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NEW! FT Undercover gets the skinny on 3 brands


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FT Undercover

Ever wonder how consumers feel about your franchise? Editorial staffers Laura Michaels, Nick Upton, Tom Kaiser and Beth Ewen check out three brands in a different genre each issue, and report back. 

The good news at Orangetheory, the No. 1 brand on our Franchise Times Fast & Serious list this month, is each participant’s heart rate is displayed on screens for all to see, with the goal being to get in the “orange zone,” or 85 percent of maximum heart rate, as quickly as possible and stay there. That means no hiding in the back and going through the motions. The bad news is when your heart rate monitor stops working—so although you’re power-walking on the treadmill like a maniac, to the entire room it appears as though you’re sitting on the couch in the lobby. (We recommend springing for the $95 heart rate monitor for the wrist, which works better than the chest wrap they’ll hand out at the front desk.) A peppy coach leads each class, exhorting people to move quickly from the treadmills to the rowing machines for various challenges, and then to the weight area, but there is where the accountability of this workout takes a hit—since the coach is in the other area, slackers can easily start to slack (not that we’d know about that.) It costs $85 a month for unlimited classes, with other packages available.

The upshot: Competitive types will love Orangetheory, especially the seemingly scientific promise that the calorie “afterburn” lasts long after the workout ends.


“Give your neighbor a high-five!” shouted Liz, and around the room sweaty palms smacked together. Only 15 minutes into the Tru Hot Pilates class at TruFusion, a Las Vegas-based fitness studio with four units open and especially popular with millennial women, and the heat was on—the studio was heated to 95 degrees. Four large class areas, including rooms for cycling, yoga and kickboxing, make up a TruFusion, with this store’s footprint at 9,800 square feet. The space itself looks great and feels welcoming, the scent of tea tree oil the first greeting. Toned, strappy-sports-bra-and-spandex-clad bodies mill about, some grabbing a smoothie from the Thrive Health Bar before class. Given its location just 15 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip, this TruFusion draws a mix of Cirque du Soleil performers and dancers, including Jennifer Lopez when she’s in town, and the instructor is a former Rockette. It’s a little (OK, a lot) intimidating, but once the music started pumping and Liz began leading the constant flow of movements, we became completely absorbed in the intensity. Afterward, sipping on a ginger-turmeric smoothie, we felt exhausted, soaked in sweat. Or as we like to say, glistening with accomplishment. Monthly cost is $69.99 to $99.99.

The upshot: Beautiful spaces attract a good-looking crowd at TruFusion, but if you’re over 40 and not J-Lo, stand in the back and do not agree to photographs.


Friend Mollie and I deduced it had been a decade since we set foot in a gym. The new Planet Fitness steps away from my house was the catalyst, even though I grimaced at this hulking, warehouse-like newcomer. We steeled ourselves and walked in, feeling like we’d stepped into Candyland as our retinas adjusted to the yellow and purple. The staff was friendly, but confused about whether two people could pay for a single workout without a contract. After conferring with the manager, we paid our $20, ditched our detritus in lockers and hit the ellipticals—for a total of 4 minutes and 30 seconds. Oof—time for the next thing as our legs morphed into wet noodles. We sampled machines that had us pulling and pushing, stretching and pedaling. In 70 minutes, we hit most of the good stuff, enjoyed a partial episode of The Goldbergs, and were impressed by the aggressive lady blasting an elliptical for our entire workout while wearing a parka and stocking cap. If she’s welcome, why not us? We left feeling energized, without a whiff of judgment, which is the Planet Fitness claim to fame. Perhaps there’s something to all this fitness business. Memberships range from $10 or $15 a month with a $29 startup fee, or $21.99/month with no startup fee as part of a current promotion.

The upshot: Hesitant neophytes have an affordable place to give gym-based workouts a try, no courage required.

Beth Ewen and Laura Michaels

 FT’s Beth Ewen, left, and Laura Michaels sweat with the best of them at TruFusion.

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