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About 10 months ago, I completely fell off the health wagon. I'd been on an extended overseas holiday, started a new job, moved cities, and completely given up on my previous gym and clean eating program. A few months in, I decided I was settled enough to get back on track (also, I'd put on a few kilos and didn't feel so hot), but I couldn't manage to find a routine that worked. I had minimal time or motivation. My old workout plan felt boring and didn't push me hard enough. Basically, I needed a firm kick in the ass (for lack of a better expression).
Enter the F45 Eight-Week Challenge. This fitness phenomenon first swept Australia and now the UK and US. Skeptical, but motivated, I signed up. If you're wondering if you can handle F45 or if it's worth the money, keep scrolling for my honest answers.
What Is the F45 Challenge?
The "F" stands for functional training, which mixes circuit and HIIT (high-intensity interval training) moves that incorporate cardio, strength, and resistance and mimic everyday movement. 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 take it slow—a good trainer will give you a hand if you're struggling with weight or poor form.
The challenge also includes daily meal plans to help you reach your health goals, whether you're looking to lose body fat, boost your strength, or just feel better overall. I was lucky enough to do a session with Paige Hathaway, an F45 Global Ambassador and one of the fittest people I've had the pleasure of meeting. While I was roadkill after our class, she had barely broken a sweat. Her No. 1 tip for healthy eating: "My one rule of thumb is no carbs at night, but I like to eat oily fish like salmon so I'm satisfied."
Depending on your studio and level of membership, F45 can cost between $50 to $70 dollars a week.
Benefits of F45
Basically, all F45 studios run the same 45-minute class throughout the course of a day, so getting in a consistent workout routine is pretty easy. The eight-week challenges run periodically through the year, and these really serve as a motivational tool. The program boasts some pretty impressive benefits:
- Weight loss
- Improves cardiovascular fitness
- Builds and sculpts lean muscle
No wonder it's created such a buzz in the fitness industry.
What to Expect During the Eight-Week Program
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).
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 7:00 p.m. during the week. Saturday morning classes were on offer 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 a six-pack 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 were like torture. "Stretching and foam rolling are super important for muscle soreness," Hathaway advised. "What I also find that helps me if I'm feeling stiff is taking a bath with some Epsom salts." She adds, "For anyone who's training quite heavily, I recommend taking a fish oil supplement, creatine, and CLA."
In the weeks following, I adjusted and was okay. I generally committed to five sessions a week, and I found it really achievable (I work long hours, by the way). The greatest part was that every single class pushed me to my absolute limits, and it 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 possibly get, I assure you that is not true (for me, anyway). 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 actually 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 to support all of the training. Basically, 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 the course of 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 only during that time did I notice just how much my social life revolved around drinking. Also, work! I realized 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 really cut back—which was no easy feat.
Before and After
My fitness improved dramatically; I was more toned, and I felt stronger, healthier, and clearer. While this experiment was never only about weight loss, I did lose two kilos overall (cue happy dance). You actually get a very detailed analysis of both your weight loss and muscle gain, thanks to incredibly detailed 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, 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 actually 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 yells of encouragement from the trainers and the playlist 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. If high-energy cardio mixed with resistance is your jam, definitely give it a crack. 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 at home.