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From Hoop Dreams to Helping Others

Former Indiana Fever Star Katie Douglas Launches New Career

Writer  /  Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photographer  /  Brian Brosmer

As a professional athlete, WNBA player Katie Douglas and her teammates were always talking about new fitness methods on the market. So, several years ago when Douglas sustained an injury while playing with the Indiana Fever, she tried out Orangetheory Fitness in an effort to keep in shape. She was instantly stunned by the result.

“Not often do you leave a 60-minute workout as a professional athlete feeling like you got everything you needed in that 60 minutes, but I did,” says Douglas, who was intrigued by the physiology behind the Orangetheory exercise regime and started studying up on the practice.

The hour-long session, split into intervals of cardiovascular and strength training, is designed to maximize metabolic burn. On average, participants burn 500-plus calories per workout. Douglas found that the high-intensity interval training, which involves heart-rate monitoring in order to amplify metabolic stimulation, was a perfect complement for an elite athlete.

Douglas continued to train, while learning more about the Orangetheory business. As she neared retirement in 2015, she contemplated the notion of becoming a franchisee by opening a studio in Greenwood.

“I loved the workout. I loved how it evened the playing field,” Douglas says. “I could be a pro athlete, and when I transitioned to just being Katie, the former pro athlete, I could get all four of the components I need in 60 minutes,” says Douglas, referencing the incorporation of treadmills, rowing machines, TRX suspension training and free weights that each session demands.

Opening a studio in her hometown checked off all of the boxes that mattered to her: staying involved in health and fitness, being more present at home and giving back to the community that has shown her unwavering support through the years.

“Everyone around here has been behind me during high school, collegiately, and professionally, so to come back here and give them something that can improve lives on the south side is special,” says Douglas, who also played at Purdue. 

When Douglas was drafted in 2001, she dreamed of playing professionally in the U.S. even though she knew that at the time she wasn’t ready for that kind of pressure.

“It’s challenging playing at home and having so many different things pulling at you on and off the court,” Douglas says.

By 2008, however, when she was traded to the Indiana Fever, she was primed to return to her roots.

Playing overseas and in Connecticut helped her grow into the woman she is today. She describes being traded in 2008 to the Fever as “a mixed bag of emotions.” During the flight from Valencia, Spain to Indianapolis to do press about the trade, the magnitude of the moment sank in.

“It really hit me at that point that I was a member of the Fever,” recalls Douglas, who recognized that few pro athletes ever get the opportunity to play in their hometown in front of friends and family.

Certainly, winning a national championship title hails as one of her fondest memories. Though she had been to the finals three times with Connecticut, she had never brought home the big prize. She redeemed herself in 2012 when she won the national championship game here in Indy on her home floor in front of her fans, in a sold-out Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

“It was like everything had finally come together, and then there’s that moment that’s hard to explain. Every athlete knows what I’m talking about,” Douglas says. “It’s when you’ve worked so long and hard and made so many sacrifices and done so many things that people have no idea about. Then to finally be that team and that player and be a part of that championship was a phenomenal accomplishment.”

After 14 seasons in the WNBA, Douglas retired in May 2015. She was careful not to immediately jump into something new but instead take time to relax and reconnect with loved ones.

“I wanted to navigate those waters and see what makes me tick besides playing basketball because that literally has been all I’ve known my entire life,” Douglas says. “From age 7 on up, I’ve always had a ball in my hands.”

While she admits to having lived a phenomenal life traveling the world during her WNBA career, doing so meant she missed out on important life events back home like nieces and nephews growing up. In the last two years, Douglas has enjoyed re-introducing herself into people’s lives.

And now an added focus is on her new business venture. Though she’s been encouraged by others to pursue a television or coaching career, Douglas says her life passion is clear.

“Every time I talk about Orangetheory, I light up,” Douglas says. “I have such excitement about being a business owner here on the south side and giving this opportunity to Greenwood residents. I know in my heart that this is what I want to do.”

Douglas has enjoyed building what she affectionately terms her “Dream Team” of employees, whom she has trained. Now she’s empowering them to motivate the public to embrace health and fitness, which is not to say Douglas won’t maintain a strong presence at work.

“I’m not going to be an absentee owner by any means,” Douglas says. “There won’t just be a cardboard cut-out of me in my office. I’ll be here.”

So far, the response from the Greenwood community regarding Douglas’ new career has been hugely positive, and when the doors of the studio open in April, Douglas anticipates the buzz will grow.

“There’s no other place that does what we do,” Douglas says. “If you’re interested in getting fit and becoming healthier, this is the place for you.”

Community members have already been signing up, eager to reach fitness goals that have thus far been unattainable in other venues. Douglas expects that members will be pleased with their results. Especially since she promises to take great care of her customers, just as they have taken care of her.

“As we continue to grow, I think Orangetheory will become a fabric of the Greenwood community,” Douglas says.

For more on Orangetheory Fitness, visit www.orangetheoryfitness.com. Douglas’ Greenwood studio is located at 1675 W. Smith Valley Road, Suite D5.

About Christy Heitger-Ewing

Christy Heitger-Ewing is an award-winning writer and columnist who writes human interest stories for national, regional, and local magazines. She is also the author of the book “Cabin Glory: Amusing Tales of Time Spent at the Family Retreat” (www.cabinglory.com).

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