Before Jordan Gray left for the Olympic trials in late June, her 6:45 p.m. Orangetheory class members wished her luck with a signed card. A fellow coach even brought her baked-from-scratch cupcakes decorated to look like Olympic rings. It was a sendoff indicative of the tight-knit Orangetheory community.
As the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo approach, not only is it exciting to watch talented athletes compete on the world stage, but it’s also an honor to call one of the Olympic trials qualifiers who vied for a spot on this year’s U.S. track and field team “coach.”
Professional Athletes Make Great Coaches
Jordan Gray has been an Orangetheory coach for 18 months now. In January 2020, she skipped the online application process and instead drove to the McAllen, Texas, studio to drop off her Orangetheory application in person.
Coaching for Orangetheory complements Gray’s rigorous training, which includes spending four to five hours on the track and in the weight room five to six days a week before she heads into the studio to teach class.
While winning on the track brings her a sense of self-pride, Gray says, “When you help coach someone to their own goals, you can feel that happiness that you helped somebody else feel that same way.”
She also enjoys being able to show members how to improve their form when weightlifting or running on the treadmill in order to prevent injury. “I've been injured a lot, and I know how the body works pretty in-depth,” she says.
In addition to her training as a professional athlete, Gray and all Orangetheory coaches are required to have an NCCA-approved personal training or group exercise certification and a CPR/AED certification. They also need to be up to date on Orangetheory’s internal education, which is created by a medical advisory board and exercise scientists.
A Hurdle for Women Olympians
The summer before Gray joined Orangetheory’s coaching staff, she competed during the first women's decathlon championship hosted in the United States in 2019. The decathlon combines 10 track and field events, and not only did Gray win the competition — she also achieved the women’s American record.
While Gray trains as a decathlete, she can’t compete in the decathlon during the Olympics because the event is currently available only to men. Women are limited to competing in the heptathlon, an abbreviated version that includes seven events, eliminating the 100-meter dash, the discus throw, and the pole vault — Gray’s favorite.
“The reason that we have seven events and not 10 events is based on the sexist background that women aren't capable of doing these things,” Gray says. It’s her goal to raise enough awareness so that she and other female athletes can compete in the event during the 2024 Olympics.
“I kind of have the responsibility to help make it happen because it's not something I just want, but now I have the voice,” she says, noting that because she is the American record holder for the decathlon, she can use her platform to hopefully make a change.
The 2021 Olympic Trials
Unable to enter the decathlon at the 2021 Olympic trials in Oregon, Gray competed in the heptathlon but didn’t snag one of the top three scores that would have secured her spot on the U.S. Olympic team. “I'm a little disappointed in my performance but pretty hopeful that [my coach and I] have a better idea of what to do next time,” she says.
Although she didn’t place as high as she’d hoped this year, Gray still inspired her local Orangetheory community. Itzel Torres, who coaches at the McAllen studio alongside Gray, says, “An athlete like Jordan being a part of our Orangetheory staff just goes to show how serious we are as elite trainers to learn from the best and become the best for our members.”
Gray already has her eyes set on the 2024 Olympic Games, and is determined to be able to compete in all 10 events there. She invites the Orangetheory community to sign her petition, Let Women Decathlon, to help her get the women’s decathlon incorporated in the 2024 Olympic Games.
Photography provided by Adam Choukri, Jordan Gray and Orangetheory Fitness McAllen