Matt Dawson on how Orangetheory Fitness helped him bounce back
So, Matt. Orangetheory Fitness – is it do-able for us mere mortals?
Do-able? I haven’t done one jot of exercise in three years because I’ve had a heart condition and my surgeon said my results are getting better and I should go out and get some exercise. Seeing Orangetheory, I thought at the very worst I’m going to be able to monitor what I’m doing even though I might be well behind everyone else. It wasn’t like that at all; everyone was cranking it up or down, you go at your own pace, you see how hard you’re working. Of course, I got incredibly competitive with myself. We were trying to stay in the “orange zone” for as long as possible which is this ultimate zone to be working in and people are scrapping around to find out which zone they’re working in. I really enjoyed it. It was an hour, it was a blitz. I highly recommend it. It was a good way of breaking me back in and my surgeon will be happy too because I didn’t keel over.
It’s been a grim time for you, hasn’t it?
Yeah, it was probably about three and a half years ago that I was diagnosed with Lyme disease and it got into my heart and I was absolutely told categorically not to do any kind of exercise and to rest up and look after myself. I had a couple of procedures that went well, but it’s been a long journey to get myself back to a point where I feel like I’ve got the energy to go on a bike, have a game of golf or play with the kids. I wanted to do a bit more exercise, I know I’m never going to be flogging myself like I used to, which is why I wanted to come down to Orangetheory because I knew you could monitor it. There’s all the best technology so you can monitor it while you’re doing the exercise. That’s important strategically for me to be doing that and it’s really important for my health and the benefits of working in those correct zones are more beneficial. It’s a win-win really and it’s motivated me to get back on the horse.
What’s the reaction been to your recovery?
There have been a couple of awareness campaigns that I’ve worked on because of what’s happened. It’s been given a bit of a higher profile and people know a bit more about me and my family which is fine because it raises awareness and hopefully helps other people. To a degree, there was an element of me getting involved in the campaign and Orangetheory because I’ve never thought for one minute when I’m in the gym, looked around and thought: is it their first time in the gym? How are they feeling about being in the gym? Are they nervous? Do they know what they’re doing? Are they worried about what other people are thinking? And, for the first time, I can go into the gym this morning and I was nervous. I didn’t know any of the people I was doing the session with. I didn’t know if I was going to look like an idiot and it’s even worse if you’re a professional sportsperson and you can’t do the exercises. Everyone is doing the exercise but at different levels so you all feel as though you’ve done the same but there are all these different outcomes. I think because of my upbringing in sport you don’t necessarily think about that. It was interesting to have that perspective and I can now see people looking at Orangetheory and thinking that they can definitely get past that stigma that comes with the gym because they know exactly what they’re going to get out of it and it’s in a really cool environment with like-minded people. I can absolutely see people taking on this challenge.
Is that the beauty of Orangetheory because there’s a level playing field?
There are loads of reasons why people don’t go to the gym. Lots of gyms have lots of different environments and lots of characteristics but what they’re trying to do with Orangetheory is that it feels a lot more welcoming, diverse, modern, very tech-driven, so that the outcomes are precise so that when you walk out you know what you’ve got out of it so that when you come back you know how to improve. What stuck out for me is the number of instructors that are around so you feel like you’ve absolutely got someone by your side talking you through the bits that you need to talk through and they’re also happy to leave you alone. You can grunt, scream and moan a little bit and absolutely go for it. It felt a little bit like if you were going to work and the gym was next door it would feel like the pub, like you were all there together and for the same reason.
The gym is often a very lonely place…
You’re absolutely right. Sometimes you can be doing the same session as someone else and not say a word to them. You might be next to someone and needing their assistance with one of the exercises but it’s not quite that environment; you don’t want to disturb them. But this is a community where at some point you’ll be doing the same exercise as someone else, at whatever intensity you need to get into that orange zone, everyone can monitor not only their performance, but you can also help other people as well. It’s a very different dynamic. It’s extremely different to a sports camp gym, or the England camp and everyone is just going about their training session and then on to a scrummaging session and getting down and dirty. This is state of the art but in an environment that is welcoming and informative. In the group we had there were 20-year-old girls all the way up to 40-plus-year-old fellas and everything in between. Everyone was comparing notes and you can really see the community spirit around that hour of work.
How did you come to hear about Orangetheory?
I’ve been looking for a reason to get myself back in. Most workouts you tend to do on your own; I might take the kids swimming or get on the bike and do a few bits and pieces but I’ve missed having a reason. I feel a load better the next day or so when I’ve done some decent exercise. So when I saw this online I thought it was a great opportunity to give them some support and encourage other people to maybe have a different take on going to the gym and have a bit of variation in how their energy can be used. I also think that the science behind it is so interesting. The amount of extra work you do for no gain is quite scary and this is making sure that what you’re putting in, you’re getting the benefits out for the next couple of days before you come back in.
What is it that makes it so high tech?
The equipment, first and foremost, but also the bikes and the weights is really efficiently run. You’re next to people, you’re not on top of people. The tech used in the heart rate monitors means you don’t have to put it across your body, you just put it on your arm and you get your heart rate, percentage of max heart rate, you can go into all these different zones, the warm-up zone and then getting up into the orange zone which is where you want to be working at. You can go into all of it but not everyone wants to so on the screens you can look at the zone you’re working in currently because of the equipment you’ve got on your body. You’re not having to stop to check or ask, it’s there right in front of you the benefits that you’re getting out of the session.
Matt Dawson was speaking at Orangetheory Fitness’s London launch event. To find out how Orangetheory can help you achieve your fitness goals, visit: www.orangetheoryfitness.co.uk or follow @orangetheorylondon