Inside the cult of F45 training

It feels like everyone you talk to has signed up, but what’s the deal with F45? We speak to the founder, and two recently-converted regulars to find out.

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It feels like everyone you talk to has signed up to F45, which, given it’s the fastest-growing gym franchise in Australia, might not be much of an exaggeration.

With a client roster peppered with names like Hugh Jackman, the ‘cult’ group fitness program has found its way into the routines of beginners and seasoned lifters, with members making their way to the 500 gyms across Australia, the US, Canada, Europe and Asia – many for the recommended 3-5 sessions a week.

For the uninitiated, F45’s interval-style workouts are strictly 45-minutes, and focus on functional – thus the ‘F’ – movements, reps only lasting about 45 seconds each, with a 15-second break before the next round of nerve-busting, vein-popping exercises begin.

But there’s no such thing as a ‘typical’ workout here. Each quarter, 250 new exercises – and whatever equipment they might require – are injected into every PT’s repertoire.

“Whenever you turn up for a session, it’s a completely different experience,” says Rob Deutsch, F45’s CEO and founder, who partly credits the method’s meteoric rise to each session’s element of surprise.

“We’ve just created an American football workout called ‘The Quarterbacks’, but even if you did a session with these workouts the week before, the layout, the equipment and the exercises are completely different from the last Quarterback session.

“It’s all very fresh and innovative,” Deutsch continues.

But is F45 just a fad? It’s about as mainstream as coconut water right now, but does it have the same long-term potential?

“We often talk about that,” says Deutsch.

“We don’t want to be a fad and how we do that is by not thinking of ourselves as any one particular style of training – like a spin class or a boxing class or yoga. Instead, we like to think of ourselves four white walls of peak training – whatever the trend is, we can adapt – we don’t have fixed machinery, just lots of equipment that can be used for many purposes.”

But aside for this, a massive focus on music – yes, F45 has their own radio station, and every review of this program will make mention of the high-energy tunes that blast through the breathless sessions – the main drawcard for this fitness phenomenon is its community.

“That’s really important to us. And the fact of the matter is that clients become friends, they get used to training together and they build relationships with each other. So what that brings is not just the friendship but also comradery. It’s this and our science-backed programs that bring the results.”

Just ask Celine Schneller, a convert who worships at the altar of F45 Training Atarmon. She has lost 10kgs in 12 weeks.

“I’d gained a bit of weight over the last year. My partner and I bought a place, and renovations have taken up a lot of my time. But it got to a point where I was eating takeaways every night, so I could work on the house whenever I could,” said Schneller.

And it was the imminent wedding season that gave this event designer the impetus to sign up.

“I just got to the point where I didn’t want to dress up, none of my clothes fit me, I felt really frumpy so I thought, ‘I’ll go to F45 for a four week trial,’ but then I just got hooked.

“The trainers at my F45 are a husband-and-wife duo. They are amazing, and the people I train with… we call it the F45 family. We organise events, catch ups and brunches and some people are doing Tough Mudder together. I’m friends with a few of the girls [from gym] on Facebook now, and we catch up every morning. I go five or six days a week, so I see them a lot.”

Schneller, who is 28, fits squarely into F45’s target market: 20-35-year-old professional females.

“The program is aimed at women who like their training but don’t want to be professional athletes, but the programs have been designed so that an 18-year-old could train next to a 75-year-old and do a workout,” says Deutsch, who specifies that here, you set the pace and decide exactly how intense you’ll make your intensity training.

Not to say it’s easy by any means.

“I’ve had a few bumps along the road,” says Schneller.

“I’ve just finished an eight-week program [F45ers also have options to sign up to eight-week challenges that come with eating plans and nutritional tips], and the healthy eating was difficult for me. I was actually surprised with how much weight I lost over the course of the program, because I didn’t 100 percent follow the nutrition guide.

“But my body has changed in other ways, besides the weight loss. My skin has cleared up, and my attitude has shifted. When you’re putting yourself through a hard workout, you realise it’s worth it to eat well – otherwise you’ll be doing a push up and be like – why did I eat that?”

There were no cheat days for Alyssa Clark, who trains at F45 Peakhurst, and has also just finished an eight-week challenge.

“I’ve been pretty active throughout my life and I’ve always been into fitness but I just wanted something of a higher intensity. The challenge was hard but I did it with my partner, and it’s good to have someone to help keep you motivated,” says Clark.

“The other thing about F45 is that you don’t just socialise with the people you train with, but also with the trainers themselves. You form a relationship with them and they give you a lot of advice and encouragement. That really helped me,” says Clark.

It’s easy – and perhaps overly simplistic – to credit the popularity of F45 with its communal element (even though we are all social creatures, after all) but the real reason people can’t get enough?

“It’s training smart, it’s eating well, and if you follow the plan, it just works,” says Clark.

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