Review: Can the F45 Challenge Improve your Fitness in Just 8 weeks?

F45 Training

You’ve probably overheard your colleagues talking about it, seen the unbelievable before-and-after pictures on Instagram, or have a fitness-obsessed friend who is always trying to drag you to a class — but what is F45?

The group training phenomenon was founded in Australia in 2013 and has now taken over the world, with hundreds of franchises across the globe, including South Africa. The minimalist studios offer 45-minute interval-based functional training sessions guided by personal trainers, with sessions designed to help you achieve maximum results in the shortest possible time. Now, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that in order to cram maximum result-achieving workouts into one 45-minute session, you’re going to have to work… hard.

F45 HIIT South Africa

The workouts involve high-intensity circuit-style training that includes everything from lifting heavy stuff to squatting, jumping, rowing, cycling and a whole lot of burpees. Taking place from Monday to Sunday, every class is different, and you can opt for high energy cardio classes, muscle-quivering strength training sessions, or combination workouts with a little bit of both. Each day’s programs are drawn from a pool of over 3,500 exercises, which means your chances of doing the same workout twice are extremely slim.

The classes are non-stop and there’s no messing about between sets — it’s Go! Go! Go! for the full 45 minutes. Whether you’re struggling your way through your twentieth burpee in an intense cardio class, or are on the verge of falling flat on your face after what seems like a million push-ups — one thing’s for certain, you will feel like you’re going to throw up.

F45 Woodstock

Taking up the challenge

And then, there’s the F45 Challenge. For eight weeks, you follow the meal plan, attend classes at your chosen studio a few times a week, and watch yourself transform into an F45 athlete. But can you really transform your body in just 8 weeks following the F45 programme? The great news is, I’ve lived through it and made it to the other side. Below, I share my review along with information and advice from F45 Woodstock trainers on how to smash the challenge yourself.

I’ve been a member at F45 Woodstock since 2018 and have completed both an 8-week challenge and a 45-day challenge at the studio, both times with incredible results. My first F45 8-week challenge was a few months after I joined F45 Woodstock, so I took it on with a below-average fitness level and very little upper body strength. I was coming off the back of a serious knee operation, so I was determined to gain back my fitness and drop the weight I had put on as a result of 18 months of inactivity.

F45 Woodstock 8-week challenge results

After 8 weeks of religiously sticking to the meal plan, zero alcohol, and 5 studio workouts a week, I was fitter and stronger than I had ever been. Before joining F45 Woodstock, I’d always been a cardio gal at heart, and you wouldn’t catch me anywhere near the weights section at a traditional gym. But through the 8-week challenge, I fell in love with strength training after seeing what it could do for my body. Strength training days quickly became my favourite workout sessions, and before I knew it, I was invested in improving my form and setting lifting goals for myself. As for the numbers, I lost 7KGs and 5.8% body fat over the 8-week period, and I was feeling like a new person.

Lockdown blues

Since the first challenge, I managed to maintain my results to a certain degree, gaining a kilogram or two here and there, but I found that being dedicated with my F45 workouts and focusing on eating a healthy diet the majority of the time meant that my weight, fitness levels and muscle mass stayed consistent. But then, lockdown hit in 2019 and with gyms being closed and limited outdoor exercise time, staying fit and healthy wasn’t the easiest.

F45 Woodstock

Heading back to the gym after lockdown, I was determined to get back my focus, and so I signed up for the F45 45-Day Challenge. Although the post-lockdown challenge was a week and a half shorter, I still managed to squeeze out great results with the help of the trainers at F45 Woodstock. I lost 5.8KGs and was down 5.1% body fat in just 45 days, and had made great strides in improving my strength and fitness.

The brilliant thing about the F45 Challenge, whether it’s the traditional 8-week challenge or condensed 45-day challenge, is that it doesn’t boil down to just weight loss and a smaller number on the scale. Before you get started, you pop into the studio for an InBody full body scan, which measures everything from your weight and body composition to your muscle mass, percentage of body fat, BMI and Basal Metabolic Rate. Challengers usually go for a scan before the challenge, one halfway through the challenge period, and a final scan at the end of the challenge. The studio also takes before and after photographs, so you can visually see your results.

F45 Woodstock

While daunting, the before-and-after photographs are the most telling of all your hard work. For my first challenge, I was happy after seeing the numbers on my challenge scan, but it was only after being shown my before and after photographs side by side that the difference really sank in.

And, if fancy-pants photographs of your transformation aren’t enough to motivate you to sign up, maybe some prizes will. Each studio is independently owned so depending on where you train, members are rewarded with first, second, and third place challenge prizes for the winners in the male and female categories. F45 Woodstock always arranges incredible prizes to reward challenge winners who have shown dedication throughout the challenge period and shown great results. But, even if you don’t walk away with a prize, you’ll still be left with a killer new body and a healthier you — so you win either way.

F45 Woodstock

F45 Challenge dates for 2022:

F45 Woodstock hosts a few challenges a year, with the first 8-week challenge taking place from 31 January to 28 March 2022. The challenge itself is free and all you need to participate is to sign up for an F45 2-month membership, download the F45 apps – one for booking your classes at the F45 studio (Android | iOs), and another which provides you with your meal plan (Android | iOs).

The meal plan is very easy to follow and gives you weekly shopping lists, recipes and cooking instructions for each meal. Each recipe also includes the nutritional values of every plate, and there’s even the option for vegetarian and vegan meal plans. The amount of food you eat each day is calculated for you in the app, so you know what your caloric intake should be to lose weight, maintain, or build muscle. It takes the guesswork out of getting fit and healthy and is a great way to get focused and kick-start a healthy lifestyle. You’ll learn loads about nutrition, healthy snacking, and how to eat a balanced diet (with room for treats) which you can apply to your everyday life long after the challenge is over.

F45 Woodstock

Some do find that following the meal plan exactly can be quite expensive or daunting. I followed the meal plan exactly for my first 8-week challenge, but the second time around, my assigned trainer advised that I choose 2 or 3 meals from the meal plan each week and make those in batches to eat over a few days. This worked out brilliantly and was so much easier to manage. There were also days when I simplified the recipe and made a deconstructed version of the recipe using a few of the ingredients. So, a more complex chicken curry became grilled chicken and roast vegetables with rice, for example.

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At F45 Woodstock, you also get the support of an assigned F45 trainer throughout the challenge period who will be just a Whatsapp message away should you have questions about meals, substitutions, and even just a pat on the back. You’ll feel supported every step of the way, which makes all the difference, especially when you’re battling to follow the meal plan or need to know what to eat when you’re out at a restaurant with friends.

F45 Woodstock

The trainers at the studio are friendly, encouraging and make you feel like you’re part of a team. It’s their encouragement in every session that helps you work hard, push yourself and achieve your goals no matter your fitness level starting out. They never push you beyond your capabilities and always take the time to talk to you about how you’re getting along, or make sure you get a socially-distanced high-five at the end of a tough class.

Is the F45 Challenge for you?

If you’re looking to make a change and focus on your health, then I cannot recommend F45 enough. After 4 years of training at F45 Woodstock, my friends are probably sick of hearing me talk about it, but it truly is something special. It’s the sense of camaraderie that keeps you coming back for more.

F45 Woodstock

While it may seem a bit like a cult, F45 Woodstock is one of the most welcoming gyms I’ve ever come across. And that’s why, years later, I’m now going to six classes a week. Unlike a lot of other gyms and studios, F45 Woodstock isn’t intimidating, but rather welcoming to newbies and regulars who can feel like they are among friends while working out. Whether you’re converting from a big traditional gym or haven’t worn running shoes in 3 years, you will feel right at home.

Now, about the price. I honestly think it’s worth it. Unless you really know what you’re doing at the gym, you just can’t replicate a workout like this on your own. The eight-week challenge also doesn’t cost extra on top of your regular membership, so it’s really a free service they offer to members who want a little extra push.

F45

If you would like to try it out before signing up for the challenge, then F45 Woodstock offers free trial periods for Cape Town residents who are interested in trying classes.

For more information about the upcoming challenge, email woodstock.admin@F45training.co.za or visit the website here for membership prices. 

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