Orange is the new goal

Katie Douglas-Poe brings a new type of workout to the southside

By Jenny Elig

Well before she was in the WNBA, Katie Douglas-Poe was pushing herself beyond expectations on the basketball court. Post-retirement, she continues to push herself. This time around, she’s not Katie Douglas the basketball star but Katie Douglas-Poe, the gym owner.

The gym is a franchise of Orangetheory Fitness, a gym named for the heart rate zone exercisers strive to hit. The Florida-based company, which boasts locations in 44 states, offers guided workouts, with a high-intensity, interval training approach. To date, the metro Indy area boasts two Orangetheory Fitness locations: one on the northside (in the Ironworks building) and one in Fishers.

In April, Douglas-Poe will open an OTF location in her hometown, Greenwood.

“I thought of no more fitting a place than Greenwood, of coming back home and being able to bring this to my community and to give the people of the southside an opportunity to have some of the north-side luxuries,” she says.

Bringing these luxuries to southside audiences has been a year-long process, one that required a healthy investment of money, time and effort. Douglas-Poe became OTF-certified, and in recent months she’s spent countless 14-hour days at the gym, overseeing the build-out, staffing and membership registration. She thinks of the gym, which is planted squarely in the Centre at Smith Valley, 1675 W. Smith Valley Road, as her contribution to the southside.

“The southside is where I was born and raised, and I love the people,” she says. “They’re real people. They have been so supportive of my career and my journey. I’ve had a long career, and the people are so loyal.”

In the beginning

Mike Armstrong serves as Perry Meridian High School’s physical education teacher, head girls basketball and girls cross-country coach.

“I knew she was a very good basketball player,” Armstrong says. “First of all, she’s physically gifted. She has good size and good height; she is long-limbed and has really good characteristics that good basketball players have.”

Not only was young Douglas-Poe physically gifted, she had an extra drive that launched her to great heights. “I think the thing that went unnoticed in the younger part of her career is that Katie’s work ethic is amazing,” Armstrong says. “I’ve always been fortunate enough to coach a lot of good kids. I would say Katie’s work ethnic was a step above those. She worked on her game continually. She always continued to practice, and she wants to be able to do something next year that she didn’t do before.”

That work ethic would help shape Douglas-Poe into something else: a professional.

After high school, she headed to Purdue University, majoring in communications, where she helped lead the university’s basketball team to an NCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Championship in 1999; that same year, she played on the team representing the USA at the 1999 World University Games in Spain. Upon her graduation in 2001, Douglas-Poe would be the 10th overall pick by the Orlando Miracle in the 2001 WNBA Draft. The Miracle moved to Connecticut, and Douglas-Poe stayed with them until she was traded to the Indiana Fever in 2008. There, she would play with WNBA stars — including Tamika Catchings — and would become a star herself. In 2009, Douglas-Poe was voted into the WNBA All-Star Game. In 2012, she averaged more than 16 points per game. That same year, the Indiana Fever won the WNBA Championship.

A lower-back injury put her on the sidelines for most of 2013; she had back surgery later that same year in Los Angeles and signed a free-agent contract with the Connecticut Sun, the team she would retire from in 2015.

Getting into the orange zone

Douglas-Poe can’t remember the exact date when she walked into the Orangetheory Fitness location in Fort Myers, Florida, (where she and her husband, Fred Poe, have a second home), but she does remember the impact the workouts have had on her. Prior to her back and ankle injuries, she would stay in shape off-season by heading overseas to play basketball in foreign lands. The injuries ended that, and the elite athlete needed a new way to stay in shape.

“I heard about Orangetheory through other WNBA players,” Douglas-Poe says. “As players, we’re always trying new things, trying different workouts in order to maintain a high level of fitness.” With its high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, Orangetheory, she says, offered a chance for her to train off-court and bounce back to the WNBA season without missing a beat.

In layman’s terms, a HIIT workout will make the exerciser uncomfortable. “It’s short intervals that you’re going to be out of breath,” she says. “Most people associate exercise at about 73 to 84 percent of their maximum heart rate. The orange zone is 84 percent or more of your maximum heart rate. The red zone is 92 percent or more of your maximum heart rate.”

Using treadmills, water rowers and weights, Orangetheory workouts get the exerciser into the orange and red zones for 12 to 20 minutes cumulatively over the course of an hour-long workout, and, she says, it’s a workout that garners longer calorie burns.

“You come, you work out, the next day you rest,” she says. “You’ll burn calories for 24 to 36 hours after that class.”

The workout routines change every day, says Orangetheory Iron Works head trainer Kim Norris, with templates coming in from Orangetheory corporate offices. There are some consistencies in the workouts, Norris says. For example, in each class exercisers will  hit the  treadmill, the rowers and the weights.

The guided setting brought Norris, who has a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and community health, out of quasi-retirement. “It was group fitness but with a new twist,” she says. “This is that group atmosphere where you’re naturally motivated. (Orangetheory) makes me do things that I will not do on my own.”

When members check into an Orangetheory gym — and members can go to any Orangetheory gym around the country — they head to one of 14 treadmills, water rower machines or weight stations. They don’t need headphones or their cellphones, but they do need a good attitude. After a two- to three-minute warmup, the trainer helps dictate the template they will follow for the rest of the hour-long workout. It’s a chance for people to push themselves beyond their previous limits.

“I enjoy exercise, but you have those things you naturally gravitate toward,” Norris says. “I could spend all day on a treadmill, but that’s not going to progress me forward. But if I see that rower, let’s be honest, I’m not going to get on that rower.”

Like Norris, Douglas-Poe also has to psyche herself up to face the water rowing machines. The Orangetheory approach of pushing people out of their comfort zones is critical, Douglas-Poe says, because all workouts, when done over a long enough period of time, will stop being as effective.

“You can only do something for a certain amount of time and then you plateau,’ she says. “But the cool thing about Orangetheory is there’s no workout that’s the same. Every day there’s a completely different workout.”

Time to grind

In recent days, it has been all business for Douglas-Poe, who sees her husband in the evenings after their busy days (Poe owns K&K Fence Co., an Indianapolis-based fencing and entry-gate system company). After a 14-hour day serving as an Orange Ambassador for her gym, Douglas-Poe unwinds at home, sleeping like a rock.

It’s effort that’s well spent for  Douglas-Poe, who hopes to use her new station as a southside business owner to contribute to causes that work to fight cancer (she lost her mother to breast cancer and her father to pancreatic cancer), as well as causes that prioritize healthy lifestyles. “We have an obesity epidemic here in the United States. We have to start prioritizing other things and put our health and fitness somewhere near the top,” she says. “I don’t think we do a good job of taking care of ourselves. It’s not a phase, and it’s not a diet; it’s a lifestyle. If it’s not at Orangetheory, if that’s not your thing, so be it. Just be active.”