Its been almost two months since the ever-expanding F45 gym opened their Oxford Circus franchise on Little Portland Street. A year in the making to find the perfect location, the Australian-formulated franchise has been opened by energic-duo, Tristan Smith and Haydn Elliott.
Originally an underground car-park, 2a Little Portland Street has been transformed into F45’s strikingly iconic red-white-blue scheme, housing the space and equipment essential for their signature circuit classes.
I contacted Tristan to find out about F45 and their recent opening; of which I was strongly encouraged to take part in one of their classes. Having admittedly been away from the gym for the last year or so, I hesitated at the offer.
‘Surely you’re unable to do a full feature without at least trying out one of our classes?’.
It was agreed. 8.30am in two days’ time. For all those at the office who have F45’d in the past, it looked like I was in for a shock to the system. [‘You’ll be crawling back to the office afterwards!’].
It was easy to spot the large banner down to the lower- ground stairway entrance. Music pumping, there was a class currently going on at my arrival.
I immediately bump into Tristan, warmly greeted and quickly signed in on the tablet for the next class. Eight or so screens lined the walls. Several featured the different workouts per circuit with a timer. The screen near the entry had names on a leaderboard displaying the highest heart rates.
‘Keep it up Fatimah! Let’s crank up the resistance on this bike.’
On the sidelines it looked intense, however the motivating and encouraging atmosphere amongst the trainers and the members quickly surfaced. There was a hive of trainers supporting and egging each other on. The smiles, hi-fives and jokes through the gruelling last 5 minutes were infectious.
Tristan walks me through to the back with a tall rack of fluffy towels and cage-like lockers.
‘If this is your first time you’re in for a real treat!’.
This class’s circuit (in order, and in brief) included: sledge-hammer swings, ropes, block-jump lunges, sit-ups, bikes, kettlebells, rowing and bear crawls. Haydn went through each circuit workout whilst they were displayed on the screens around us. After a warm-up, the volume blared to ‘Stand Up’ by Ludacris. It was on.
Fast forward an hour later of intense perspiring and soreness ready to kick in, I catch up with Tristan and Haydn to share their new business opening experience, trials and tribulations, and all things F45.
All images courtesy of F45 Oxford Circus
See more of F45 and their membership options at F45training.co.uk/OxfordCircus/.
Get £10 off a two-week trial using code 10SQUIDOFF Link to offer: http://bit.ly/2weeks_F45OC
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| 'We love the vibe around here, it has such a big work-place community spirit that marries well with the F45 culture.'
What is F45 and what made you start the franchise?
The F45 franchise started in Sydney as an alternative to CrossFit- it’s a series of circuit workout classes that’s taken off globally. To date there are 4000 carefully planned cardio and resistance workouts designed to work different muscle groups per session.
The use of technology to select the classes with the screens showing the count-downs mean we can solely focus on the training; we’re there to motivate you, correct your form and individually get to know our members on a personal level.
Starting it up, we didn’t have to worry about the innovation side of things as it’s all part of the package. Everything from the workouts to the soundtracks, the equipment- it’s all part and parcel of F45.
They are constantly innovating; they’re creating new workouts, new circuit routines, new equipment [they created weighted bars that are soft and smooth that’s ideal for fast-paced movements]. The tiniest detail, such as how the circuit equipment is laid out to minimise tripping hazards, is all thought of.
Haydn and I flew out to Sydney to take a look at the best performing studio in the world. We took on board and implemented what we believe makes the winning formula.
What can new members look forward to?
The timing of the gym opening was perfect as the 8-week challenge programme started a week after. It includes unlimited classes and a nutrition meal plan designed to maximise fat loss and lean gain.
We’ve already had brilliant transformations from our members. We do mid-way consultations to see how they’re progressing, do body scans, and take pictures if they’d like. We also discuss how they can improve and push their progression in the last few weeks so they’re getting the most out of it. It’s all very tailored to each individual. F45 is like having your own personal trainer, but you’re in a close-knit group, motivating each other in the workouts as opposed to a traditional PT session.
One guy lost 5% body fat and increased 3% in muscle in a matter of weeks. He always starts the class with a beaming smile, and his confidence now from when he started is phenomenal.
Every class is different and you’re working out with your mates- its making fitness fun.
How involved were you with the fit out of the gym- are there guidelines or were you able to add your own input?
F45 is a very stringent but slick model from start to finish, so it is all sorted for you- of course you have the brand guidelines to adhere to, but in terms of the space, we had to work with the floor plan to maximise the F45 experience as much as possible.
We were here start to finish on this project. It was an empty shell car park before we transformed it. The heaviest area we invested on was the air conditioning. We’ve also invested in making the changing rooms include everything you need – hairdryers, shampoos, clean towels. We know that being in a largely corporate area, these are things we could not cut corners on for our members.
You’ve been open for nearly 2 months now- how’s the gym faring so far?
We were inundated from day one. Months before our opening date we made a real effort to get out in the area and make as much noise as possible. We were handing out flyers, giving promotional £20 trials, and visiting offices to offer corporate packages. Our social media has grown extensively to the point where our members tend to give us a lot of material and get involved to the point where we don’t need to answer questions on our Facebook group anymore- our members answer them for us. Our Instagram competition where we gave away a 6 months training membership (worth £1500) prize had over 1500 entries.
The 8-week challenge started a week after opening, and we focused on selling people the benefits of the programme. Our goal is to retain those completing the challenge to become members- we’re passionate about F45 and strongly feel many of them will continue on with the amount of fun and progress they’ve had!
Interestingly our Saturdays and Sundays are the busiest which is crazy because most people don’t live around here! We’ve already achieved holding the most Saturday classes out of all the F45 gyms in the UK.
Describe your average member?
We get such a vast variety of people in here, there is no such thing as an average member.
Coming down those stairs we have stockbrokers and lawyers earning £100,000’s a year. We’ve also got students, people putting together what they can for the gym membership because they love it so much. Everyone is equal when they’re in here, the stress is left at the door and you leave feeling energised and lifted. There’s no difference between this person’s life that lives in a penthouse in Blackfriars and this person’s life that lives in a flat share in Brixton- everyone is all in here doing the same stuff and ultimately having fun. It’s so cool for us to see. And that’s what we’ve wanted from day one, to build a friendly and supportive community.
We’ve recently had a group of traders from Mayfair, many of them that don’t take to fitness, but they all come back several times a week to do the workouts. They told us if it weren’t for the corporate bundle we put together for them they would never have done this ‘fitness stuff’.
There’s another young member who came along with her friends and they look terrified before their first class. Now they absolutely love it. They’ve set up their own Instagram page dedicated to their transformation journey with their meal prep photos and boomerang posts of them having a laugh in class.
Was Noho your first choice of location?
With this studio, Haydn and I put ourselves out there- we spoke to a lot of people, did extensive research and for that reason, we strongly wanted to base ourselves here. We held out for nearly a year until the right unit in this area came up.
We love the vibe around here, it has such a big work-place community spirit that marries well with the F45 culture. It a massive hub of lots of things going on, loads of places to eat and lots to do.
Two members the other week found out they were both vegan and now they’re really good friends arranging vegan lunch dates!
Your current go-to workout track?
I love a good RnB. Did you hear the class mid-circuit working out to R. Kelly - Bump & Grind!
Favourite after-workout refuel spot?
Kaffeine is my everyday go to. I also love Percy & Founders on Pearson Square, the calamari is to die for.