How would you respond to a life changing experience? How can a road to recovery lead to an entirely new destination? In this Phenomenal Women Journal, we talk to the inspiring Joanne Matthews, founder and CEO of Ten Health & Fitness, an award winning fitness provider with a specific focus on posture, form and control.
We hope you enjoy the conversation as much as we did.
First, tell us a little bit about you and how Ten came to life.
I established Ten in 2007 as a result of what has become known as a ‘happy accident’. It didn’t feel very happy at the time, but it turned out to be genuinely and positively life changing. It was in the rehab gym where I was recovering from the back and pelvic injuries, I sustained in a car accident, that the idea for Ten Health & Fitness was born.
Having lost my job during the process of recovery, and always wanting my own business, I identified the opportunity. I had found a purpose through my experience, and I felt that I could help make a positive, and in some cases a life-changing, difference to people.
What principles drive its evolution?
I set Ten up to bridge the gap between the medical community and generic fitness market.
We have a client first approach, and we are led by very clear brand values.
Everything we do has movement at its heart and each service is supported by the other services we provide. Nothing works in isolation.
A client can come to Ten for one service (be it physiotherapy, clinical exercise, PT or Dynamic Reformer Pilates) or all services, depending on their needs.
Another core principle is joined up care and this is demonstrated through our circle of care model, which allows a client centric approach to health & wellness.
How do you define success for what you do and also yourself individually? Has your definition of success changed over time as an individual?
When I started out in my career (in the 80’s) success was defined by financials. I wanted to be financially independent as quickly as possible. To the extent that I opted not to go to university.
This focus moved to the importance of having a purpose, one that has meaning to me and added value to others. I see Ten as my success. I spent many years working in Marketing, encouraging people to buy more furniture or more clothes… now through 16 years of Ten our focus has always been to help people to move better, and to live longer well. Something that truly adds value.
I am happy to have been able to introduce specific women’s health services to Ten. I feel hugely proud of our Pilates, Women’s Health and Clinical Team at Ten. Together we are making exercise, prescriptive exercise, and physiotherapy, led by experts, accessible to more women, more often.
Why is it important that your business supports women’s health?
Being a female business owner - and also a woman of a certain age - working within the health & wellbeing sector, I can raise awareness and give women more of a voice around women’s health issues.
During Menopause month - I’ve welcomed the opportunity and focus it has given us as a team to be talking more - and more broadly – about women’s wellbeing. It’s also been a valuable prompt for me to reflect on the commentary and conversations I see going on in the world outside Ten.
But my initial reaction was very different. At the outset, I found myself questioning exactly what it was that we were celebrating.
Menopause, pelvic floor disfunction, breast cancer, anxiety, stress related illness…. many of us will have experienced at least one of these life-changing conditions (or know someone who has). We also know that 1 in 10 women leave the workforce due to menopause. At face value, what is there to celebrate about that?
But on reflection, I’ve realised that helping make these ‘female’ topics part of a wider conversation has been important. Personally, seeing others engaging in similar conversations, has helped me feel less alone and less isolated. And that - along with the depth and quality of information that is available to us now - is worth celebrating.
As women, we typically just get on with things; we take everything in our stride and we are hugely resilient, with high pain thresholds to boot. I grew up at a time and in an environment, where these female conversations weren’t overt, welcomed or even possible in the way I’m beginning to see now.
I also had early onset menopause at 44 (which I now realise explained some of my behaviour) whilst holding down a relationship, supporting the wider family and growing a business.
I am very lucky to still have both my parents – but Covid has really isolated them, and they need more of my time. As they are both 90, I want to be accessible for them. But like many women of my age the pressures on my time and energies can sometimes feel overwhelming.
Arguably women should be in our prime in her 40’s and 50’s. Our careers are going well, we have a wealth of life experience to guide us, we know (or at least, we have a much better idea) who we are, and we feel confident and comfortable in our skin. But then to be hit with the menopause and increasing family responsibilities can feel like a really unfair blow, especially at a time when many of us will have hoped that the harder yards would be behind us.
As women, we have such capability, as demonstrated through all the different roles open to us: leader, mother, wife, homemaker, entrepreneur, sister, friend, teacher, mentor, activist, and more. It is so important to stop and take stock of this once in a while, to remind ourselves of our ability and our contribution, so that we know our worth.
I mentioned that this is self-reflection, and specifically, my self-reflection. Your experiences will inevitably differ, but I suspect that we will share many similarities along with the differences.
The biggest change I’ve seen is the number of men who want to understand more and are supportive. Including them in our conversation will help further break down barriers to discussions around women’s health issues and help allow them to be active in the solutions.
What are your aspirations for your business over the next 24 months?
Ten will continue to champion health & wellness. We will navigate the difficult economic backdrop and hope for some consistency (less train strikes would be good).
Ten is a place where people can come and feel part of a community and have ‘their’ time, and I think this will only become more important over the next 24 months. We are part of people’s health & wellness journey, be it someone recovering from cancer, recovering from sports injury, or simply getting fit. I am truly proud of that.
What do you wish your younger self had known about:
Life: The past does not define your future.
Love: Love Truly
Health: Protect it and prioritise it
Work: In something that has purpose and be happy to walk away from something that does not nourish you.
What would be your key advice to women transitioning through menopause today? What practical steps could they take to better support their bodies and minds?
Find a workout that you enjoy. For me it’s Dynamic Reformer Pilates, it’s the technical expertise it requires to do Pilates that is enjoyable alongside the balance of a physical workout with the mental well-being that I get from each session.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the MPowder community about our second spring?
Being older, knowing oneself more has been the most empowering experience for me. We all come to this life stage from different places, however I can see that age does allow for understanding, more wisdom, and less judgement.
Finally, we all know that external stressors can exacerbate hormone fluctuations, whether your pre menopause, perimenopause or post menopause. And today’s world feels more stressful than ever - the fall out of the pandemic, heart-wrenching conflict, the cost-of-living crisis…unprecedented job insecurity. What have you done to better support yourself in the last 12 months? What have you learned?
My focus post covid has been to ensure Ten not only survives but thrives. Navigating this has increased the pressure on me and I have had to make sure that I step out of the business to allow me to be creative, more thoughtful and considered.
I have learned to focus on the things I can control and to let go of those I can’t.
Though I am very mindful of the economic and societal impact on me, our staff, and our clients. Being empathetic by nature coupled with being menopausal can sometimes make things feels disproportionately difficult. I have learned to recognize these patterns and opt for a Pilates class or a walk to get into the right headspace.
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