You’ve probably driven past BFT Wollongong, with its bold blue logo and large glass frontage on the corner of Crown St and Denison St. If 2024 is the year you’ve set an intention to shake up your fitness routine, the crew at BFT might be just what you need to start making that change. Read on to hear about my experience testing out Body Fit Training Wollongong CBD.
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I’ve been feeling a little stale for a while now, as far as my exercise routine is concerned. I run, swim, and go to the gym every week and I’m comfortable with my fitness level but have been starting to feel like I’m dragging myself through each workout. This happens every few years for me and is a red flag that I need to mix things up a bit. A change of environment is often exactly what I need and gets me enjoying my workouts again. I’ve switched to things like barre classes, yoga, CrossFit style workouts on an app, and even joined an adult ballet class for a few months (I stopped doing ballet when I was 10 years old!)
Recently, I took part in a two-week trial at Body Fit Training, otherwise known as BFT Wollongong.
I’ve driven past the gym, with its giant blue BFT signage, on the corner opposite Piccadilly about a hundred times since it opened its doors in May 2022. The joining process was as simple as downloading the BFT app and booking a class on the timetable. Unlike gyms where people are working out on their individual schedules, BFT is strictly group training, so it’s not staffed all day. I arrived around 20 minutes before my scheduled class so I could take some extra time to familiarise myself with how the workout would run.
What sort of workouts does BFT offer?
Fourteen class types on rotation at BFT make up a program specifically designed to build muscle, burn fat, and achieve results. The BFT programming runs in 8-week cycles, and while there is no requirement to start at the beginning of an 8-week period (I came in at about Week 5), the classes are designed to build progressively through similar movement patterns.
The BFT model loves science. Each week, the individual class types are specifically designed to activate different types of muscle fibres, stress different energy systems, and put you through your three planes of movement – I’ll go into this in more detail in a bit if you’re interested, so keep reading. For the absolute beginner though, you can expect every BFT class to have your heart rate up, your muscles fatigued and a good sweat going on. The individual exercises are generally compound movements and functional movements, that can be modified to accommodate injuries or mobility issues, and weights or resistance levels can be adjusted to meet you where you’re at.
While some class types focus more on cardio, and some more on strength and conditioning, every BFT class is high intensity. Most workouts run for 50 minutes (some are 60) and run six days a week.
Gamification and Rewards at Body Fit Training
As I mentioned before, BFT loves science. Do you know what else this fitness brand loves? Tech. In a BFT class, you are following along with interval timers that will tell you what exercise you should be doing, and when you should be resting, or moving to another station.
There are also human trainers right there to assist you with the correct form, and any modifications needed, as well as being there to encourage and support you. Still, it’s the big wall-mounted screens that are essentially guiding you through the workout. There’s another important reason why you should be paying attention to the screens – BFT has developed its own custom heart rate tracking device, the BFT³. Worn across the chest, like a traditional heart rate monitor, the BFT³ will display your heart rate and work intensity level on the big screen throughout your workout. At different stages of the class, there will be an optimum zone or energy system that you should be working in, which is indicated by a colour. Members should aim to keep their heart rate in that target colour as much as possible and accumulate points for how well they can stay in the correct zone. So, what does this mean exactly?
Instead of gassing yourself out during your session and blindly working as hard as you can through the entirety of every session, the BFT³ system aims to bring your attention to which energy system you are supposed to be targeting. Each class will have a target PXI score assigned to it (Performance x Intensity). For example, a cardio interval-focused class would prompt you to keep your heart rate high during work periods, to focus on recovering as effectively as possible during rest intervals. In a strength-based session, the focus is on quality movements, correct form, and lifting heavier weights, utilising your time wisely to stay working within a different energy system, rather than high reps.
The more you can stay in the target zone, the more points you will accrue, and those who have achieved within 5%, 10%, or 15% of the target PXI are awarded a virtual medal at the end of the workout.
Each class type is carefully curated to complement the overall BFT program. For example, building aerobic capacity in the Cardio Summit class will enable better progression in the Cardio HIIT class. Because BFT programs run in 8-week blocks, the targets will increase in intensity as the member progresses through the program. Each class type will follow a similar structure over the 8-week block, but the movements will change slightly, the intervals between work and rest will change and the difficulty and/or intensity will increase gradually.
I witnessed the way that the BFT technology rewards optimum training over maxing yourself out during one of my sessions. Working in pairs across different exercise stations, I was partnered with a female who it’s fair to say is probably fitter than me. She was a few years younger, a little leaner, and once we were in the midst of the workout, I tried to keep in time with her for the battle ropes and the air bike, but she had me beat! Instead of following my instinct to try and ‘keep up’ with my partner, I reverted to trying to maintain my target colour zone instead. At the end of the session, even though my offsider had trained with greater intensity than I had and punched out more reps, I was awarded a gold medal and she only received a bronze.
The medal system is just a gamified way of helping you train at the ideal intensity, but there’s no doubt that it works for some people. The rewards of a 30-Day Streak on Duolingo have motivated my 12 year old daughter to practice her language lessons every day. She’s now hit a 100-Day Streak and is jabbering on in German all the time! You only have to look around at the popularity of smartwatches that are filled with ‘challenges’ and give us a rewarding ping when we hit our target steps or ‘complete our rings’ for the day. BFT members also earn rewards for consistency, which I think is important when often the hardest part of going to the gym is walking out of the door in the first place!
Muscle Fibres, Energy Systems, and Planes of Movement Explained:
Because it all gets a bit scienc-ey, here’s a really basic breakdown of what the different types of muscle fibres, energy systems, and planes of movement all mean…
Understanding Muscle Fibres:
There are several specific types of muscle fibres, but ultimately, they can be broken down into fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibres. Your slow-twitch muscle tissue is responsible for maintaining good posture, tiny movements such as blinking and using your fingers, as well as long contractions with a light load. These muscle fibres aren’t helpful for explosive movements such as lifting something heavy or sprinting, but they have a tonne of endurance qualities.
Fast-twitch fibres, on the other hand, can produce big bursts of energy for powerful movements, but they can only keep going for a little while.
When a muscle is engaged, it taps into the slow-twitch muscle fibres first, so these workhorses are going pretty solidly all day, every day. When more energy than they can offer is required, the fast-twitch cousins step up to do what they do best. Slow-twitch fibres have a red appearance, while fast-twitch fibres are whiter in colour. This is because slow-twitch fibres contain mitochondria, that use oxygen, so they need more blood to function than the fast-twitch fibres.
Exercises such as isometric holds, slow repetitions to failure with a lighter load, and aerobic training can benefit the slow-twitch muscle fibres. To target the fast-twitch fibres, exercises such as powerful and explosive movements (think box jumps, kettlebell swings, etc) and lifting heavier weights for fewer repetitions are ideal.
Your body utilises three different energy systems, but they aren’t necessarily working independently of one another, but operating together to achieve what it is you need. These systems are the anaerobic system, aerobic system, and the lesser-known phosphagen system, which provides immediate energy for short tasks of a few seconds.
Planes of Movement:
In everything we do, our bodies move in three kinds of ways – front and back, side to side, and rotational. By training our bodies in all of these directions (planes), we are setting ourselves up to handle anything life may throw at us.
My Experience At BFT Wollongong CBD
As I mentioned earlier, signing up for a trial at BFT was super easy. I was unsure what the parking situation would be like, but I easily got a spot in Railway Parade every day. It’s ticketed parking, but I usually attended the 6 am timeslot so parking was free, and it was still only a dollar or so for a 9:30 am class. I arrived super early for my first session (maybe a little too early), but it gave me a chance to chat with Studio Manager, Bridie Hopkins and ask a few questions about what to expect.
I was given a BFT³ monitor and we discussed a couple of injuries that I would need to work around. Bridie and trainer Cameron were super helpful in coming up with some alternative ways I could substitute problematic movements and before I knew it, a few other members had arrived and we were underway.
Each class begins with a brief warm-up and ‘talk time’, where the trainers can explain the movements, timings, tempo, and PXI for the session. This particular class had several different timings depending on which station you were at. Once the screen says it’s go-time, the workout begins and it’s game on!
I’m not going to lie – after my first session, I felt like the much talked about ‘brain-fog’ of perimenopause had well and truly descended on me because I found the timings and the switching stations, reps, etc really confusing! There were countless times when I was working instead of resting or resting when I should’ve been halfway through my set because I was looking at the wrong screen’s timer and I dead-set felt like an idiot! However, I scored myself a gold medal, so I must’ve managed to get enough work in any way! I haven’t done high-intensity interval training before at all, so it was a bit of a shock to my brain, I think.
Bridie assured me that following the structure and getting my head around the timing and format would get easier over a couple of classes, and this particular session was one of the more complex as far as the switching between movements was concerned. I completed 6 sessions over 2 weeks and I’m happy to say, she was right. My sixth session was the same class as I had done on my first day, and my little old brain felt just fine about everything.
For someone who can get a little anxious about group training, BFT was a great environment. Not only is the studio floor space pretty big, which means you aren’t grunting and panting all over the person next to you, but the way that the workouts are designed means that the group is broken into stations. This means that instead of 20 people all doing the same exercise at once, you’re working in a group of 2, 3, or 4 while everyone else is completing a different group of exercises. There’s also something to be said about not having too many mirrors. While there is one large mirrored wall in the studio, the screens are on the opposite side of the room, and that means you’re usually facing away from the mirrors because you are watching the timers slowly (oh, so slowly) wind down until the next rest period. Of course, it’s as easy as turning around if you’re keen to admire your gorgeous self, but something about not having myself reflected back to a room full of people made me feel a lot less self-conscious about group training.
Who are the BFT Wollongong Tribe?
Bridie tells me that the studio has been drawing in a diverse range of people, including families who are coming to train together, such as couples or young adults who are bringing an older parent along to introduce them to the gym. There is a real community starting to build at BFT Wollongong, with regular social get-togethers being organised, ranging from a relaxing walk around the Nan Tien Temple to breakfast outings or attending basketball games to watch the Illawarra Hawks. (Go Hawks!)
The team are also hosting ice bath recovery sessions at the studio, which have proved popular so far, and there’s nothing like the shared experience of a freezing ice bath to forge strong connections between members!
There’s been a certain ‘changing of the guard’ at BFT Wollongong CBD in recent months, with some staff movements, including Bridie stepping into the role of Studio Manager. Before taking the reigns, Bridie was a devoted member of the gym, so she was already a familiar and friendly face in class. She heads up a team of around six trainers, with experience ranging from fitness qualifications to careers in psychology and nutrition.
“I first started working out at BFT with my partner when Wollongong CBD first opened up, I was a foundation member. I loved the support and energy I got from all the coaches, especially as I was coming back to training having dealt with health issues for a number of years prior. When I was having a hard time, the coaches would also make sure to check in and see how I was and how they could help me with my journey. 8 months later I was hired as a coach here and subsequently became Studio Manager.” says Bridie.
I asked Bridie what she thinks the biggest misconception or hesitation people have about joining a group HIIT training environment like Body Fit Training;
“One of the biggest misconceptions about BFT is that it will be too hard or intimidating to train with others who may already know what they are doing. BFT Wollongong CBD has worked really hard at creating an energy in the gym that allows everyone, no matter their fitness level or experience to fully engage with the program by adjusting exercises and movements when needed. But most importantly, we want people to feel safe and happy when coming here, showing up with a smile and leaving with an even bigger one… plus some gains don’t hurt either!”
The pace. Believe it or not, despite the fast pace of switching stations making me feel old and confused for the first (and maybe the second) session, I found myself loving how hard I had to concentrate. Compared to training solo at the gym (where I’m likely to have my phone on hand, flicking through my playlist, and replying to text messages between sets), a workout at BFT requires me to be completely present and give my full focus for the whole session. This block of time, where there’s no room for the mind to wander and it’s 100% about the workout, is excellent!
The studio. As I mentioned previously, the studio is spacious inside, it’s super clean and all the equipment is top-notch.
The technology. The BFT³ tracking software and gamification of your workout might not be a deciding factor for some people, and to be honest, I didn’t expect it to be something that I cared about, but it did make me hyper-focused on what I was doing. Plus, there’s something geekishly satisfying when you get “on the podium” at the end of a sweat session.
No middle-of-the-day of the day slots. Given that the majority of people choose to train first thing in the morning, or straight after work, it makes sense why BFT Wollongong has their timetable offering limited to those times. However, there’s not much of an option for the sneaky lunchtime workout or the late morning session at present. Classes start as early as 5 am, so there’s ample opportunity to get it done before work, and there’s a 9:30 am slot for those who need to squirrel the kids off to school first. The afternoon timetable has classes starting from 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm, plus there are Saturday morning sessions as well.
What are others saying about Body Fit Training Wollongong?
I asked a couple of current members to share their experience at Body Fit Training Wollongong:
“BFT Wollongong CBD is a welcoming and warm community, a second family! I’ve gone from someone who was not confident in a gym, to the gym now being the highlight of my day! I leave feeling inspired and motivated every day!”
“Since moving from VIC to NSW, I’ve discovered more than just a gym at BFT Wollongong CBD – I’ve found a vibrant community. The welcoming atmosphere and the camaraderie I’ve experienced here have been instrumental in making me feel at home. The coaches at BFT are truly exceptional, offering not just training, but inspiration, pushing us beyond what we thought possible. I’ve made lasting friendships and seen remarkable personal growth. For anyone considering a gym that offers more than just a workout, but a gateway to a supportive and motivating community, BFT Wollongong CBD is the place to be. Highly recommended!”
Bridie’s enthusiasm and passion for the studio is palpable, so it’s no surprise to hear feedback from members like this.
“My main philosophy at BFT Wollongong CBD is to create a space without judgement and the perfect place to start your fitness journey, continue your journey after time off, or attain more gains if you already train. Part of living that philosophy involves us having community events every few weeks so people can get to know each other and support each other both inside and outside of the gym”, says Bridie.
“We understand that a gym like ours comes with a higher price point than others; therefore we endeavour to give members so much more than just a place to train. This is a place to learn, grow, make friends, and create a healthy, sustainable lifestyle over time while being surrounded and included in the BFT Wollongong CBD supportive culture. We want people to leave feeling like a more confident version of themselves.”
KEEN TO TRY BFT WOLLONGONG CBD FOR YOURSELF?
Bridie is offering a special two-week free trial of BFT Wollongong CBD for our audience. Just mention that you read this article and email the team at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Make 2024 your year – now there’s no excuse not to!