“You’ll love it” said my friend Yas, as we drove into the small car park around the back of F45 Kingston, which sits unsuspectingly, in a disused warehouse off the main road. “You can’t go and then leave NOT feeling like you’ve worked really, really hard”.
“Great”, I thought to myself.
I had butterflies, big time. I can’t be the only one that gets super nervous when joining in a new class or gym. It’s like being the new girl at school! I’m a confident person, but rather hyper-competitive (to say the least) so I always feel like I have to go flat-out when I do any sort of group-training. Plus, there’s extra pressure now that I’m a PT and class instructor myself – as if I’d somehow be letting my career down if I didn’t keep up!
Not to mention that F45 has a bit of a reputation for over on social media. I think so anyway. It pops up in my Instagram feed at least 4 or 5 times a day. Photos of people with washboard abs, dripping with sweat with captions that say things like “I survived F45 Varsity!”
I didn’t exactly know what I was getting myself into.
Luckily, F45 is perfect proof that it’s the people, more than anything else, that make for a really exhilarating workout. The lovely thing about the Kingston branch is that it has got a big community feel, which I guess you might not get in the central London commuter zones. Everyone seemed to know everyone – but not in an intimidating way- far from it. There’s a sense of camaraderie and everyone motivates each other. There were no barriers and certainly no hostility. I felt welcomed and included from the moment I stepped in the door.
From there on in, the butterflies faded away and I felt mostly excited, with just a smidge of “oh shit, what’s going to happen”.
The idea behind F45 is simple. Functional, 45 minute classes. There are around 20-30 different classes in total, I think, each of which is made up of different circuits. The exercise types, the amount of sets, work time, rest period etc are adapted per class to create fun, unique (and flipping exhausting) workouts.
The class I did was called Loyals (all the different classes have names like that: Panthers, Varsity, Hollywood, Romans).
A mix of resistance work and cardio, Loyals was made up of 6 exercise ‘pods’, 3 exercises per pod. Complete each exercise in the pod for x amount of time, back to back, followed by 10 seconds’ rest. Repeat. And Repeat. And Repeat. 60 seconds’ rest then you switch ‘pods’ and do the same with that one.
Ok, so maybe not uber simple. I think that there may be a tendency to overcomplicate things sometimes. One ‘exercise’ from the circuit drills would sometimes actually be four or five exercises sandwiched on top of one another. (Usually a burpee sandwich. Yum). Side steps-into-burpee-into-press up-into-row. The result being, of course that you could only physically get one or two reps out before the 30 seconds was up. It’s great fun but maybe those burpee sandwiches should be saved for sets of a longer duration. Still, you get the hang of it pretty quickly. You just have to throw yourself in, and not be worried about going wrong once or twice.
The teacher, Darren, was fab. Just the right balance of shouty and motivational. He was circling the studio constantly, and his eagle eyes could see if you were slacking or if your technique needed correcting. That’s really crucial, I think, as lots of the exercises in the circuits did require a certain amount of prior knowledge.
The brilliant thing is that for 45 minutes you get completely sucked into this world of circuit drills. For the first time all week I wasn’t thinking about this client or that email or that invoice because both my body and my brain were completely preoccupied, giving everything I had into whatever drill I was supposed to be doing. You can push yourself really hard because everyone around you is doing the same and you just get on with it, gradually getting more sweaty and red-faced.
I left feeling shattered, satisfied and, quite rightly, like I’d worked really, really hard.