Can I just start by saying I have never completed a fitness challenge before. In fact, I don’t think I’ve even attempted one before.
I am the girl that signs up to a gym, goes hard for the first two to three weeks and then basically forgets she’s being billed every month for a place she never goes. I am the girl who eats one salad, does one situp and expects to have abs by the afternoon. And I am definitely the girl who will make the Uber go via McDonald’s on the way home at 3AM.
I say ‘am’ and not ‘was’ because I’m sure I’m still that girl. But for as long as this post-F45 8 Week Challenge feeling lasts, you bet I’m going to brag about it. Because not only have I completed the challenge, but I’m also feeling the fittest I ever have, I no longer completely hate my body and I’ve realised people who say ‘exercise gives you more energy’ aren’t the complete liars I thought they were.
What is F45?
Those in the fitness know may have heard of this Australian-born workout phenomenon, which reached the UK shores last year. An acronym for ‘Functional 45’, referring to both the style of workout and length of the majority of the classes (45 minutes), the ‘team training’ classes combine strength, cardio and interval training for one hell of a fat-burning sweat fest. You’re rarely doing the same exercise for more than 60 seconds, which makes classes fly by (a feature I loved and appreciated) and each movement is adaptable depending on your fitness level.
F45 is a franchise, so every gym is slightly different, but they have the same core values. I trained at F45 Oxford Circus and the trainers honestly made my experience. Tristan and Haydn welcomed me in with big cheesy grins and not one session went by without them checking in and saying ‘hello’. I don’t think I’ve worked harder than when Arby is telling me to ‘keep going’ or Sana tells me I can lift heavier as she loads on an extra 5kg.
My biggest fear was that every person was going to be fitter than me and I wouldn’t be able to keep up. But the classes are full of people of all ages, shapes, sizes and fitness levels. It’s the least intimidating place it could possibly be, and it’s largely down to the team there.
What is the F45 8 Week Challenge?
The ‘8 Week Challenge’ has become F45’s signature results-based programme, combining classes with a nutrition plan and extra guidance from trainers. Progress is tracked from start to finish, with a full body scan that focuses more on fat percentage and skeletal muscle mass than your total weight. The 8-week programme is broken up into three stages: Spring Training (Week 1-2), Regular Season (Week 3-6) and World Series (Week 7-8).
My body before the challenge
Both my diet and fitness regimen before the challenge were average (though I thought I was doing pretty good at the time). I would run home 2-3 times a week and play sport on the weekend, but I would also sit at a desk for at least eight hours a day. I would eat fish and vegetables for dinner, but I would also snack all day and drink heavily on the weekends. I was never happy with my body, but I just accepted it for what it was. I wouldn’t be caught dead in a bikini, but as long as I looked okay in a dress, I wasn’t going to complain (much).
Body fat percentage: 20.7%
Muscle mass: 32.3kg
WEEKS 1 & 2: Spring Training
Classes attended: 4 each week
Diet followed: 70-80%
How I was feeling:
Week one and two were the hardest by far, but I was also at my most determined having just come back from a booze and food-fueled holiday. I cut out all coffee and alcohol (as per the nutrition plan) and followed the majority of the meals, especially for dinner. Cutting out booze was a big feat for me, and I did struggle at social events but I’m proud to say I didn’t waver.
Chicken, brown rice and salsa from the eating plan.
I attended four classes both weeks, trying out the different types and found the strength classes (Tuesday and Thursdays) became a fast favourite. There was one day where I felt really lightheaded an hour or so after a class, and I realised I needed to dramatically up my water intake considering how much sweat I was pumping through each morning. My butt has also never been sorer after the first two sessions, but pushing through to another class proved to be better than waddling around for a few days. The trainers aren’t talking sh*t when they tell you to ride it out.
WEEKS 3-6: Regular Season
Classes attended: 3-5 each week
Diet followed: 50%
How I was feeling:
Week three I just remember MISSING BREAD. And week four I fell off the alcohol bandwagon because my friend had a bottomless brunch for his birthday (valid) and week five I had a work trip to Paris (croissants). But rather than beating myself up over a few mishaps, I continued the food plan as best as I could and tried to make up for it by pushing myself harder in classes. I live with my boyfriend, which did make it hard to stick to the meal plan at times. But rather than cook two separate meals, I would just slightly adapt them to suit both of us. The picture below, for example, is a turkey salad for me, but turkey burgers (using pretty much the same ingredients in a bun) for him.
I had gotten into a good rhythm with the classes by now, but still found them as fast-paced and stimulating as the first week. I was lifting more, getting better at burpees and even started wearing an F45 Lionheart monitor to track my progress each class (a great little motivator if you find yourself wavering).
During week four, you are given a ‘midway consultation’ with a trainer where they can give you feedback on your training and answer any questions you might have about your progress, workouts or nutrition.
It was during this consultation that Arby gave me some advice that has since turned into everyday habits. One was to stop eating porridge for breakfast (close to no nutritional value). Now I eat fritatta (eggs, with grated zuchinni, tomato and peppers aka protein and veg).
Two was to lower my dairy intake. I had incoporated a daily capuccino back into my routine and it wasn’t doing me any favours. So I switched to a protein shake in the morning, made with Free Soul Vegan Protein Powder and almond milk, and a shot of coffee only if I really needed it.
Two small changes, but both made a massive impact. I was fuller for much longer, found that I could go without a capuccino most days, and had more energy, which in turn made me more efficient at work.
WEEK 7 & 8: World Series
Classes attended: 4-5 each week
Diet followed: 60-70%
How I was feeling:
I felt like I really hit my stride in weeks 7-8. The small tweaks to my diet had me back on track and I was making smarter, but also sustainable choices with my eating. For example, one day I was craving nachos really badly. So I made this corn-chip and cheese-free version, with plenty of beans and fresh salsa to get my Mexican fix without the guilt.
I continued on with the eggs and protein shake in the morning, never thinking I’d be one of ‘those’ people, but now I’m hooked on Free Soul (chocolate flavour for the win) and haven’t had porridge since.
My new favourite training day became Saturday (Hollywood and West Hollywood) which go for an hour and have 27 or so different stations to challenge yourself on. It became the best start to each weekend. If I had to miss a class because of work/life reasons, I was so bummed and low on energy. It was like everything clicked into place that last week and I didn’t want it to end. So I guess consider this your warning – you will get hooked.
Body fat percentage: 14.2% (-6.5)
Muscle mass: 34.4kg (+2)
Weight: 70.9kg (-1.5)
My body after the challenge
I knew when I came to the end of the challenge that I was feeling great and my jeans were definitely fitting better, but what really brought it home was the before and after photos.
I have studied every angle in-depth and zoomed in to make sure my eyes aren’t tricking me. But my hips really have shrunk (I thought they were ‘just my bones’) and the cellulite on my bum has decreased dramatically, which was such an unexpected (and delightful) result.
I knew to lose 6.5% of my body fat in just eight weeks was a good result (thanks to the exclamation and huge congrats from Haydn), but I didn’t expect to be able to SEE my results.
I can only imagine what changes I would’ve seen had I stuck to the eating plan completely (but I still don’t regret the bottomless brunch) OR what will happen if I continue on my F45 journey.
Either way, if you’re looking for a way to kickstart your fitness journey in 2019, take it from this chicken nugget addict – the F45 8 Week Challenge works.