Just two years ago, Well+Good predicted that the Aussie fitness franchise F45 Training would explode in a big way. After opening hundreds of new studios internationally in 2018, and a new (major) investment from Mark Wahlberg and his investment group, it’s fair to say it’s well on its way to becoming the next boutique workout model to enter the mainstream, alongside Orangetheory, CorePower Yoga, and Pure Barre.
Since we last caught up with its founder Robert Deutsch, F45 has sold 1,300 studio franchises around the globe—570 of those will open in the United States, according to Forbes. And this is just a warm-up: Deutsch says plans are in the works to expand everywhere from Canada and Europe to Asia in the near future.
When I chatted with Mark Wahlberg yesterday about the investment, it was clear he’s a genuine fan of the the workout’s accessibility. “I was amazed that no matter your experience…you can do the workout at your own pace with a huge support system and encouragement, with people there to teach you how to do things the right way,” he tells me over the phone.” I took my brother to F45—he hadn’t worked out before, probably ever—and we were both able to do it together.”
This was, perhaps the real selling point for Wahlberg, who says he’s been trying to find an option for his brother. “He’s had health issues and I wanted him to find something that works for him. He fell in love with F45, so it’s been a life-saver for him, and I love it, too.”
The 45-minute, team-based HIIT workout has more high-profile devotees (celebs like Hugh Jackman and Nicole Richie are fans), and class types rotate. There are currently 31 different workouts (buh-bye, boredom!) and each class has a name and focus: The “Gravity” class, for example, is focused on bodyweight strength training. The F45 signature combo of HIIT, circuit training, and functional movements is a part of each one.
Variety is part of why Deutsch thinks F45 has captured the hearts (and dollars) of fitness fans across the globe. “When we first started the business, we only had five [types of classes],” he says. “We’re adding 1,000 new exercises each year and new equipment. The workout really does have a huge amount of innovation to it.”
Hundreds of new F45 Training locations will open worldwide
In 2016, F45 had a modest 20 studios in the U.S. Soon, there will be 570. And by the end of this year, “we’ll be in California, New York, Florida, and Texas,” says Deutsch, adding that F45 will soon be in 36 different states. F45 opened its first New York City location this spring in Flatiron, followed by a Brooklyn outpost in Williamsburg.
And while Deutsch brushed off a recent report by the London-based outlet City A.M. that F45 would be going public, he also said there’s a chance. “It definitely won’t happen in the next 12 months. I don’t want to say in the next 24 months because who knows what will happen,” he says.
One thing that is definitely happening? F45 locations on college campuses where the university is the franchisee. “We’re opening inside American universities, which has never been done before by any franchise business,” he says. “We just opened at the University of Texas, and we’ve got 12 operating campuses.” According to a press release from F45, another 18 universities are currently negotiating contracts to open college-run studios.
F45 is using digital technology to help you train smarter, not harder
F45 studios feature heavily integrated tech: Screens are installed throughout studios to help class-goers stay on track, and they offer optional custom heart-rate monitors. The studio also developed its own heart-rate monitoring system, the LionHeart, which was introduced over a year ago.
This isn’t the first time it’s created its own tech either—Deutsch says they build the majority of the digital tools they use themselves, which is why he refers to the brand as the “Apple of health and fitness.” Another example of its tech-forward focus is its “smart” studio design. “When you come into the studio, it recognizes you. It’ll send you a PDF doc with how many calories you’ve burned, and where you peaked and dropped in the workout,” says Deutsch. “It tracks your goals and tracks what you’ve done in the past. It gives you a score. So everyone’s in the class competing but it’s relative.”
And based on the growth plans Deutsch has for F45, it’s fair to say that when it comes to his own goals, he’s following his own advice.
Originally posted October 2, 2018, updated March 19, 2019.
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