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About 10 months ago, I completely fell off the health wagon. I'd started a new job, moved cities, and given up on my previous gym and clean-eating program. I even stopped doing the at-home workout classes I had been doing when I was too busy to get to the gym. A few months in, I decided I was settled enough to get back on track (also, I'd put on a few pounds and didn't feel so hot), but I couldn't manage to find a routine that worked. I had minimal time and motivation. My old workout plan felt boring and didn't push me hard enough. I needed a firm kick in the butt (for lack of a better expression).
Enter the F45 Eight-Week Challenge. This fitness phenomenon first swept Australia and then the U.K. and U.S. Skeptical, but motivated, I signed up. And, I’ve lived through it and made it to the other side. Below, I share my honest review along with information and advice from an F45 trainer and a global ambassador.
So, if you’re wondering what the F45 Challenge entails, if you can handle it, and if it's worth the money, keep scrolling for my honest answers.
Meet the Expert
What Is the F45 Challenge?
The "F" stands for functional training, which mixes circuit and HIIT (high-intensity interval training) moves that incorporate cardio and strength, and mimic everyday movements. The workouts are intense 45-minute sessions—hence the name F45. To put it simply, the workouts are hard. And when I say hard, I mean sweat-dripping-off-your-nose-and-onto-the-floor kinda hard. Think explosive bursts of exercises like burpees followed by quick recovery breaks. If you've never worked out before, I would advise you to take it slow—a good trainer will give you a hand if you're struggling with proper form or execution.
The challenge also includes daily meal plans to help you reach your health goals, whether you're looking to lose body fat, improve your fitness, increase your strength, or just feel better overall.
All F45 studios run the same 45-minute class throughout the day, so getting in a consistent workout routine is pretty easy. The eight-week challenges run periodically throughout the year, and these really serve as a motivational tool. Depending on your studio and level of membership, F45 can cost between $50 to $70 a week.
The Benefits of the F45 Challenge
“Most people do the challenge with the goal of losing weight and are very successful. Our workouts are designed to burn fat and build/retain muscle and the nutrition plan helps aid those efforts,” says Tobin. “It improves overall body composition by lowering body fat percentage and usually people see an increase in muscle mass as well.” But Tobin says the biggest benefit of the F45 Challenge is the healthy and sustainable habits it instills over the 45-days.
What to Expect From the F45 Challenge
The system works via an app where you book yourself into your desired time slot. I believe this contributes to the program's success: if you cancel a class last minute or decide not to show up, you're charged (genius).
Tobin says they don’t call it the F45 Challenge for no reason. “It can be a big change for some people, but keep that focus and be willing to change your habits,” she notes. “This is meant to build healthy, sustainable habits and the key to success is consistency.” Her best advice? “Stay consistent, stay committed, and you'll see results.”
I wholeheartedly agree with her. I trained at the Rose Bay studio (I can't recommend this studio and the trainers highly enough), where classes started as early as 5:30 a.m. and finished around 7 p.m. during the week. Saturday morning classes were offered as well (I surprisingly liked going on the weekend—go figure). My studio had people of all ages, genders, and fitness levels, and not once did I feel awkward, silly, or intimidated (even though every trainer had six-pack abs and the agility of Usain Bolt, but they're trainers, so I guess that's the point). The small class size at my studio meant there was a lot of time for one-on-one help, and almost every session felt like personal training.
After my first week, I was in agony. Sitting, standing, climbing stairs, and going to the bathroom felt like torture. "Stretching and foam rolling are super important for muscle soreness," advises Hathaway. "For anyone who's training quite heavily, I recommend taking a fish oil supplement, creatine, and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid)."
Try an Epsom salt bath post-workout to ease sore muscles and promote recovery.
In the weeks following, I adjusted and was okay. I generally committed to five sessions a week, and I found it achievable, even with my long work hours. The best part was that every single class pushed me to my absolute limit, and never reached a point where it was "easy."
While 60 seconds of continuous jump lunges with a sledgehammer might sound as hard as the F45 Eight-Week Challenge could get, I assure you that is not true (for me, anyway).
What is the Meal Plan Like?
“The amount of food you are eating is calculated right in the app so you know what your caloric intake should be to lose weight, maintain, or build muscle,” explains Tobin. She says the meal plans are well designed by a group of dietitians and focus on very nutrient-dense, quality foods. There are three plans to suit different dietary restrictions: mainstream, vegetarian, and vegan. “The recipes are easy to follow, and it gives you the tools to eat well, portion your food, and fuel your body with what it needs to perform in your workouts and everyday life,” explains Tobin. “You'll find you have more energy, you are less bloated, and you feel better overall.”
I did feel pretty good on the meal plan, but compared to getting the workouts done, for me, following the eating plan was much, much harder. Not because there's anything wrong with the eating plan, but because I live a life governed by gelato and chocolate-dipped shortbread. OK, I eat a balanced, clean diet 80 percent of the time, but this program showed me that I am very much a mindless snacker.
Below, I've posted some screenshots of a typical day on the plan, so you can see it's a balanced mix of protein, fats, and carbs meant to support all of the training. It's three meals and two snacks, which is pretty close to what I'd eat normally. I will admit that I only followed the diet about 70 percent of the time (hey, nobody's perfect), but when I did, I was satisfied—never starving. Also, I was never bloated, which is always a win.
The only issue I had was that it was expensive to follow the diet exactly when only cooking for one, so I often made batches of one particular recipe (I loved the vegetarian options) and ate it over a few days.
Alcohol was another hard one. I originally thought it would be so easy to cut out wine for eight weeks (I'm not a huge drinker), but the challenge made me realize how much my social and work lives actually revolve around drinking. I go to so many work functions where a glass of Veuve is handed to me before I've even taken my coat off. So, while I didn't completely abstain, I did cut back—which was no easy feat.
“Most people are successful with seeing a good amount of weight loss and fat reduction. Then we have those who have dramatic results,” says Tobin. “At our studio, we've seen people lose upwards of 35 pounds in one challenge, and reductions in body fat up to 9 percent and 2-5 percent in muscle gains.” Not surprisingly, Tobin says the more committed you are, the more significant your changes. “We've had a few people that do multiple challenges throughout the year—slow and steady—and their results are incredible,” she shares. “They've reduced their weight and body fat, increased muscle mass, and have completely transformed their bodies.”
I can join in as one of the many success stories. In just one F45 Challenge I completed, my fitness improved dramatically; I was more toned, and I felt stronger, healthier, and faster. While this experiment was never only about weight loss, I did lose five pounds overall (cue happy dance). You get a very detailed analysis of both your weight loss and muscle gain, thanks to body composition scans you get both before and after the challenge.
But, the real change was in my fitness and my motivation. I was no longer in a rut. I was eating well, exercising consistently, and continually improving my cardiovascular fitness. By the end of the challenge, nothing could stop me from making it to a class. I lived for the endorphin high when it was over, and I felt so much better for it. I was tighter and more toned, and my clothes fit that little bit better. I even found I was more productive at work. I wonder, if I had stuck to the diet plan 100 percent, how much better my results would have been.
The Final Takeaway
I will say that if you're not one for loud, high-energy workouts, F45 might not be for you. I, however, found that the shouts of encouragement from the trainers and the playlists made the classes that much easier.
Now, about the price. I honestly think it's worth it. I've long worked out at the gym, and you just can't replicate a workout like this on your own. What's great is that almost every studio offers a free week trial, so you can always give it a go before you commit to the cost. The eight-week challenges don't cost extra on top of your regular membership.
The only issue with F45 is that there is no stretching or cooling down involved, so it's important to take the time to do it yourself.
Lastly, Tobin’s advice is probably the most important takeaway: “Consistency is key. Stick with the program and you will see results. Everyone's body is different—different things will work for different people—but this program is quite universal and instills healthy eating habits that last.”
I’m excited for round two.