Over the years I have signed up to countless gyms. If there was a competition for loyalty to a gym, I would definitely lose. The ‘brand’ I sign up to usually has nothing to do with the physique of the personal trainers, or how flash the change rooms are. It comes down to membership cost, proximity to home and work, and maybe the classes at the gym, that’s all it ever has come down to. When I was a university student I used the gym on campus, then I switched to a community gym that was closer to home. They charged only $300 for a full year’s membership, it was a steal and a great gym too.
I’ve had my time at co-ed gyms filled with the cliche muscle bros, the gym at my old work where professionals got in some reps on their lunch break, and even an all female gym where there was hot pink as far as the eye could see. More recently, I ditched gyms altogether and just did workouts off the Nike Training app down at the park. It was the end of summer and I wanted to make the most of being able to exercise outside, in a T-shirt, before 7am. It’s now winter and those days are over. I still get an outdoor hike in every now and then, just with multiple layers and in the middle of the day.
In Australia, one of the most popular gyms is a franchise called F45. The F means Functional and the 45 is there because each class is 45 minutes long. It’s one of the fastest growing fitness chains in the country, though not without some competition. The classes are based around a circuit, and will focus on either cardio, strength or a mix of both. There are screens giving you a demo of the exercise to be done at each ‘station’, and there are a couple of trainers encouraging you along the way. All of the equipment is set up for you when you walk in, as is the music pumping in the background. It’s certainly not a walk in the park participating in a class. Provided you give 110%, you should ideally walk out of feeling sweaty and accomplished.
Over the last two weeks, I’ve done a free F45 trial in my local area. Given some of my friends were talking about how much they enjoyed it, I thought I might too. I knew from the start I probably wouldn’t be signing up to a membership. At $60-$65 per week, depending on the club, it’s a lot to pay for any gym membership. Now that I’ve done the trial, I know I definitely won’t be signing up. Granted I enjoyed some of the classes, I just don’t think I could commit for more than a few months. I’ll take you through how I came to this conclusion.
I’ll start with what classes I actually did.
At the studio I went to, I was told that every Monday/Wednesday/Friday, they do cardio classes, and every Tuesday/Thursday is strength. On the weekend it’s apparently a mix, though I never did any weekend classes. In a two week period, I did a total of six classes – three cardio and three strength. The cardio classes I did were called ‘Pipeline’, ‘Varsity’ and ‘Abacus’. My favourite of these was definitely ‘Pipeline’ – a surfing inspired, ab crunching workout. The strength classes I participated in were called ‘Tokyo Disco’, ‘Moon Hopper’ and ‘Mkatz’. I can’t remember which one I liked the most, they all felt the same to me.
There were some things I really liked.
Overall, it’s hard to review all classes under the one umbrella, because I felt quite differently about them. I thought the cardio classes were great. They got my blood pumping as I went from box jumps, to skipping, pushups, then onto squats and finishing up on the rower. Then I did the circuit again. Sometimes I would be on the bike, or doing some lunges, maybe a burpee (or five) and 20 seconds of mountain climbers. When the 45 minutes was up I thought hell yeah, that was awesome! My face was red, I’m reaching for my water bottle and high-fiving the other members to say a job well done. Note, there is a lot of high-fiving after each class. I walked out feeling like I did a great workout, ready for a shower and some nourishing food when I got home.
On the other hand, I didn’t rate the strength classes.
I’m not into lifting in the sense that I actively try and make ‘gains’, but I do like lifting weights and using pin machines at the gym. I have a moderate idea of what I’m doing. I like to use dumbbells and medicine balls, though I’ve never done a proper deadlift. The strength classes I did at F45 often left me feeling nervous or like I wish someone was watching me, to make sure I had the right technique. In the three strength classes I did, there were quite a few deadlift stations and I didn’t really know what I was doing. There were two trainers for a room of roughly 20 people, so not a lot of time for one-on-one attention. Granted I did get some attention and advice, but it all felt rushed as I had to move onto the next station when I had performed one decent rep.
The main thing that bugged me about the strength classes was that if the person who had been at the station before me was a relative of the Hulk, there would sometimes be 40kgs on the barbell, and it would take me a good 10-15 seconds to change them over to an appropriate weight. By that point, I’m halfway through the allocated time and I might get 4 reps in before having to move on. The nature of moving from one station to the next, in sometimes less than 2 minutes, went against how I like to do weights. I usually like to take my time and make sure I have the technique, adjusting the weights if I need to. On the plus side, any station which required dumbbells would have an extensive range to choose from. I could grab the ones I wanted and get straight into the exercise.
If there was the option to choose, I’d go with the cardio classes.
I think the cardio classes at F45 are the essence of a high-intensity workout. You are jumping, bounding, squatting, moving and sometimes you are relying on your body to add weight to the movement. There’s no time to stop and think, you just go. The strength classes are mostly good and they involve some important movements to build your muscles. For me, it was the rushed factor that was a letdown and reason I would lean away from F45 altogether.
I say sign up if you want to mix up your routine and try something new, just do a trial first.
It’s important with any gym to make sure it’s going to work for you and your fitness needs. I noticed a range of people at the classes I did, from older women to younger guys, lean machines and humble beginners. There’s room for everybody and every fitness type. If you want some real personal training or more time to process what you’re doing, F45 might not be for you. For the fitness junkies and those who just want to get in and get it done, F45 can certainly offer you the right classes.
Most importantly, exercise safely and within your means.
Please note I am not affiliated with any fitness brand or gym franchise. I’m just a young woman that likes to stay in shape and try new things. I’m always looking for ways to mix up my fitness routine and F45 definitely changed the tempo for a little while.