Orange Theory Fitness in Strawberry owner Jon Ballack, at lower right and on iPad at top left, has led the location to big success in just a few months since its opening in December 2018. Courtesy images.

Jon Ballack grew up in the world of endurance sports. He swam for the University of Southern California. He’s been racing in triathlons for many years, always on the hunt for the new workouts to mix into his offseason training regimen.

“Fitness has always been my thing,” he says.

But two years ago, Ballack happened upon a workout that became much more than an effective way to sustain his fitness through the winter months. It became his latest business venture: Orange Theory Fitness in Mill Valley’s Strawberry Village, which opened in December 2018 and has already exceeded Ballack’s expectations.

“We’re really trying to create more than just a workout here – we want to create and sustain community,” Ballack says.

It all started when a friend recommended that Ballack go to an Orange Theory Fitness class in Palo Alto to see if he could mix it into his personal regimen. As he moved from station to station in the studio drenched in bright, vibrant orange – each one-hour class moves participants from the treadmill to a rowing machine to and strength training with weights and body-weight exercises – he was struck by its impact.

“You become comfortable being uncomfortable, and I began to feel really confident after doing it,” says Ballack, who’d spent the bulk of his career to that point in medical device sales.

Ballack was so enamored with Orange Theory that he reached out to its corporate offices in Florida to inquire about opening a franchise, and did just that in Novato two years ago. Orange Theory now has more than 1,100 studios across the world, and Ballack has been thrilled at the results from his two locations. 

Founded by physiologist Ellen Latham in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 2010, the Orange Theory workout centers on high-intensity interval training (HIIT) in which participants work at an all-out effort for short intervals of time in order to shoot their heart rate up, followed by brief periods of active recovery. Studies have continuously shown that HIIT is an extremely efficient way to maximize calorie burn.

According to Orange Theory, participants can burn anywhere from 500 to 1,000 calories during the hour-long workout, and can continue burning calories for up to 36 hours after their workout. The program uses a Bluetooth-powered heart rate monitor called OTbeat to display participants’ heart rates anonymously on one of the many flat screens in the gym.

“The goal of the exercise is to experience the ‘orange effect,’ which occurs when a person’s heart rate is pumping at 84 percent or higher for a combination of 12 to 20 minutes during their entire workout,” Ballack says.

There are essentially two major keys  to Orange Theory’s success to date, Ballack says: first, the instructors bring a personalized approach to each participant, encouraging and cajoling each but only within their own personal fitness level; each workout is different, so while the goals and tenets stay the same, instructors switch up the routine every time, offering a unique challenge every time you show up.

“The surprising this for me initially was the realization that this is really a workout for everybody, not just a certain level of athlete, because the output and the results are all about maximizing each person’s fitness level,” Ballack says.

The 411: Class times at Orange Theory Fitness Mill Valley in Strawberry Village range from 4:45am to 8pm, depending on the day. MORE INFO.

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