Years ago, I used to run a lot. 10ks, half marathons, a marathon. Then I had kids and settled into working from home. All of a sudden, a decade had gone by and the only exercise I was doing was walking to school and back.
I wanted to get back into a training routine, shift the increased fat levels and increase the much-diminished muscle tone.
Enter F45, a globally renowned circuit-training fitness brand that opened its first studio in Bristol at the beginning of 2019.
The F45 Challenge promises that in eight weeks you can lose fat, tone up and build muscle. You do this by using a range of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and circuit techniques. F45 has more than 4,000 exercises and 36 workouts, meaning that you never take the same class twice.
My eight-week F45 Challenge was able to fit in with my normal lifestyle: you can book classes via an app, with classes taking place up to to seven times a day.
The F45 Challenge app enables you to follow a specific meal plan and track your own progress.
It’s not just about going to the regular 45-minute classes in the studio on All Saints Street. You can tick off activities such as drinking two to three litres of water a day, following the meal plan, getting quality sleep and getting sweaty while exercising.
The diet changes as the weeks go on, from a detox in the first two weeks; to a four-week high protein plan; and two weeks eating high fat, low carb meals at the end.
No alcohol throughout, and no coffee for the first two weeks. (I didn’t miss the alcohol too much. I had some fizz at two weddings I went to but my body enjoyed the break.)
The first two days were my toughest ones because of DOMS – delayed onset muscle strain. I couldn’t drink the three litres of water I was aiming for because sitting to go to the toilet hurt my legs too much.
I was thrilled! No pain, no gain, right? I felt like I was on SAS survival training.
But it didn’t last. I had gone to F45’s special Hollywood class (60 minutes combining strength, cardio, agility, speed and power, accompanied by music from a DJ in the studio) on the Saturday and then was in pain until the Tuesday when I went back.
No extreme pain after that, just sweat and puffing and panting.
The meal plans initially included a lot of cooking: a lot of veg, not much fruit and plenty of tofu. Lots and lots of garlic and paprika, and cumin too.
I set up a whole new box of spices and grains in the kitchen. Every other day includes leftovers though so it’s not as arduous as it seems.
There was only one week of the eight where I really felt the hunger and that was towards the fifth or sixth week. I made the big mistake of falling asleep without my dinner and evening snack a couple of times and felt like a zombie the next day.
I bought a heart rate monitor and after each session was emailed a report of the training and how many calories I burnt: 600 to 800 calories each time. Hollywood was the 800 one as it goes on for an hour.
I managed to get to three to five classes a week. One week, I had to fit the classes around childcare so went at 6.10am, which was my most favourite class time. Bristol is so lovely and quiet in the mornings.
That was it. And it worked. Because the F45 Challenge can’t fail to work.
I burned more calories than I consumed and I exercised, so I reshaped and retrained my body and lifestyle.
The result? In eight weeks, I lost 4.5kg of fat (six per cent fat loss), gained 1.8kg of muscle, lowered my metabolic age rate from 34 to 26 and retrained my body to burn more calories.
I ate a lot of tofu, which I love, and lots of and lots of fruit and veg. I also consumed a lot of protein powder mixed with soy milk.
The sessions feel like group personal training because there are always two trainers to a class. They would tell me to stick my butt out when doing squats, put my shoulders back when lifting weights, and generally ensured people were doing exercises correctly.
I felt great within days. I loved the goals, the results, the atmosphere, the craziness and the feeling good.
The next F45 Challenge starts on July 22 and the cost of it is included with membership of F45 Bristol Central, which starts at £160 per month. For more information, visit www.f45training.co.uk/bristolcentral