group. “You never know what members are going through outside of these four walls, and you can’t take that lightly. At the end of the day, it’s a lot deeper than weight loss.”
Yet for years, success has been measured in pounds dropped or inches lost — tangible ways of tracking.
“People can get hyperfixated on numbers, and a scale gives us quick feedback,” says Rachelle Reed, Ph.D. “Plus, 15 to 20 years ago, exercise tended to be equated with weight loss. As more science has made its way into industry, Orangetheory and others have intentionally shifted away from that, because weight isn't telling the whole story. That's one reason Orangetheory uses the InBody scan, which gives more information on your body composition and how it changes.”
Countless members tell Vanessa and other coaches that because of their twice- or thrice-weekly workouts, they no longer need their blood pressure medicine, or that they’ve reversed their Type 2 diabetes. Research shows physical activity leads to better sleep at night and less sleepiness during the day, to decreased anxiety, to increased energy, to lower risk for cardiovascular disease, to elevated metabolism and elevated mood.
Orangetheory calls such benefits NSVs — non-scale victories.
“There are so many of them,” Dr. Reed says. “Can you use heavier dumbbells? Has your squat form improved? Can you improve your benchmark over what you did last time? Can you track performance data in your workout summaries? Did you get excited about going to class rather than feel a sense of impending doom about going? Did your mood improve after class?”
Weight, she says, can be one of many data points you’re looking at, “but if you’re only looking at weight, you’re missing out.”
Focusing on NSVs reinforces Orangetheory’s More Life motto. “You’re putting in the work inside the studio so you can reap the benefits in other areas of life when you walk out the door,” Dr. Reed says.
Vanessa tells how Orangetheory helped a 70-year-old member named Lucy deal with chemotherapy and radiation treatments for cancer. When she first started, Lucy needed Vanessa’s help to get onto the rower and off the floor. Eventually, Vanessa says, she was “crushing workouts” and thriving in her treatment.
And then there’s Monique, who kept her head down during her first Orangetheory class, which Vanessa taught in 2017.
“You could tell there was something weighing heavily on her mind,” Vanessa says. “I welcomed her to the family and gave her a big hug. I told her we wanted her to be here.”
Monique came sporadically for the first few months, but once she discovered the 5 a.m. class, she was hooked. The first one-mile benchmark took her 20 minutes; now it takes her 10.
“As she started to chip away at that,” Vanessa says, “you could see her face light up. She felt so much better. Watching her transformation was completely humbling and very eye-opening. A couple of years later, she wrote us a letter saying she had been battling depression and that OTF — our community aspect, having a place to go, its ability to relieve stress — had saved her life.”
When members set NSV goals, they need to remember that some of these goals happen over a period of time, Dr. Reed says. “Some require you to be committed for months.”
Along the way, she says, stop and notice smaller things; set up microgoals, too. Maybe make a point to sign up Sunday for classes the following week. Or decide to add a class. Or to pay attention to how your mental outlook and physical capabilities are changing.
“A lot of people show up to Orangetheory hoping to lose weight,” she says, “but so many other things change when you add exercise to your lifestyle. The more you show up, the more you learn.
“Orangetheory really can change your life. Exercise can be a powerful vehicle in helping you turn into what and who you want to be — and can be.”