Meet the man who trains Premier League players, boxing champions and millionaire CEOs

Professional athletes, we tend to assume, are the fittest people on the planet. But just how fit is the man who keeps the fittest people on the planet fit?

Dan Lawrence, bearing the physique and face of a Thor body double, is that man. At least he is one of a select group of performance coaches who work with professional athletes and high-level CEOs in the business world – in essence, people at the top of their fields who can afford a special breed of trainer.

Lawrence, the founder of Perform365, has worked with more than 30 champions across various sports. His clients have included Premier League players, NFL Super Bowl winner Jay Ajayi, W Series driver Jamie Chadwick, and world-champion boxers like Josh Taylor and George Groves. Much of the Briton’s boxing work has come under his role as head of performance at the Matchroom gym, the facility tied to Eddie Hearn’s promotion, and Lawrence has even coached the CEOs of Joe & the Juice, Wow Hydrate and more.

Lawrence’s job covers everything from weight training to plyometric exercises (short, intense bursts of activity that target fast-twitch muscle fibres in the lower body, off the top of my head), and even creating the “optimal sleep environment, so people aren’t looking at their phones for two hours in bed, impacting their melatonin production, blue-light exposure, etc”. He works with athletes to improve their general speed, strength and explosiveness, before increasing the specificity of exercises as their target date approaches – “sharpening the knife”, as he describes it.

Work can continue up until the very last minute. “In the changing room, you’re still working with a boxer,” he says. “You’d be so surprised. Even with a playlist, you need the right tunes, so the BPM isn’t too high too early! Knowing when the next fight’s gonna end is important, too, so we don’t have to rush through things.”

Last autumn, I got a first-hand sample of Lawrence’s work, as I trained alongside John Ryder and Joe Cordina at the Matchroom gym. I recall Lawrence referring to my body parts by quadrisyllabic terms so foreign to my ears that I couldn’t in good faith say he was speaking English – or a language formed on this planet. But his tongue-twisting terminology was emitted so confidently that I trusted him explicitly.

Lawrence with former interim world boxing champion John Ryder (Mark Robinson)
Lawrence with former interim world boxing champion John Ryder (Mark Robinson)

This afternoon, he is speaking to The Independent over Zoom from his new home in Dubai, and our conversation quickly turns to Lawrence’s clientele. They are clearly an eclectic group, but he is uniquely positioned to observe the characteristics that unite the individuals. “Resilience, single-minded focus, selfishness,” he says without hesitation.

“Resilience... If you accept that there will be humps in the road, when you hit them you can identify what you could have done better, and you keep moving forward.” Single-minded focus? “With social media, there’s lots of shiny-object syndrome, tall-poppy syndrome. Keeping the noise quiet is really important.” What about selfishness, an intriguing element to Lawrence’s answer? “A boxer isn’t working with 10 other athletes who might have a bad day at the office. Yes, you have a team, but their sole goal must be the athlete. I told John Ryder throughout his career: ‘You’re too nice, it’s a short career, you have to be selfish to be selfless over time’. Earn your money, win your championships, and that allows you to better serve your family and relationships.”

Lawrence’s role has enabled him to not only identify the unifying characteristics of high-level performers but also the biggest misconceptions about elite athletes specifically.

Lawrence has worked with Premier League footballers among other high-level athletes (Michael Beirut)
Lawrence has worked with Premier League footballers among other high-level athletes (Michael Beirut)

“Boxers are truly the nicest people you'll ever meet,” he says. “Lots have come from hardship, they have values of hard work and dedication, they’re family orientated. If you walk into a boxing gym, everyone is so welcoming. Footballers are lovely people as well. They’re human, they’ve got emotions, and sometimes words on social media can deeply impact them.”

Lawrence is also keen to tackle misconceptions pertaining to the “everyday athlete”, as he calls the average gym-goer.

“The biggest misconception is that you’ve got to train six days a week and eat nothing but chicken and broccoli,” he says. “You don’t need an all-or-nothing mindset. You can absolutely have certain food groups that might not be deemed aligned with your goal, as long as it’s in moderation. You can absolutely get results by training three times a week. You can reduce the amount of X food group and have that be your only nutritional intervention. For example: If you had a sandwich three times a day, every day for a week, but said, ‘I’m gonna reduce that to twice a day,’ that alone could have a huge impact.

“Also, people go from zero to hero too quickly – as a New Year’s resolution, for example – but we know that too much of an acute spike increases risk of injury. Also, there’s no way you’re going to formulate a habit like that.” The company you keep can be crucial, too. “You have to choose the right gym partner, someone you don’t always end up in Starbucks with, having donuts and a chinwag. Maybe it’s someone a bit ahead of you, saying: ‘Let’s lock in a schedule, let’s set goals together.’”

Such goals will naturally be much humbler than those set by many of Lawrence’s clients. One year ago, he was in Mexico, in Ryder’s corner as the super-middleweight sought to wrest the undisputed world titles from Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Ryder fought bravely against the pound-for-pound great, but he was denied a career-defining victory. Even so, the now-retired boxer and Lawrence left with fond memories.

“Coming out of our hotel, the police escort was waiting to take us to the stadium,” Lawrence recalls. “Everyone else was in the car, it was just me and John with the bags, and we came out to 200 Mexicans cheering John – the guy fighting the hometown favourite. That was a tear-jerking moment for both of us, it still gives me goosebumps now.

“There was also Las Vegas, when Josh Taylor became undisputed champion [in 2021]. Afterwards, we were a couple of drinks deep, walking around the casino where he fought, and he put his arm around me and said: ‘When you told me how much you cost, I thought, Bloody hell, that’s a lot... but Dan, you’re worth every penny.’”

Lawrence with Ryder after the boxer’s interim-title win in 2019 (Getty)
Lawrence with Ryder after the boxer’s interim-title win in 2019 (Getty)
Lawrence’s clients have included CEOs of business like Joe & the Juice and Wow Hydrate (James Lo)
Lawrence’s clients have included CEOs of business like Joe & the Juice and Wow Hydrate (James Lo)

And while Lawrence’s work with pro athletes is self-explanatory, I ask why a CEO might seek his advice.

“You don’t have to be a Premier League footballer; ‘high performance’ is contextual to your situation,” he explains. “If a CEO can improve their health by 1, 2 [or] 5 per cent, that can be a difference of millions of pounds for their business, or improving the longevity of their life by three-to-five years so they can play with their children or grandchildren. In essence, they’ve earned their money; they’ve been in this chronic state of stress, and they might get to 45 years old or north of that and think: ‘I haven’t got time to work with a personal trainer in a normal gym, I need to work with an expert in their area.’”

Lawrence’s expertise may sit outside the everyday athlete’s price range, but they would do well to take note of the free tips he has given here. Every per cent counts.