Despite my best efforts, I piled on the pounds when I was pregnant with my second baby. I exercised, I ate relatively healthily, but still the weight crept on. I soon came to accept that I would never be one of those women who would pop a baby out and leave the hospital in size 10 jeans. I was fine with that. But I knew I was going to have to work hard to fit into my normal clothes again.
I actually love exercise. As well as a journalist, I’m a qualified personal trainer, so I knew what I needed to do – eat fewer calories and move more. But I wanted some accountability, something inspiring and something social – vital when you have a young baby. Most importantly I wanted results. I had heard great things about a new gym that had opened in Harrogate called F45. The Australian-born brand – the F stands for “functional” and the 45 for the duration of the workout in minutes – founded in Sydney in 2011 by the equities trader-cum-entrepreneur Rob Deutsch, has since spread to 37 countries, boasting more than 1,320 franchises. There is currently only one in the north of England and it happens to be in Yorkshire.
I started to follow the Harrogate team on social media and my interest was piqued when I saw the results of their first Eight-Week Challenge. Ordinary men and women were sporting some incredible fat-loss transformations – complete with chiselled abs.
With more than two stone to shift and an eight-week-old baby, I knew it would take time – no mum should feel pressure to have a toned body straight after giving birth – but I thought this could be the kick start I was looking for.
Using circuit and HIIT techniques, the coaches at F45 gyms run a range of cardio and strength-and-resistance-based classes to burn fat, tone and build muscle.
Four times a year, members across the globe can take part in the F45 Challenge, which consists of attending as many F45 classes you can fit into a week, alongside a diet plan.
When I signed up, I was weighed and had my measurements taken. I then downloaded the challenge app, which outlines all the meals for the week, along with a shopping list so you can prepare for the week ahead. I also joined an F45 Challenge Harrogate group on Facebook, where participants could support each other – this would prove to be invaluable.
During the challenge, alcohol is to be avoided, and every morning should start with a cup of hot water and lemon. You must also drink at least two litres of water a day. The diet changes as the weeks go on, from an alkaline diet in the first two-weeks to detox the body and kick start fat loss, to a four-week high protein plan, and two weeks eating high fat, low carb meals at the end.
The first two weeks were without a doubt the hardest. Although post- pregnancy my diet had been pretty good, the sleepless nights had led to a reliance on caffeine, sugar and carbs, so cutting them out was pretty tough. I had headaches, I felt weak, I felt pretty fed up at times, but the coaches motivated me to keep going and assured me this would pass.
By week two it did, and despite a major lack of sleep due to night feeds, I actually found myself having more energy than before.
My first training session was a killer. I could barely do a press-up. But I made sure I attended as many classes as I could – that was after all the most fun part of the challenge and I was keen to build muscle, as well as lose fat. I was allowed to take my baby, which meant I could train in the day while he slept. This was a game-changer for me and it soon became part of my daily routine.
Eventually, I started to turn a corner. I got used to eating smaller portions and healthy snacks, and I no longer craved sugar. The weight soon started to drop off and my fitness levels started to drastically improve. People started to comment on me looking fitter and healthier. I began to fall in love with exercise again thanks to the classes, which were challenging, yet fun and varied. When I reached week three, I bumped up my sessions from four to six a week. If I had a wobble, I spoke to head coaches Matt Goodall and Andy Preston, who offered advice, support and encouragement, as did the other trainers and members, who I now call my F45 family.
Yes there were times I wanted cake. But I had the end goal in sight. And it paid off. At the end of the challenge I could fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans, my workout gear was no longer too small and I actually felt like me again. I lost 1.2 stone and 10 per cent total body fat. The next challenge starts on February 4 and I’ve already signed up – baby and all.
Phase 1: Spring Training – alkalise and detox the body, focusing on cleansing, eliminating, preparing and stimulating specific functions of the body. In the first two weeks, members see huge results due to the removal of fluid retention.
Phase 2: Regular Season – Over these four weeks, members will be defining their physique and focusing on building lean muscle.
Phase 3: World Series – focuses on a high fat, low carb nutrition plan.