What happened when I did Mark Wahlberg’s F45 workouts for a week
I consider myself to be a fairly in-shape person. Heck, I’ve run the London Marathon (sure, it was six months ago but I’m still dining out on it). Still, I’d be lying if I said I had a regular workout routine, or even a gym membership I’m ghosting. Instead, doing sporadic classes here and there to make myself feel better about my penchant for chocolate and chipotle.
When it comes to workout discipline, I am definitely no Mark Wahlberg. The actor’s workout routines are legendary, if gruelling. His daily routine went viral in 2018, with him posting on Instagram that he wakes up at 2.30am; works out from 3.40 to 5.15am; followed by golf, cryotherapy, a little life admin and a second workout at 4pm. Finally, he goes to bed at 7.30pm. There are breaks for prayers (which, quite frankly, sounds essential to have the emotional or mental capacity to programme your life like the Ninth Circle of Hell).
So many questions about Mark Wahlberg’s daily schedule. A 90 min shower at 0600? Just 30 mins of golf? Is it crazy golf? pic.twitter.com/Q7ETsw4HfM
— Julian Druker (@Julian5News) September 12, 2018
He checked back in with the Wall Street Journal at the end of last year, explaining that these days, he’s allowed himself a lie-in — until 3.30am, lazy sod. Needless to say, training like Wahlberg is not my forte, though I do love a challenge. I ran a marathon, remember. So, my interest was piqued by the idea of F45’s Wahlberg Week.
Wahlberg is an investor in the Australian-born fitness franchise that boasts more than 2,800 studios in over 60 countries. He pumped around $450 million (£361 million) into the company back in 2019, according to Bloomberg. David Beckham is a fan (and partner). For those unfamiliar with F45, it’s like a tamer version of CrossFit, where every studio has the same workout around the world and the movements are shown on screens around the room. The classes are — you guessed it — 45 minutes long and everything is counted down to the nanosecond, including the warm-up, rests and hydration breaks.
Wahlberg Week follows suit (just cranked up a notch, or 10)...
Day 1 – Monday, Underdog
As I walked into the Old Street studio, alongside the sight of heavy weights, equipment and the signature F45 TV screens depicting the movements to come, I was met with red faces across the board. Those who had partaken in the class before were dripping with sweat as they lay on the floor around the room, the relief of it being over palpable.
In preparation, I did the least Marky Mark thing imaginable and spent Sunday at an all-day Printworks rave (admittedly, not the best start to exercise hell week).
Taking my place amongst notably fresher-looking classmates, I received the plan of action. Not only did I have to complete 18 different stations with 90 seconds of work and 30 seconds of “rest”, but each also required 10 push-ups in between. This was before you could move on to the next stage. Was it too late to quit?
Needless to say, remembering I had to write about my experience, the workout commenced. Underdog is all about cardio: “This is a cardiovascular endurance workout that incorporates an erg machine, with participants competing for the highest number of points,” explained the teaser. Exercises included rowing at full pelt; kettlebell swings with the weight high to the sky; and jumping side to side on a box half a metre high, with Ginuwine’s Pony thumping over the sound system. Some exercises — pull-ups specifically — were a non-starter for me, but my competitive drive revved up on the cardio machines. The result? Some 370 calories burned in the 40 mins of HIIT and a complexion that looked as though I’d had a vampire facial.
Day 2, Tuesday – High Roller
High Roller is a resistance workout done in pairs. “You go, I go” was the name of the game. I felt confident. Recovered from my hangover and limbered up from Monday’s intense session, I was rearing to go at the 8.15am class.
There were six stations with three sets on each before moving on to the next. Exercises included deadlifts, chin-ups (which my partner managed easily while I employed the help of not one, but three bands), kettlebell rack squats and bench presses. While your partner worked out, all you had to do was 10 squats — mixing up between sumo, staggered and standard round by round. This gave a lot of time for rest and, um, a bit too much empty time. What would Mark do, I thought to myself? So, I filled out the gaps with various abs and legs workouts. No rest for the wicked, I ruled, which in hindsight I can see might have been my downfall (more on that later).
The result? 370 calories burned in the 40 mins of HIIT and a complexion that looked as though I’d had a vampire facial
Day 3, Wednesday – Patriot
I was not prepared for Wednesday. Day three of Wahlberg Week may just be the most difficult class I’ve done to date. The cardio session included only 10 stations, but you had to do three laps of them. My heart rate still hasn’t recovered. It involved 45 seconds of work with 20 seconds of rest. But, if you think you’d have a chance to catch your breath in those 20 seconds, think again. Three diamond (hands facing inwards) push-ups were required to make it to the next station. Each felt like a burpee as I struggled to push my body up from the floor.
There was a two-minute rest between each lap — and we were told to monitor our heart rate. At the first interval, my resting heart rate of around 76 beats per minute measured in at 179, dropped down to 136 after heavy breathing, swearing and wondering if I needed to call an ambulance. This was a similar pattern in the next two breaks, in which I experienced several existential crises. Two hours post the lunchtime class, my heart rate was still sitting at 100bpm. The HIIT to the max class involved the unholy trio of rower, ski erg and bike erg; i.e: the most challenging combo in existence. Added to the fun were shuttle sprints and box jumps down to chest to floor burpees. Savage.
Day 4, Thursday – Southpaw
By this point, I’m ready to throw in the towel. Everyday tasks, such as going to the loo, leave me aching. Braving pain in muscles I didn’t know I had, I embarked on Southpaw. Don’t let the name deceive you: there was no boxing involved and, most disappointingly of all, no Jake Gyllenhaal.
F45 says: “muscular endurance is the aim of this class! Push through muscle fatigue in the longer working sets and calculate your max reps.” While the mere sight of the number of weights littering the gym floor made my limbs cry out in pain, I was surprised to learn the first 90 seconds of each station were simply glorified stretching or “activation”, followed by two minutes of the main exercise. This gave my body a chance to go through a full range of movement in poses not dissimilar to those found in a yoga class. Hip thrusters led on to weighted push presses; my favourite dynamic frog squats became goblet squats; and child’s pose to cobra got the muscle prepped for bench presses. I went into this session with dread but, surprisingly, it was just what I needed to really stretch out.
Day 5, Friday – Swagger
I adore a good abs session. So I went into Friday’s session optimistic, but the smirk was quickly wiped off my face. This is F45, after all. Why I thought I would stroll into the session, do a few sit-ups and leave, is beyond me. There were 15 stations, repeated three times. Thursday had lulled me into a false sense of security, so the challenge of Friday came as a shock. It was a core overload with sprints on the bike erg, rolling out with an ab wheel and burning every stomach muscle in existence. Instead, up deep relaxation for the remaining seconds left on the clock, you had to do at least five burpees.
Day 6, Saturday – Blue Arrow
This was the day I was most anxious to complete. While it’s F45 by name, the weekend sessions are longer and Saturday totalled 60 minutes, adding 900 more seconds of pain to the schedule. In teams of two, we took on alternating inner and outer pods. The outer consisted of weighted moves such as bicep curls, reverse-lunge hammer curl and pull downs using a band.
Easy enough, right? Wrong. In between every round of that were seven whole minutes on the exercise bike, leg-burning ski erg that was created to train cross-country skiers or rowers. One round of the weighted exercises, followed by another on the cardio and repeat until every machine had your sweat dripping from it. Sure, you could take it easy and run down the clock, but the longer you take to complete the machine, the longer your partner is resting for — and they may not thank you for it. Result? 470 calories lost.
Day 7, Sunday – Horizon
Ah, Sunday! The traditional day of rest, though not for Wahlberg Weekers. Still, it’s at least a far more relaxed approach than the rest of the week, softening the blow that outside there’s a rainstorm in signature British springtime form. It’s a whole-body workout, with a focus on technique. Through each set, the workout time is decreased, while the rest time is increased. Sure, it’s still lifting heavy weights and a few not-so-favourite moves from the week like pull-ups were included, but equal emphasis is placed on recovery. This is about setting good practices for the next week of HIIT.
F45 Wahlberg Week: was it worth it?
Even without Marky Mark’s 3.30am start times, this has been a killer week. The intensity of the sessions turned the traditional F45 programme, already a challenge, up a notch and I can truly see tangible results — not just in my overall mood and the satisfaction of finishing, but physically too. The muscles in my stomach (I wouldn’t go so far as to call them abs) are certainly more defined; my biceps and hamstrings are more toned too. I’m looking to keep up the momentum and have already booked into another week of classes.
While it sounds gruelling, they say nothing that’s worthwhile is ever easy. For total beginners, I would recommend the F45 8-week programme that will get you into the full swing, paired with a bespoke nutrition plan. Crucially, I discovered that stretching between sessions is important, to prevent muscle soreness (read: limping to your next session). I now understand why Wahlberg has cryotherapy sessions after exercise, which are said to prevent pain and stiffness post-workout. Personally? I’ll take a G&T instead.