It’s not at all difficult to see why people love F45 so much. Started by a former stock trader from Australia in 2012, the brand has grown to 1,300 franchises worldwide and counting. There are already three locations in Dubai (Jumeirah, Dubai Motor City and Dubai Marina) but it took until late October for Abu Dhabi to get one.
F45 reflects two trends: shorter workouts, seen overall in the fitness industry, and a burgeoning selection of focused, boutique gyms in Abu Dhabi. It was brought to the capital by Leila Khouri, who is Greek-Lebanese and worked in the fashion industry, and two silent partners. Her first introduction to the workout was in Bahrain.
“I tried it for a month and fell in love with it,” she explains. “The amazing thing about F45 is first the timing, it’s only 45 minutes. You come in, you start the warming up, you do the exercise and then you leave, so it’s quick. Plus, you get all that you need from 45 minutes… and you never have to do an exercise twice.”
The location at Sheikh Zayed Sports City Football Stadium is brand-spanking new (always nice in a gym) with an urban, industrial feel. Everyone is super friendly and welcoming, from the desk staff to the trainers to the fellow F45’rs.
I attended a Friday morning Hollywood session, at 8am, with tunes courtesy of Abu Dhabi DJ Cliff Townley. After I absorbed the fact that I was indeed at the gym’s only hour-long session of the week, what I encountered was a group workout that almost felt like I had a personal trainer.
The workout takes place across stations in the main area and everything is so clearly marked out it’s almost impossible to get lost or not know what’s happening. Even if you do get mixed up – and I did, once or twice – there is a variety of ways to find out where you are supposed to be. Each workout station is marked with a circular number on the floor, there are always two very in-charge trainers on hand leading every session and, if that fails, there are several large screens with a virtual trainer featuring each workout as it is happening.
That means no one is pushing people from a broad range of exercise levels through impossibly hard workouts, forcing heavier weights on them, looking away as they flail about, struggle to rush through sets to time or do things flat-out wrong and get hurt. (No pointing fingers, but these WOD-based gyms are out there.) The trainers were always there though, making small adjustments, giving encouragements and just generally making you feel like you are in very good hands – and getting your money’s worth.
We did the circuit twice and it was challenging, including cycling sprints, TRX pulls, sprints, squats and kettlebell swings. (There were burpees, too. They’re everywhere.) There was no way to get bored or feel discouraged – and the session passed in a flash. One of the female trainers, who has an enviable, lean physique, told me she used to believe that she had to work out longer, but F45 changed her mind.
The workout was great and, this is important, managed to be super-challenging without ever making me feel dizzy or nauseous. Instead, I was red-faced, sweaty and breathing heavy throughout, which is good enough for me and, nicely, seemed good enough for F45 too. If you love to work out and HIIT hard but the intensity or length of CrossFit, Orangetheory or Barry’s Bootcamp is just a shade too much, F45 is for you.
- F45 is located at the Sheikh Zayed Sport City Football Stadium. There are six classes per day, except Saturdays. There are showers and healthy snacks from nearby Simple Cafe; the location is easily accessible from Khaleej Al Arabi Street. There is a one-week free trial; classes are Dh100 each, 10 for Dh900 or Dh1,100 for a month unlimited.
Featured photo: F45 Abu Dhabi.
Ann Marie McQueen
Ann Marie McQueen is the founding editor-in-chief of Livehealthy and host of The Livehealthy Podcast. She is a veteran Canadian digital journalist who has worked in North America and the Middle East. Her past roles include features editor for The National, trends writer and columnist for the Canadian newspaper chain Sun Media, and correspondent for CBC Radio.