Finding More Life in the Orange

By Jennifer Walton, JDRF Volunteer

I was never much of an “organized” workout kind of person. I’m also a tad directionally challenged (as in, I can’t seem to follow direction well.) I tried yoga; I fell over a lot, got the giggles and was asked to leave. I tried those Zumba-style dance classes; inevitably I’d end up a step behind and was going left when the rest of the class was going right, causing a domino-style pileup (and then was asked to leave.)  I loved kickboxing but have a bad back and kept hurting myself. So, I just dragged myself to the gym in the winter to run on the treadmill and ran outside in the summer, tried not to eat too much ice cream, and hoped for the best.

Thus, no one was more surprised than I when I was talked into attending a free class at Orangetheory Fitness (OTF) in late 2016 – and then I signed up for a membership the same day. I liked the coaches and the feel of the classes. Once I got on a regular class schedule, I could tell the workouts were changing my body and I experienced a consistent, distinct increase in insulin sensitivity up to 24 hours after a class, with steadier numbers overall. Instinctively, I knew I should stick with OTF because it was good for my overall well being.

Jennifer Walton and New JDRF – Orangetheory Fitness

Diabetics doing Orangetheory

It’s a complicated thing, navigating diet, insulin, and the ever-fluctuating blood sugar while attempting to prepare for a workout as a diabetic. It requires carefully studying the patterns of one’s own dead pancreas to develop a system for going into a class with a target blood sugar and food in your stomach (or not) that will, in a perfect world, result in a fairly steady sugar level for the full hour without tanking or spiking. OTF is not for the diabetic faint of heart, but if you figure out your own personal equation, it’s 100% doable. I’ve only had three lows in class in two years, and I’m pretty proud of that.

A hallmark of OTF is the effort the coaches and staff make to get to know their members, both fitness-wise and personally – and this has made a huge difference in my OTF experience. OTF coaches and staff are keenly aware of their members; they observe their struggles and successes, and closely follow their progress. At my “home” studio, OTF Broomfield, I’ve been asked several times by genuinely curious coaches or other members about my Dexcom CGM, which is usually prominently displayed on my arm, and I’m always happy to turn a question into an educational opportunity. Over time, as the coaches have gotten to know me and understand how type 1 diabetes (T1D) can affect someone in an intense workout, they have made useful suggestions and I’ve felt much safer really pushing myself in workouts because of their heightened awareness.

Connecting Orangetheory to JDRF

Jennifer Walton and New JDRF – Orangetheory Fitness

OTF’s tagline is “More Life,” and the more time I spend working out with them the more I’m coming to understand they mean that in every sense of the word. In addition to investing resources into community building, every year OTF raises millions of dollars for health and wellness causes at the national, regional and local/studio levels. Some campaigns are led out of Headquarters, but local studios are also empowered to identify and support local causes.

As a type 1, supporting fundraising for health issues is personal for me, and I often wondered if a relationship with JDRF might be a fit.  When I approached Heather Doyle, the studio manager at OTF Broomfield, about fundraising for JDRF I was met with such enthusiasm I could tell we were on to something. Heather and I met twice in summer 2018 and I worked with the local JDRF staff to develop a set of talking points for the studio. In 2018, Heather held two fundraising events for JDRF (raising over $3,000), had a booth at the Denver JDRF One Walk, and posted approximately 15 social media posts about T1D. I estimate we’ve probably educated around 150 people about type 1 through these efforts.

Heather and I are already looking ahead to 2019; our goal for the year is to engage the entire northern Colorado OTF region (17 studios) in a broader fundraising campaign for JDRF. If you are an OTF member in northern Colorado, you can help us by approaching your studio manager and/or head coach and asking them to support you and JDRF by proposing a regional fundraising campaign while they are at their regional meeting. We’re hoping the more the regional leads hear about JDRF and that studios are supporting their type 1 members, the more they will actively support the notion of a regional campaign. Of course, you can also get your own studio engaged in educational and fundraising activities too!

Ultimately, I’d love to see our efforts result in a corporate partnership between JDRF and Orangetheory Fitness national, and will be working toward that endeavor in the longer term.

When I registered as a (somewhat skeptical) member of Orangetheory Fitness a couple of years ago, I couldn’t have envisioned the ripple effect it would have. At 38, I’m fitter than I’ve ever been in my life; I’ve lost weight (on insulin!) and I’m using 25% less insulin overall. But even more importantly, I’ve found enthusiastic and unwavering support from Heather and OTF Broomfield toward my wellness, toward education about type 1, and toward a cure – which has now touched the lives of hundreds of others.  I believe we can all find more life in the orange.

For more information about fundraising for JDRF through your local OTF location, or other workout studio, contact