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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…Swedish Fit

Swedish Fit

Every now and then I tap in to google ‘new fitness trends London’ to see what pops up, and so it was with that last week that I first heard about Swedish Fit.

My fiancé is Swedish and so I am on the record as liking Swedish things. I’m a fan of Kopparberg and Rekorderling as well as Absolut and Snaps. Ikea makes great furniture and no one can argue with the fact that Abba wrote some top-notch pop tunes.

And so it was that I decided to sign up for a class. Swedish Fit currently host ten classes in London at three locations, in Old Street, Marylebone and Soho. On the Swedish Fit website, it says the class has been designed to ‘ensure you spend the maximum amount of energy, whilst having fun and getting the most out of an exercise session.’ That sounded good to me, so off I went to the Soho session on a wet and windy Tuesday night, dragging a colleague along with me.

The session was to be held at a school in Archer Street. Now, the Sport and Leisure team at PHA are no strangers to Archer Street, but we aren’t normally there to exercise. 100% of our previous visits to this Soho address have been to frequent the infamous bar of the same name. So, it was a strange feeling to walk past the bar and into a red door on the other side of the road.

Upon arrival we were introduced to our instructor, Sophie, who was (of course) a very pretty little thing who was half English and half Swedish. She spoke both languages, as well as French, perfectly fluently which by all accounts make her the perfect Swedish Fit instructor. As well as being hugely popular in its homeland, Swedish Fit is apparently a big deal in France.

We learnt whilst chatting to Sophie that Swedish Fit goes by the name of ‘Friskis och Svettis’ in Sweden, which translates as ‘Healthy and Sweaty’. They say it like it is, those Swedes.

And so on to the actual class… I tweeted ahead of the session that I’d seen a video online which made it look like a cross between an aerobics class and a line dance, and actually, that wasn’t so far from the truth. The instructor stands in the middle of the room and runs through a series of moves which everyone is supposed to follow. I was giggling about two minutes in when we started doing a move which resembled the grapevine. I managed to gain my composure as the class continued but there were definite moments when I felt like a fool. And looking around at my fellow exercisers, I learnt that I probably looked like one too.

One particular drawback of the Swedish Fit class was Sophie’s taste in music. Apparently, each instructor picks their own tunes to work out to and freestyles the moves to fit with these tunes. Sophie had on the duke box such 90s classics as ‘Mysterious Girl’ by Peter Andre and ‘No Limits’ by 2 Unlimited. One of my favourite moments of the session came when we were walking around the room swinging our arms every time Andre got to the ‘wo-oh-ah-oh-oh-ah-oh’ bit of his number one hit tune…

Apart from that, the best bits of the class for me were the strength and resistance exercises. The push-ups, sit-ups and variations of those types of moves did get my abs hurting and my arms shaking… and for me, that’s always a good sign. Having said that, as someone who runs regularly, I didn’t find grapevining around the room particularly challenging on the cardio system. However, I imagine for people without too much aerobic fitness this could be a good, and novel, way to start.

So, in summary… on the plus side, the Swedish Fit class was incredibly good value. The first one is actually free, but thereafter they are £5 each on a pay as you go basis. You can’t really go wrong at that price and the Archer Street class is incredibly convenient for any Soho based office workers.

There is also no denying that the Swedish Fit class was good fun, and it did get the heart rate up, so it is a good way to let off some steam and get some exercise in after a stressful day (the class ends with a minute of lying down in a darkened room to relax which was particularly enjoyable).

Our verdict: Will I become a regular? I doubt it… but would I go again? It’s a definite maybe…
Our score: 5/10