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We try…F45 Training. Blood, sweat, and more sweat

We try…F45 Training. Blood, sweat, and more sweat

Image courtesy of F45 Training via Twitter

Image courtesy of F45 Training via Twitter

Being a lover of both fitness classes and bargains the introductory offer at F45 Training’s new Tottenham Court Road studio, offering a week’s worth of classes for £20, was far too good to pass up.

For anyone not familiar with this fitness phenomenon, F45 is an Aussie invention that has since grown exponentially (they plan to have 1,200 studios worldwide by the end of 2017). The concept is simple – each class is 45 minutes of high-intensity circuit (or ‘HIIT’) training. Each exercise within the circuit-style workout comes from the database of 3,000+ exercises devised by the F45 head office team; meaning visitors to F45 won’t get the same workout twice.

Not one to  turn down a challenge– or as mentioned above, a bargain – I decided to get the absolute most out of my weekly pass, namely completing one class each day, although as the studio doesn’t presently offer Sunday classes this was capped at six sessions (which was probably for the best from a DOMs perspective!)

Day One: Monday

The start of my challenge fell the day after an unseasonably sunny London Sunday, leaving me nursing a hangover as I headed to F45. That queasy feeling only grew when I saw today was a ‘Varsity’ class, described on the website as a workout that will “leave you grasping for any form of oxygen you can muster” – eep! Upon arrival, no one else seemed to be suffering from Mondayitis though so I forced myself to echo their enthusiasm and get on with it.

The studio consists of one large room decked out with assorted equipment and a big branded wall that was a familiar site from blogger Instagram posts. Today’s class was Tabata style with three rounds at each station, increasing the duration of ‘working time’ with each round, and continuing on for nine separate stations as we snaked around the room in a slightly chaotic, but surprisingly easy to follow way. Moves varied in intensity but the energy in the room is contagious and I found myself pushing wanting to improve with each round – that was until attempting one particular move saw me knock a sandbag to the face (at least it gave me justification to use ‘blood’ in the blog title!) All in all I left the session exhausted but exhilarated, and eager to refuel with some serious carb loading.

Day Two: Tuesday

Today’s early morning workout was a ‘Panthers’ session – a resistance focused class with a wide range of strength moves. We did three bursts of work at each station with moves ranging from deadlifts, kettlebell swings, bozu ball sit-ups, TRX squats and resistance band crab walks (a surprisingly brutal move!).  Screens at the front of the class constantly display how to do each exercise which, for someone who tends to forget exercises as soon as they’re shown to me, is truly a game changer.

We travelled around the room in pairs and my only recommendation would be to try and stand near someone of a significantly different build to you as the instructor splits the group into pairs, to lessen the likelihood that you’ll be battling them for the weights as you move stations!

Day Three: Wednesday

The third day of the challenge and my body seems to have noticed how hard it had been working, stairs are not my friend today. Regardless, I headed to an evening ‘Loyals’ class, defined as a ‘hybrid’ workout this was a mix of cardio and strength moves, and more than a little confusing! There were several puzzled faces as we began working our way around the room but by the end, the group was moving like a finely oiled machine.

Day Four: Thursday

An early morning ‘All Star’ class saw the class group tackle four pods of activity, completing three rounds of three exercises each time. There were kettlebell rows, weighted squats, chest flys and a few burpees thrown in for good measure.

I was pleasantly surprised that I pushed myself harder than I normally would and – despite my initial protests – really could lift the seemingly huge weights the trainer loaded up for me. By this point in the week, I’m plotting how to win the lottery so I can feasibly keep this up beyond my seven-day trial as it’s definitely addictive!

Day Five: Friday

TGI – owww. Friday’s ‘Athletica’ class proved to be the most brutal of the week, a cardio format class that left me pretty keen to crawl into bed rather than into the office but despite my typically cynical gym persona (much like on the tube, talking to strangers should not be encouraged at early morning classes) I found myself participating in some post-class high fives, but chose to draw the line at the seemingly obligatory ‘woo’-ing.

Day Six: Saturday

Last class of the week! The ‘Hollywood’ session is the longest class of the week at 60 minutes and combines both strength and cardio moves for a bumper finish to the week and energy throughout this session was particularly high thanks to a live DJ set up in the studio. Exercises included bursts of cardio on rowing machines and exercise bikes, strength tests by way of chin-ups and a wide assortment of dumb bell exercises, and punishing tests – namely pushing a ‘sled’ with 40kg loaded on top across the room, then using a tug of war style rope to pull it back to the other side.

What’s The Verdict?
The brains behind F45 really seem to have nailed it, the workouts are tough, the energy is high, and media reports that it has a ‘cult-like’ atmosphere definitely aren’t far off. I’ve finished my week keen to return but at £25 per class it will have to be an occasional treat, not my full time work out.

We try……..Urban Fit and Fearless

what-would-you-doA couple of weeks ago I took myself off for a two-hour women’s self-defense workshop at Urban Fit & Fearless in East Dulwich, to join nine other women and learn how to be more prepared if, heaven forbid, we should find ourselves in a compromising position.

Having never been to a self-defence class before, I only had a very basic idea of what to expect from the workshop and was actually quite tentative about the whole thing. This wasn’t helped by my boyfriend, who struggled to resist shouting “UNAGI” at me every time I appeared in a doorway in reminiscence of Ross Geller; I promised him that if he continued to do so after my class he’d end up regretting it!

I arrived at Push Studios at 2pm, a little bit nervous but very excited. To start off the session we were all given very clear information about what the workshop was about by our instructor (and founder of Urban Fit & Fearless) Patrice Bonnafoux. The workshop had been designed to teach us how to get up from the ground if we were pinned down – a woman’s worst nightmare – so I was ready to get stuck in.

As with most physical activities, the session started off with some warm-ups….and then it was quickly into the real thing. Patrice showed us various moves, each one at a time. Each movement was relevant to its own potential situation. After he had demonstrated each move on a willing participant, we were told to pair up and put what we had just learned into practice.

Of course, I went to the class on my tod so didn’t have anyone I knew to pair up with. But luckily for me, there was a lovely girl about my age who was more than willing to let me attack her and within seconds all our inhibitions, concerns about personal space and quintessential ‘Britishness’ were lost, as we fell about on top of each other for the following two hours.

Although I started out somewhat sceptical about how I could get a potentially strong and large man off of me, Patrice explained and demonstrated very clearly and adeptly that these moves were more about leverage than strength… I always knew physics would come in useful at some point!

Having mastered a variety of kicks, rolls, hooks, face smashes and moves that would win us space to manoeuvre, we were ready for the final test. In the last 10 minutes of the workshop, it was time for us to put our training into practice. Each of us were going to spend five minutes being relentlessly attacked and pinned down by our partners and it was our job, as the ‘victim’, to get back on our feet and run. Of course, before this, Patrice ordered us to spend one minute lying on our backs punching and being punched by boxing pads to tire us out. This worked a charm.  As I started to be attacked I managed to get up ok the first time, but after a few stints, you realise how exhausting it is and, more importantly, how exhausted you would be in real life if this were to actually happen.

When Patrice came to attack me it really tested what I had learned and what I was able to remember when under pressure. I was able to fight him off by implementing the leverage concepts and by ramming my palm (not at full force, mind) into his face. It was only when he told me to stand up and run that I ended up tumbling like a Jenga tower to the floor, only to be attacked again.

It was at that moment I suddenly felt remorse for having heckled a Hollywood movie when the woman conveniently falls over when trying to get away. I found myself sympathising with said thespian as my arms had turned to jelly and my adrenaline had transformed me into a bit of a sweaty mess.

I came away from the session feeling much more confident and prepared. Patrice explained that we wouldn’t ever remember the moves exactly if this ever happened to us, but after the workshop, we would have the basic knowledge of how to get free, whether it is by merging three moves together or using one and then improvising, at least something would come back to us.

That night, much to my dismay, my boyfriend chose not to shout UNAGI at me as I walked through the door.


Our Verdict: A fantastic introduction to self defence, comprehensive teaching and great fun… even if it does leave every muscle in your body aching for a couple of days afterwards.

Our Score: 8/10


Words by Freya Leete