David Long

Holistic health on the horizon

CEO David Long’s passion for health, wellness and business acumen are leading Orangetheory Fitness into a bright future.

Four years of classes and laboratory projects had well prepared David Long (BHS ’00, MSM ’01) for the beginnings of a career in physical therapy. With a passion for health and wellness that began in his high school years, Long was eager to enter a field where he could assist others with their personal health needs.

As the time in his bachelor’s degree program was ending, Long was questioning what exactly he wanted to do in a full-time role. Health and wellness was the clear industry choice, but after some exposure to franchising as a student, he was curious about its intersection with business. When he learned about the University of Florida Warrington College of Business’ Master of Science in Management (MSM) program, he found the supplemental educational experience that would propel him into his career.  

“I was drawn to the MSM program because it wasn’t the traditional MBA experience,” he recalled. “I was impatient to get going, and the program was a sprint to learn a lot about business.”

After completing his MSM, Long began gaining experience across various health-related businesses including a health club chain, running clubs and nutrition bars. These experiences would prime him for two significant roles leading the development of Massage Envy and European Wax Center stores.

It was in these roles that he learned about store management, how to scale a business, integrating membership into a product and beyond, all of which provided him with the foundation he needed to launch the company he still leads today, Orangetheory Fitness.

“During that time, I transitioned between corporate to entrepreneur,” Long said. “I needed that journey to have the confidence that I would need to take the leap [to full-time entrepreneur].”

Long notes that for many aspiring entrepreneurs, finding their ‘why’ can be among the biggest challenges to getting started.

“Try to get to the root of what you get excited about,” he recommended. “Is it the building or the hunt, or is it a product at the source of what you love? For me, it came down to building a product that I was passionate about.”

Financial hang-ups and fear of failure can also be some daunting thoughts that entrepreneurs face when getting their start. Long advises that having conversations with trusted sources can help ease these fears.

“It’s about determining is this just in their head or are they afraid to fail?” he said. “Having those dialogues and sessions is critical. But my advice is always going to be ‘just do it.’”

Thirteen years into his entrepreneurial journey as Orangetheory’s CEO, Long has led the company through a time of rapid growth, the pandemic and into its latest phase of strategic planning for the future. With each evolution of the business, Long notes that what continues to differentiate Orangetheory is its commitment to science-based programming.

“The core product has always been rooted in science, not chasing fads,” he said. “The science and technology, along with a personalized experience and world-class coaching are what sets us apart.”

Long’s vision of the future Orangetheory experience takes science-based programming to a new level. With the significant amount of health data available today, Long plans to further personalize the customer experience by connecting the dots between the major health areas of fitness, nutrition, sleep, mindfulness and more.    

“There is so much data available,” he said. “We’re able to give people a lot of data to sharpen their session results, but we hope to integrate this personalized experience with other aspects of wellness.”

Long’s strategic plan has come together thanks to each risk he and the Orangetheory team were willing to take while building the business. The learning opportunities that have accumulated since the company’s 2010 launch have provided the leadership team with a shared vision for the company’s future, which Long notes is key to future success.

“Leadership has to spend a lot of time together,” he said. “There has to be a lot of healthy debate, but the clearer leaders are on [the shared vision], the clearer their teams are.”

The company’s future success also depends on having a healthy leader, which Long prioritizes in his time outside of the office. The father of two daughters stays active through outdoor sports, like skiing, snowboarding, surfing, mountain biking and mountaineering. In general, Long recommends five tips for leading a healthier life.

  1. Get movement every day, even if it’s just taking a walk
  2. Get sunlight early in the morning
  3. Make sleep a priority
  4. Make better nutritional choices, like limiting refined sugar and processed carbs
  5. Practice mindfulness, like 2-3 minutes of deep breathing