I recently took part in the F45 8 Week Challenge at our gym, F45 Woodstock, where I am currently working as a trainer. This is a fitness challenge that surrounds fat loss and lean muscle gain that we run at the gym four times a year, with the goal of kick-starting our members fitness journey by helping them to lose weight, get fit and learn healthier eating habits. The idea is to follow the eating plan, exercise to sweat 4-5 times a week at our studio and maximize recovery through proper rest, supplementation and hydration.
Why do it?
I decided to take on this challenge for a number of reasons:
- I wanted to be on the same page as my members. I needed to be able to sympathise with them and understand exactly what they were going through in order to give the best support and advice I could give
- It’s a challenge. I wanted to see how my body could change in a short 8 week period.
- I like learning new ways of doing things. There are so many different fitness and diet programs out there and I enjoyed the idea of the micro-cycling and initial detox phase of this particular diet plan.
Side note: Just to be clear – I was never unhappy with my body before. That is not at all why I took on this challenge. I am very much a believer in learning to love your body as it is now, while also working towards improvement. I have worked super hard on self-love and self-appreciation, no matter what stage in my fitness journey I am at. My before pictures are not “worse” than my “afters”. There is improvement, for sure, but one is not more worthy of love than the other.
What I learned
So, after successfully completing the challenge, I thought I would share my thoughts on how it went for me, personally! Here are a few of the lessons that I learned:
I was not eating enough variety in my diet
I like to think I know a little somethin’ somethin’ about nutrition and diet, but to be honest I don’t always apply it to my own life. I found that I was getting caught in a bit of an eating rut, always eating the same things – which was usually some variety of a chickpea curry, oats or things on toast (i.e. a very high-carb diet). This means I wasn’t getting a whole lot of protein but more than enough fats and carbs – which meant I wasn’t getting the body composition changes that I wanted to see.
I’ve also found that I don’t need carbs for every meal to be satisfied and some salads (dare I say it) are actually tasty and filling. This diet plan has definitely given me a ton of meal ideas that I will be carrying through after this challenge – lots more veggies and smoothies, for sure! (I have also learned that I love hiding grated zucchini in things apparently – omelettes, oats, fritters – all of it).
Smoothies are f*’n awesome
I thought oats would always be my die-hard, go-to breakfast in the morning BUT smoothies have also kind of become my jam! I’ve also learned to throw in some frozen cauliflower or pumpkin (thanks @sugarfreesundays) to bulk it up. Don’t like drinking your food? Smash it in a bowl, throw some shit on top of it and BAM you have a delicious, satisfying and pretty breakfast.
Restrictive eating is not good for my mental health
This part of the challenge was quite a big point of contention for me – torn between wanting to stick to the diet to a T and keeping up with the things that I enjoy. A lot of what my husband and I enjoy doing together involves good food, wine, coffee and cake. This is actually quite an important part of my life.
This, coupled with a history of disordered eating, meant that my mental health was challenged a lot. I decided to loosen up on the diet a bit (NOT with the intention of adding in extra sessions to “burn it off”) and this changed the game for me. I stuck too the idea of 85% clean and 15% “off-challenge” eating and I found that this worked really well for me. When I don’t put restrictions on my eating, I am a much more balanced and healthy-minded person and my relationship with food totally changes – I no longer feel the need to binge and I end up making healthier decisions.
A solid support system is key
People are super supportive if you let them in on what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. You need a group of people (or even just one person) that will be there to encourage you when things are tough and help you stick to the challenge. Some days are going to be harder than others and you won’t always feel like cooking dinner or going to train – but these are the days where the results happen. Having supportive, understanding people are paramount to helping you reach your goal. Even better, being that person to someone else also keeps you motivated too! Have an accountability group – trust me, it’s what kept me going. (Shout out to my #ashletes)
I am super proud of myself at the end of this challenge. I stuck to the meal plan pretty well, I gave my training all I could but I also ensured I looked after my physical and mental health. I kept myself and my members accountable and I think the results speak for themselves.
- Weight: 64.3kg
- Body Fat: 26.8%
- SMM: 25.8kg
- Weight: 62.9kg
- Body Fat: 21%
- SMM: 27kg
- Train 4 – 5x a week
- Body Weight: 59.8kg
- Body Fat: 19.6%
- SMM: 26.6kg
I ended up gaining a total .8kg of skeletal mass (muscle, bones and minerals) – I had lost 700g muscle in the first 4 weeks so I gained that back AND added another 800g back. I lost 5.5kg and 7.2% body fat.
This just showed me what I always believed – balance, some every day habit changes and training with intensity in mind over duration (45 minutes of HIIT and weights training, give-it-all-you-got-training 4 – 5x a week) is what leads to sustainable, achievable results!!