What it's really like to do the F45 Challenge

Fitness, Trending

If you’ve fallen off the fitness wagon or need a goal to work towards, then the F45 8-week Challenge may just be for you. DOSE writer Clarissa has recently completed the notoriously tough programme – and here is her honest week-by-week review…

As a bride to be, I’ve been on the hunt for the right fitness class that offers me everything on one plate. Toning, tightening, strengthening and above all somewhere I can go that doesn’t fill me with dread. So, when I was presented with the opportunity to join the 8-week challenge at F45, I was delighted. Okay, that is a lie. In my mind, I had conjured up this idea that F45 was for those mega-beast trainers and energy bunnies that could do back-to-back classes and not break a sweat. And neither of those is me. But with a goal in mind and my fierce competitive drive, I decided to burpee into the deep end.

What is the F45 eight-week challenge?

F45 is the Australian workout that has taken London by storm. The sessions re fast, fun and hit every spot in under 45 minutes. Using circuit and HIIT techniques, they alternate between cardio (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) and strength/resistance-based classes (Tuesday and Thursday).

The eight-week challenge takes these classes (they advise fitting in as many classes as possible) alongside a dietary plan and promises to deliver results. Split into three phases to support your body as it develops and changes, the food programme is filled with a variety of menu options (including vegan-friendly) that are readily available on a handy app and online portal.

WEEK 1 and 2

Photo: Clarissa at F45 Oxford Circus

As I descend the steps down into F45 Oxford Circus for my weigh-in (the F45 team measure you pre, mid and post challenge to monitor your changes) and first class, I feel incredibly tense. I’m sure I won’t survive my first class, let alone the eight-week challenge. I’m welcomed by the energetic team and two co-founders, Tristan and Haydn, who instantly take my stress levels down a notch. They’re all smiles, jokes and hi-fives, plus it helps they look like they’ve both stepped off Bondi beach.

My first class is by far the hardest of the whole eight weeks. The classes are designed in pods that you move between the class, which is far too much for my brain to handle in 45 minutes. Luckily, another F45-goer befriends me and shows me the ropes. This is one of my favourite things about F45 – everyone is in it together, helping each other out, chatting away about their weekends and meal plans. It’s so much more than just a training session, it’s a community.

The first two weeks I manage to average three sessions a week, which I’m proud of. This first phase is called ‘Spring Training’ and brings your diet right back to the basics in order to promote fat burning and reduce sugar dependence. There is a focus on swapping out high sugar foods (including natural sources), red meat and gluten for fibre rich veggies, naturally gluten free grains, lean white meat and fish. With the guidance of the app, which provides shopping lists and recipes, this part is fairly simple.

However, the no caffeine/no alcohol rule was a bit of a situation. Even as a self-proclaimed health fanatic, this I struggled with. So, after a bit of a wobble, I decided that cutting back was a more feasible approach, but for many of my F45 comrades, they went cold turkey and reaped the benefits. One member I met in the bathroom told me she’s even sleeping better and has seen her skin health improvs. It’s tempting but so is a glass of Malbec…

WEEK 3 and 4

Photo: F45

Weeks three to six are titled the Regular Season’ and concentrate on building muscle mass through a high-protein diet which aids healthy fat loss and muscle repair. With this, red meat is re-introduced, as is cheese and some gluten grains – hurrah avocado on toast is back on the menu (kind of).

As I move into week four, I begin to notice I’m not as strict as I was in the first few weeks, but I keep up the daily habits and my diet still follows the macronutrient focus – protein/fat/carb ratios and lots of veggies. But there is the occasional moment where I need a chocolate brownie, immediately, and no diet or challenge will stop me. But knowing I can jump right back in to the routine, keeps me motivated.

In terms of my training and fitness, this is when I start to see a real shift. My arms are getting that definition I have always strived for, my glutes are on fire and I’ve noticed a surprising increase in my flexibility. I’m still managing to average three classes a week – and I’m absolutely loving the Saturday sessions where they have a DJ who takes hip-hop requests.

WEEK 5 and 6

I go on annual leave for a week and it’s tough. I don’t exercise, I drink alcohol instead of hot water and lemon and I let my hair down. And it felt amazing to do so. Although the challenge is a commitment and to get the results you need to follow it, there is also that great feeling knowing that when I get home, I have something to push me back into a routine.

I quickly get back into the swing of things by week 6 and push a little harder than usual, hitting an average of four classes. My favourite of the week is Brixton – a boxing-based workout that comes at just the right time. A day filled with frustrations means I welcome the bag and punch out all my anger. It’s better than therapy.

WEEK 7 and 8

Photo: Co-founder Hayden

The final two weeks of the challenge are all guns blazing. Motivational group F45 whatsapps from Haydn and Tristan push me to book in as many classes as I can fit into my schedule and the diet seems to be easier (perhaps it’s because I can see pizza at the finish line). The final phase of the diet, the ‘World Series’, is a semi-ketogenic type diet that focuses on high fat, high protein and low carbohydrate. I dedicate meal prep to both Sundays and try to plan my social arrangements for restaurants I know will fit the bill. It isn’t always easy, especially liking my snacks, and I do find that peanut butter is my life-saver.

During these final weeks, I’m reaching for the heavier sets of weights with more ease, burpees don’t phase me anymore and I feel a lot less jiggle when doing jumping jacks. On my final weigh-in my results show increased muscle mass and decreased body fat mass – of course, i’m really pleased. However, my goal was not just physical and it’s the psychological impact that’s worth much more to me.

I remember back to when I started the challenge I asked Haydn and Tristan what makes F45 so popular and they said “F45 is for anyone and everyone. It’s infectious, effective, sustainable and above all, it is bloody good fun.” And I couldn’t agree more. The addiction is 100% real. Boys, sign me up for the next challenge!

F45 Oxford Circus is offering a free taster session before the next 8-week challenge (April 29th 2019). For more details email [email protected]

By Clarissa

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