Fitness Health

What is the F45 Challenge? (And why did I decide to do it?)

October 26, 2018
F45 Challenge

A couple of weeks ago – on October 8th, to be precise – F45 started its fourth and final F45 Challenge of 2018: an eight-week diet and exercise programme designed, essentially, to help you lose body fat. (It occurs to me that this could be the shortest blog post I’ve ever written if I left it at that.)

The long and winding road

If you’ve been following me for any time at all, you’ll probably know a few things about me. Firstly, that, a few years ago, I lost a lot of weight. Secondly, that I then became a personal trainer. Thirdly, not that I talk about this a whole lot, but you may have noticed that I’ve put back on a lot of that weight. I’ve also given up personal training – and, er, training of any sort. I have so many excuses reasons I could go into but look: life gets in the way.

A lot of things have changed for me, both personally and professionally (although honestly? A lot of the time there’s little difference between the two) over the past 12 months. I changed professions and moved jobs a couple of times. A very long relationship came to an end. Another may be beginning. I cut my hair, then grew it, then cut it again. I changed my mind about a lot of things. I apologised to a lot of people. Life has continued apace.

This was not meant to be a personal essay but the Cliff’s Notes version is this: at the start of this month, I started a new job, in an office that is directly across the road from F45 Townsend St, in Dublin 2. It seemed like a sign; after all, the time at which I was most into the gym was when I was working in STELLAR magazine and training right around the block at Lift Training Studios.

What’s more, F45 was starting its latest F45 Challenge, in the very same week I started my new role. It felt like a sign. I reached out and asked if they would allow me to take the F45 Challenge, in exchange for posting about it, on my blog and on social media, where I would chat about classes and keep people updated on my progress.

So what is the F45 Challenge?

Like I said, F45 is a gym – in fact, the world’s fastest growing gym, originating out of Australia – and the F45 Challenge is a quarterly eight-week challenge they hold for members and newbies, involving a 1,300-calorie-a-day diet (for females) and as many F45 classes as you can fit into your schedule.

F45 stands for functional 45: each class is 45 minutes long and incorporates a range of functional movements, designed to burn fat, build lean muscle and increase cardiovascular health, in a fun and supportive team environment. That sounds like PR spiel, but that’s just how I view it – that is the most accurate and concise description of what F45 is. It’s a gym chain, sure, but there’s something kind of movement-y about it; in that sense it reminds me of Crossfit, in the sense that F45 members tend to talk about it with a sort of feverish reverence. If you love F45 you really love F45.

It’s a pretty straightforward thing to follow, the F45 Challenge. There’s an app that gives you all of your meal plans, including a shopping list (week one’s ingredients cost me €200-odd, but it’s worth bearing in mind that I bought a lot of cupboard staples that will do me throughout the eight weeks) and recipes, which are thoughtfully designed to offer more than one portion so that your following day’s meals will often include yesterday’s leftovers. It’s one of the cleverest of these types of programmes I’ve seen (so many “challenges” seem to assume that we all have four hours a day to cook).

My F45 experience

As I said, the F45 Challenge is not particularly, well, taxing. I work right next to the gym. There are a variety of classes on offer, at assorted times throughout the day. But today, at the end of week three, well. I’ve been to two classes. Two. 

Again, I have my excuses reasons. I was travelling for work during week two, which honestly just threw me for a loop and I was exhausted for the rest of the week. I had to have a minor medical procedure done this week (a colonoscopy, more on which later #oversharer). I’ve been tired and it’s been dark and cold.

And honestly? I find F45 kind of intimidating. I’m not a great person at “joining in”. I’m not a joiner. At the end of every F45 session, we give sweaty high fives. People whoop and holler during classes and encourage one another to keep going, to do better, to try harder. I am not a “try harder” type of exerciser. I am a “find someone to grimace at sympathetically” type of person. I need to feel there is someone else in the room struggling as much as I am. (I am, reader, a glass-half-empty fitness fan.)

And so the real challenge begins

I took “before” pics, but I don’t know if they will ever see the light of day. (I struggle between knowing I should embrace the tenets of body positivity, and love my body – and every body – as it is, and wanting to feel attractive in a world that values attractiveness, and in which I have to live.) I hoped – not so secretly – that my F45 Challenge experience would transform my body (and, to a lesser extent, my mind). In week one, I lost 5lbs (I weighed myself every day). In weeks two and three, I put those 5lbs back on again.

I’m not sure that I will be a successful F45 Challenge-r. I don’t think I will produce photographs the trainers at F45 Townsend St will be proud of. I don’t think I’ll stick to the food plan each and every day (in fact, I’m sure I won’t).

But tomorrow I’m going to get up and I’m going to lace up my runners and I’m going to go to a one-hour class. Afterwards, I’ll clap and shout “woo-hoo!” and high five someone I don’t know and I’ll end up out of my comfort zone but I guess that’s okay. I might take myself for a morning roll in Bread 41 (the clue’s in the name) as a reward. Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all, and like I said, it’s been a helluva year.

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  • Reply Sinead October 28, 2018 at 10:29 am

    I agree with a lot of this after 6ish weeks of going to F45. I really enjoy going but, I am NOT a whooper or a hollerer, I don’t like the high 5s (but, thankfully, save for the trainers, I’d say only 3 people have instigated high 5s in the classes I’ve attended and they are the die hard attendees who partake in the whole culture) – I don’t even like the countdown at the end! However, I too am a “find someone to grimace at sympathetically” type of exerciser and, for the most part, I have found the people around me in F45 more than willing to return and share in the grimace. There definitely is a culture around camaraderie and being a literal fitfam which isn’t my bag but, I like to think that I can take or leave that element. I’m there for the ease, convenience and enjoyment. I didn’t sign up for the Challenge because, after researching, I felt it was extreme and prohibitive and would remove the aforementioned ease, convenience and enjoyment!

  • Reply Scott November 26, 2018 at 5:41 am

    I am completing the F45 Challenge in Australia at the moment, 4 days to go until final scan. I have lost 15kg so far, hoping to lose 17 by the end. It really has been a lifechanger for me.

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