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EXPERIENCE: I tried an F45 class for the first time
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A couple of weeks ago I completed my first F45 class. On a dim Friday morning, coffee in hand, I got the 6:30 am bus to Broad Street, Teddington.
Admittedly, I am used to getting up early and going to the gym. But I had never done F45 before and wasn't sure what to expect.
The social media and website are full of super smiley, attractive, and unrealistically non-sweaty athletic people throwing themselves into exercise. It was a bit intimidating.
Housed in an old bank building, F45 looked as impressive and sculpted as the people (models?) I saw it online. Arriving early, I glimpsed the 6 am class finishing their workout session. Thankfully, they looked like normal people doing crunches- not the next line-up of Love Island or a fitness-based reality TV show.
Avoiding eye contact, I walked to the back of the studio and attempted to find the changing rooms. Adding to the suspense, I climbed a narrow spiral staircase up to the locker. It was a stunning feature of the old bank.
The changing facilities looked and felt more like they belonged to a spa or a hotel than a gym. Like the rest of the venue, it was light and airy with splashes of black for a modern and stylish feel. The inclusion of three showers was a reassurance you would not to have to choose between arriving at the office either late or sweaty. Just one bathroom toilet in the women's was not ideal but there was limited space.
Back downstairs on the gym floor, more people had joined. Perhaps there were more women than men, but otherwise, I would say it was an even split. The age range was hard to distinguish- perhaps women from mid-20s to 40s and men from 30s to 40s. But don't quote me on that. hung around checking their Apple watch or downing some water.
The trainers- a man and a woman- were friendly but not superficial. They welcomed us to the class and went through a brief outline of what the 45-minute session would involve.
Looking for a more hybrid workout (both cardio and strength) I picked the 'Loyals' class. I like lifting weights at the gym but want to improve my cardio fitness, so this seemed a perfect balance.
First, the instructors outlined the class consisted of six stations, and three exercises at each station. The exercises were grouped together within the stations, targeting different levels of endurance of using the same equipment in different ways to achieve a full-body workout. For instance, there were plated (5kg, 10kg, and 20kg) which you used to lunge, squat, and dead row, or dumbbells for push press, squat press, and shoulder press.
You completed each exercise for between 30-20 seconds as one round, then had 10-second rest, and then repeated the round two more times. There was a one-minute interval to move between the stations- so you had a chance for a cheeky gulp of water before the next sweat-fest.
If you're anything like me, this can be a lot to take in before 7:30 a.m. Thankfully, the studio also had long tv screens to display the exercise you should be doing, what set number you were on, and how many seconds left. This was super helpful when I got confused and prevented me from stopping the exercise for too long or getting behind.
The female instructor led a quick warm-up (enough to get your heart pumping without inducing cardiac arrest) while her male colleague went around and told us what station to start on. It was an awkward moment- somewhat reminiscent of PE class when the teacher tells you what team you're on and you could either be with your best friend or worst enemy. But anything is better than having to get 'picked' for a team.
School nightmares aside, I was put in a group with two other women. We gave a shy nod to each other and prepared ourselves for action.
Some exercises I was familiar with, some I did not- the worst was when my body did not recognize the movement and I looked like a slow-motion scene from the Matrix. Thankfully, the instructors are on hand to give you tips and show
you the exercise again. They are also there to try and push you ("Get your legs UP") but not as much as your teammates. One thing I like about the F45 class is that, although everyone is in competition with themselves, for those who don't like to back down (me), it is good endurance training knowing that you and your teammates are in it together.
I'll admit I hit a wall on section five- the penultimate one. Partly from fatigue, as well as my body not moving as I wanted it to (I'm looking at you, bear crawl twists). Still, telling yourself to push on and do the best you can is a powerful thing. The last section was better (I could see the finish line) and gave every effort in the last few sets.
Again, the instructors were great for encouragement; I was worried they would be breathing down my neck, shouting at me to try harder. Not at all- for most of the session you were not concentrating on them but focusing on the movement.
There were different weights at every station so you could work to your own strengths. However, as a new person to the class, it was quite difficult to work out how heavy (or light) a weight I should choose for the type and length of exercise. Although the trainers gave you options to make the exercise easier or harder, it wasn't so clear with the weights.
The music was also a good distraction- I normally go to the Gym Group so I am very familiar with the copyright-free tunes they play on repeat. You get the full radio deal here with feel-good dance pop anthems- but not in a cheesy way.
After the class, there was an awkward round of applause while we all caught our breath. Then, those who needed to leave ran out the door without looking back. We did some soothing stretches to 'cool down' at the end of the session, trying to reconnect with our bodies again.
Things wrap up just before the hour's up and you can leave with the smugness that you've pushed yourself physically and mentally, moved your body, and spoken to people all before 8 am on a weekday.
In terms of difficulty, I would say you can cater it to your fitness level in either cardio or strength. Just be prepared to push yourself- if you want to get the most out of the session.