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Smart, supportive, spirited: How Orangetheory coaches are like no others

By Leslie Barker

Ask anyone who’s attended an Orangetheory Fitness class — first-time class attendees or years-long devotees — what makes Orangetheory special, and you’ll hear the same answer over and again:

The coaches.

For Grant Johnson, imparted nuggets of fitness wisdom make Orangetheory coaches stand out.

“Nugget No. 1: Set attainable, achievable goals,” says Grant, who has been an Orangetheory member in California for four years. “Don’t try to get there overnight.”

For Shane Hall, feeling looked after sets Orangetheory coaches apart.

“Since my studio reopened after the pandemic, I hadn’t been going as regularly to class as I did before it shut down,” says Shane, a Georgia member. “But when I went to a social event with my studio members, one of the coaches said, ‘You have to come back. We miss you! Come to my class at 5 a.m. tomorrow!’ I did, and when she saw me, she was so excited.”

For Anne Marie Levie, the word caring is synonymous with coach.

“I have made so many connections with coaches, and all have played and contributed a special part in my fitness journey,” says Anne Marie, who lives in Salem, NH. “They always make sure you are working to your potential and push you in a gentle way to be your best every time you walk into the studio.”

Coaches are the backbone, the rock, the lighthouse of a workout. They’re who greet you when you walk in the door, who challenge you to push a little harder, who call you back when you’re overdoing — and who do it all with enthusiasm and smiles.

“Rock star coaches have knowledge of what they’re doing,” says Madison Senior, head coach at Orangetheory Georgia studios in Smyrna and Cumberland. “Energy is another big thing, and of course being able to relate and connect to members. Passion is huge.”

She has a masters degree in exercise physiology; many of her fellow coaches have undergraduate degrees in that field, says Rachelle Reed, Ph.D., Orangetheory's senior director of health science and research. While such degrees are not required, all coaches are required to be certified in CPR and AED and to have NCCA-approved certifications from one of the following:

American College of Sports Medicine

National Academy of Sports Medicine

National Strength and Conditioning Association

American Council on Exercise

Before becoming a coach, applicants also must complete Orangetheory’s OTFit Certification Program, a week-long immersive training experience. Next step: passing the “final mic” exam, when the coach prospect teaches a portion of an OTF class.

Once hired, education, created by the Medical Advisory Board and/or exercise physiologists, continues, Dr. Reed says.

“Every month we have webinars and meetings,” Madison says. “We’re very, very diligent. We’re always learning.”

For her, the biggest lure of being an Orangetheory coach was the science and physiology inherent in every workout.

“As a coach, I like educating members on the whys behind the template workouts we follow, explaining why we’re doing a squat, or why we’re doing a 3-minute push,” she says.

The theory and science behind the program also intrigued Mitch Jones, who decided to pursue an Orangetheory coaching career four years ago.

“Everything about the OTF workout has a lot of purpose and consideration behind it,” says Mitch, who coaches in Sydney, Australia. “Its ability to build entire communities around a workout was just amazing, and I really wanted to be a part of that.”

He is. And he’s happier and more satisfied now than he ever was as a personal trainer or leading other group fitness classes.

“Orangetheory coaches are just built differently,” Mitch says. “They exude passion and a commitment to members and their goals. I love that feeling after a class where you’re feeling energized from the adrenaline of the class rushing through your veins, knowing you’ve given your all to your members, who in turn have done the same.”

Plus, he likes knowing what happens in class carries over into members’ personal lives as well.

“You really get to know the members on an emotional level too,” Mitch says. “Everyone is going through something in their life.”

So he strives to make sure everyone leaves class feeling physically and mentally stronger than they did when they arrived. They’ve crushed class, he says, “so now they can get out and crush whatever else may come their way.”

Shane remembers his very first class, when his coach spent a few minutes with him beforehand, explaining what to expect from each part of the workout.

“The coaches definitely take the time to make sure you feel welcome and comfortable,” he says. “They take time to get to know YOU, which is pretty cool. We have a lot of people come into our studio every day. It’s crazy to me how much the coaches remember faces and get to know all the people.”

But that’s who they are. And here’s what makes them the kind of coaches who keep you coming back for more:

  • Positive reinforcement
  • Leadership and inspiration
  • Ability to work with you as both an individual and as a member of a group
  • High energy, passion, and an absolute love for and belief in what they do
  • Individualized encouragement
  • Propensity to challenge you based on your goals, yet keeping an eye on your statistics to make sure you’re training at the correct level
  • Knowledge to provide options for each exercise
  • Expertise at paying attention to each aspect of the workout — rower, treadmill, floor — and how each member is executing each
  • Acknowledgement of your wins and victories, however seemingly small
  • Being committed to their own fitness, and joining you in class when they’re not coaching
  • Seeing your own potential, and encouraging you to see it too