When bazaar first heard about Orangetheory Fitness from our friends we couldn’t believe the hype and decided to find out more about this new group personal-training, interval-fitness concept. Regular readers will know that previously we’ve covered the theory behind Orange60 and interviewed Khaled Jafar to ask him why he brought Orangetheory Fitness to Kuwait in the first place. But it’s just not quite the same as trying it, so we completed 16 classes over a one month period and spoke to other OTF members to discover more about their own #OrangeJourney.
Exploring the wonderful and varied gastronomic delights on offer in Kuwait for bazaar has its benefits but when you combine that with a sedentary work-life tap, tap tapping on a keyboard, it’s invariably not just the word that spreads. So naturally we’re also into health and fitness, some a little more than others to be honest. Sometimes the mere thought of exercising at all, let alone regularly, can be hard enough.
Orangetheory is instantly different. After just one class, where we could see our heartrate on the screen and immediately measure the effort put into an hour’s workout, we were hooked. Improving fitness and toning up was the order of the day but there was a little anxiousness that we’d get somewhat bored. Just how many workouts can there be in a three block, 60-minutes set? Infinite it turns out as there has not been one single class the same since we joined! This makes sense as the workouts are based on high-intensity interval training. There are myriad ways to get your heart rate pumping and resting in the gym. One month later, down two dress sizes with visibly increased muscle definition the journey continues, and prioritizing the gym is now how the weekly schedule starts.
“I’ve lost 9KG, my thyroid is normal and I’m healthier than ever. This is the first time in my life that I love working out,” says Fatma Alameeri, an OTF member for the last six months. Like this bazaar staffer she was encouraged to join through another OTF convert but had tried many other gyms and workouts before, never finding anything she liked. The support and encouragement from the highly-trained and professional instructors is what keeps Fatma coming back.
Sisters Heba and Tasneem Rashwan were just days away from accepting that they needed bariatric surgery, and weeks away from going under the knife. All their doctors had written them off, saying that they were so morbidly obese they would never be able to shift the weight any other way. They had indeed deviated far from their previous lives as active, high-school basketball players and were extremely disappointed in themselves. Both exhibiting high blood pressure with a pre-type II diabetes diagnosis, they were the unhealthiest they’d ever been in their lives and they knew that this wasn’t the example they wanted to lead for their youngest sister Batool.
Science teacher Heba, with a masters in Nutrition, Physical Activity and Public Health from Bristol University, spotted a post on social media about Orangetheory Fitness and immediately knew that the science behind it made absolute sense. The High-intensity Interval Training program was a proven method of weight-loss and building muscle mass and would of course keep the body burning calories after the exercise itself had stopped. She roped in Tasmeen and together they dragged Batool into the gym, her first time ever! Having tried absolutely every gym before, personal trainers and diets, not one of them was really confident that OTF would work, or even that they could physically take part. Other gyms had prevented them from doing certain exercises, worried that the girls would either injure themselves because of their size, or adversely affect the gym’s good results record. Voicing their concerns to OTF, the response was that if they weren’t happy, they could have a full refund. This intrigued the women. Surely there must be something to Orange60 if such a guarantee is offered. They tried the class and almost at once they were all addicted. Forty five kilograms of weight-loss between them later, and it’s safe to say they never got, nor asked for, their money back.
“It’s changed our lives. We used to just go home and go to work, eating for comfort. Now we have a social life! We’re confident and have so much more energy,” says Tasmeen. Exercise-phobe Batool can’t believe she can now do a 2000m row in the allotted time, Heba can run a 10minute mile and all the girls are training to complete a 10KM run this November.
As sisters joining together they no doubt gave themselves support in starting this venture. But the coaches encouraged the natural edge of competition that exists with siblings, which pushes them all further in the gym. Again, the ladies cite the importance of the coaches not giving up on them, even in moments of weakness. “They have to cope with my drama,” laughs Heba. The highly trained instructors know how to safely push each of the girls beyond their own self-doubt. “[The Coaches] make the impossible, possible.”
Having a body-builder dad was a big influence in Aphrodite Ayrout’s life growing up. In Syria as a young girl, she would train with him late at night when no-one else was around. Despite this she became obsessed with the skinny look and developed bad eating habits. It was the early 90’s after all, the whole world and Calvin Klein were obsessed with Kate Moss. Even though she would eat very healthy food the calories intake was extremely restrictive and this was her food regimen her entire life. Last year, a friend told her about OTF and, “It literally changed my life”. She liked the idea of the after-burn effect; it played into her daily calculations of consuming and burning calories. However, Aphrodite learned that she needed to eat in order to survive the gym. “Your body needs to be treated the way it deserves. Orangetheory helped a lot to put this idea in my head”. That’s a volte face, eureka moment if ever there was one. Aphrodite credits the warm atmosphere and amazing coaches for helping to push her forward to achieve her health goals, “They never give up on you. Now my friends say I look healthier and I feel it too!”
Venture into Orangetheory Fitness Salmiya on any given day and you can see Najebah Marafi working out, proudly wearing her commissioned, one-of-a kind “Orange is my new theory” tee-shirt. “From weight training to Zumba and every class possible offered by my gym…nothing worked or gave me the results that I was looking for.” Another example of obesity with a pre-type II diabetes diagnosis, Najebah worked hard to lose the weight and regain her health. Now she is working on sculpting her body. She doesn’t get bored because it’s never the same class twice. Orangetheory HQ in the US has an entire team dedicated only to designing new fitness programs to make sure this continues to be true. A workout Najebah particularly enjoys is the partner workout. “It pushes you more. I want to win and I don’t want to disappoint my partner.”
Someone else who doesn’t want to disappoint her gym partner and cousin Renad, is Raghda Yasin. “We do everything together. We’ve been together for 25 years and she’s got a wedding in 2 months, so this is our shared goal.” First time gym member, Raghda like others, had also failed at previous diet and exercise regimens. She tried prescribed home-delivery food options, which have few calories but very little nutritious content, and didn’t combine it with exercise. “I’d lose 2-3kg at first, but I’d stop the diet and regain it all back and more. Now I’ve lost 10kg and I’m keeping it off!”
She also mentions that the only one hour workout frees up more of her time to do other things, whereas before she would be slogging away at a treadmill for hours without seeing much effect. Ragda also uses Orange60 as a way to relieve stress and the studio doubles as a safe haven for 4 percent of her day. “It’s better that it’s a single sex gym, I want my space.” Cousin Renad agrees. “My fiancé loves to workout. I’m the complete opposite and I wouldn’t want to work out with him.” She works out instead with her other cousin Randa, Ragda’s sister. A trio of women who have turned from the regular chowing down on huge mounds of mansaf, to chewing up kilometers on the treadmill instead.
If there is a theme that runs through all the interviews that bazaar conducted it’s that of support and empathy from all the staff. There is absolutely no judgement from the trainers at all. “[At the first weigh-in] I was emotionally preparing myself for the lecture,” says Batool, “but it never came.” Head Coach Maya Novak can’t understand why a PT would be so demoralizing to their clients. “The relationships here are so different…it doesn’t feel like it’s work.”
Head Coach Maya, from Croatia, has always been in love with physical activity. There simply was no fitness industry in a country re-building itself back from war, so instead she became an IT programmer for Siemens. A feat in itself, as her family did not own a PC. “The first time I turned on a computer was the first day at college!” This gives you some indication of her focus and tenacity. As she worked her main job in IT she put in extra hours working a second role as a Personal Trainer, eventually gaining a clientele large enough to say goodbye to software forever. Her passion was to make this her full-time career and she started applying to anywhere in the world where she could fill a position within the physical fitness arena that held potential for growth.
Once in Kuwait she was introduced to Khaled Jafar, Orangetheory Fitness Master Franchisee for the GCC. He showed her the plans for the studio and she thought, “if I had my own gym, this is how I would do it. All my passions connected in one.” She joined as a coach straight away, long before the actual studio started being built.
Maya has a fantastic friendship with, and respect for, the members of OTF. Asked why she stays Maya blurts out, “The results! The ladies here are so happy”. Genuine happiness being something that the Rashwan sisters had referenced to bazaar in conversation earlier. “As long as I stay in Kuwait, this will be my company”, smiles Maya.
Ladies Only fitness facility Orangetheory Fitness is located on the mezzanine floor, Symphony Mall, Salmiya. To book an Orange60 free trial session DM Instagram @orangetheoryfitnesskw or call 94122295 for your free class.