F45 is all the rage BUT is your body ready for it? WARNING!

So you have heard about F45 and want to know if it is right for you or perhaps you just want to know more?

Well F45 is short for Functional 45 and is a program based on high-intensity 45 minute group classes that are either cardio-based or strength based and because it is timed, everyone is supposed to be able to work out at their own pace…. Good in theory, but more on that later.

The F45 juggernaut is here to stay and is growing at an amazing rate. There are currently over 450 locations in 18 countries and according to founder Robert Deutsch, in Australia it is experiencing “the fastest-ever franchise rollout in history, faster than McDonalds”. Touted as focussing on “holistic, functional fitness” F45 involves exercises that are designed to help you move better throughout your daily life. The classes are varied and in fact have “27 unique and systemised programs“.

But is it just a fad and is it a sanitised and Americanised version of Crossfit? Well in my opinion yes and no or no and yes!

I decided to have a look at the whole F45 concept and try and look at it from a 20 year fitness professional veteran whilst also looking at it from attending a class as a 41 year old male whom runs 3-4 times per week for 4-8 kms and over the footy season trains for that 1 x per week and plays a game every fortnight for 10 games (20 weeks). One would say very good fitness level without being outstanding and better than average.

So where do I start… As a Personal Trainer, runner and footy player I undertook a free 7 day trial at one of the locations in Melbourne. Was it easy? No, Was it hard? Yes? Could I have active control over the intensity and do it at my own pace? Not really…

You see the time -based exercises, loud music and peer pressure that comes with these sort of classes means you push yourself way beyond your abilities. For me with an excellent knowledge base on how to perform all exercises it is easier to keep either correct form or better than average form but for the untrained, history of injury or unfit participant, an injury is a distinct real possibility and from stories I have heard from those that ‘have’ attended has seen them never return.

The exercises are explained in a rather brief manner at the start of the class but for a “raw” person with minimal exercise experience, this is a lot to remember and then try and execute as fatigue kicks in the longer the class draws out. Burpees for mine are an exercise that need particular attention paid to. Some people cannot do them at all, others can perform a handful but to do as many as you can in 55 seconds with a 20 second rest and then repeat is just ludicrous and no alternative exercise is given (I undertook the “Quarterbacks” style session in my trial). It must be said that in my opinion, any exercise where form is compromised just to get to a certain number or amount of time is a poor way of training for anyone no matter whether you are fit or unfit. Quality will always beat quantity.

Another exercise that had a minimum height of 50cms was a box jump. Now this is an exercise that is explosive in nature and definitely not for everyone with no back-up exercise provided if you are unable to perform. This was fine for me but someone with knee or back injury and/or not very fit would very much struggle executing 2 sets of 55 seconds interspersed with running on the spot.

One factor that for my liking doesn’t suit is the small and cramped room to participate at these F45 centres. No doubt the centres want to be in the heart of the busiest part of the suburb but to no doubt minimise rent, it means you are in some cases on stations where you have 1-2 metres to work within, which to me is way too cramped and nothing can compete with open space and the outdoors.

There were and generally are 2 instructors to every class and was the case in my trial session. Don’t get me wrong the two that took my session were lovely people and very engaging and encouraging but Personal Trainers they are not and merely just hosting or facilitating a class that is 100% planned and choreographed to music, TV screens and a timer. Nothing personal at all about F45 and merely just a fitness class designed to get you in and out with minimal fuss. As a Personal Trainer that prides myself on building rapport and engaging with people, F45 would see me as a trainer out of there before I fell asleep.

The biggest issue for me was the lack of consultation and degree of professionalism to my background, my health and exercise history and my overall suitability to participating in F45. From my perspective as a Personal Trainer and all of us at Just In Time Personal Training, the single most important session that we ever do with a new client is the first session. So much so that we will warn the new client that we will spend 60-80 minutes in that first session and knowing full well that we normally conduct 1 hour sessions. It is vital from a legal perspective that we discuss in complete detail and sign off on all injuries and health history and if we see red flags, we will send them off to a GP to get a medical clearance before we get started training. My dismay and disgust lies with the F45 process. An online and informal “Liability Release” whereby you just sign yourself away to no consultation about anything and then book a class, turn up and have a quick 10-60 second chat is a real concern for me.

This is where the Fitness Industry itself needs to take a stand and become more professional. It should insist that all clubs, gyms, fitness centres and Personal Trainers have a process in place that focusses on the individual. It should be our job to show a high level of care for people. To give them the time to ensure they are not going to get injured, that they will not vomit or faint, that they will not have a heart-attack and that they will not die when they are under the rightful care of the person, people or business that they are paying for the service. For me this is where F45 let’s itself down as much as it let’s me (the consumer in this case) down and fails in its duty of care.

The list included in the Liability Release is almost a complete list of the most likely injuries to occur during your F45 experience –

“I fully understand that I may injure myself as a result of my participation in the workouts and I hereby release the Released Parties from any liability now or in the future for conditions that I may obtain directly or indirectly from participating in the Workouts, to the fullest extent permitted by law. These conditions may include, but are not limited to, heart attacks, muscle strains, muscle pulls, muscle tears, broken bones, shin splints, heat prostration, injuries to knees, injuries to back, injuries to foot, or any other illness or soreness that I may incur, including death.”

To read over the “Liability Release” in full – click here > F45 Liability release.

Please remember that all F45 centres are a franchised. What does this mean to you as a consumer? You could get an absolute hack from the fitness industry that has the money to purchase a franchise and set up a team around them that are equally as bad. On the contrast you can have a University degree qualified person that takes on one of these ventures and tries to set up with like-minded and skilled individuals and have the best quality people behind that centre but at the end of the day the classes or “workouts” are structured across all centres much like Les Mills has a handle on all aerobics style classes across the board and it doesn’t allow for much individual attention or to stray away from the “general” exercise prescription. Be careful!

As for cost? The 7 day free-trial is a great way to get you in the door with no obligation to continue. The cost then ongoing is between $50-$65 a week. Is this cheap or expensive? That is up to you to decide. It is great that you can go as many times as you like but if I am as sore as I am now, I would need 2-4 days recovery before I go again! If you get 3 sessions a week in then you are looking at roughly $20 a session. Remembering that you can’t go in and just stretch or use any of the equipment unless you register for a class and there is no cool-down or stretch at the end of the class nor any room to do so if you wanted to! For me a gym membership is much better value at $10-15 a week and therefore unlimited access and sometimes this can include fitness classes too.

Getting back to the F45 as a whole and my experience, I walked (or hobbled) away with mixed feelings. I found it very challenging, I couldn’t complete all of the exercises or stations and I am the sorest in my legs and lower half than I have been in over 5-10 years. I resorted to a bath with Lectric Soda tonight to try and reduce my pain. I was the oldest person in the class that I attended and it is evident that F45 is designed or targeted to the 20-35 age-bracket. The sessions for anyone conditioned are good and there is no doubt that if you are physically able, you will come out of it with much improved strength, fitness and muscle. This for me is the biggest positive as it is clearly hitting the mark with the people that are attending in their droves. If you can get through the first few sessions, not get injured and enjoy it, there are many benefits to be made. For athletes and sports people alike these sessions are going to be perfect for you. I would say that it is definitely a safer alternative to crossfit that has had its time in the sun and is slowly dying off in popularity and no doubt kept physio’s, chiro’s, osteo’s and surgeons super busy over the past few years!

What I feel that F45 needs to do to cover off and do the right thing is perhaps market 20-60 minute health and fitness appraisals for people to attend and go through a more comprehensive “pre-exercise questionnaire” prior to starting. I am sure this will never happen as it would limit the number of walk-up starters and cut away at the profit-margin for franchise owners but as a duty of care, there is a better way and I feel for anyone that gets injured or loses motivation from any injury incurred. We train clients aged from 12 through to 80 and along the way we have seen many health (physical and mental) conditions that simply need discussion and then exercises and stretches to help improve them. Perhaps if you are considering joining an F45 or any other HIIT form of training, come and a have an initial consultation with one of my team which includes not only a thorough pre-exercise questionnaire and a goal planner but a posture assessment and a body composition analysis. We can then see where you are at physically and then assess whether you are up for the rigors of F45 because remember – it is no walk in the park!

I hope this has shed a bit of light on what F45 is all about and I will conclude by saying that I will be going back and trying to improve on the areas that I am lacking and hope to make some vast improvements!

 

Justin Moran

Managing Director and Personal Trainer

Just In Time Personal Training

www.justintimept.com

0411 798 934

[email protected]

 

Other articles that may interest you:

Please help me improve the standards of the Personal Training industry within Australia!

Extremism – It’s only for the select few and definitely not for all!

Regular exercise – it all starts with behaviour change

 

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