In July 2017, F45 Training Shanghai opened its doors as the first studio in the city, and the second in China. Now, three years later, there are three studios under the franchise—Xuhui, Jing’an and Xintiandi—which have seen thousands of members come through and become ingrained within the community.
“Featuring a strong mix of both expat clientele and locals, the studios and the trainer team are as diverse as they come, which certainly adds to the experience.”
We speak with Lauren Hogan, general manager of F45 Training Shanghai, and ask her about her journey, from the early days until now, as the group approaches their third anniversary.
My journey with F45 Training began as part of a discussion with Ryan Woodger, owner of the Brighton Bay and Elsternwick studios, and The Camel Hospitality Group, which is our overhead in Shanghai. My background was in journalism, and although I had begun freelance coaching and was active in multiple fitness communities within Shanghai, I hadn’t heard about the functional training workouts before.
The more I read about F45 Training, though, the more excited I was about the potential opportunity. Generally speaking, China is much newer to fitness than more western countries, but with support from the government to try and get people active, it is growing at a rapid rate. To be at the forefront of this initiative and get people to move better, live healthier, and find a community that they can grow within, it’s a dream.
We opened about two months after the Beijing Chaowai studio, which I was able to trial out before heading to Induction. I fell in love with the workouts—and the possibilities.
I wish I had written a journal in the first few months—it went by in such a blur, but I was also probably too exhausted to have written anything extra down during that time. All of my energy was gathered just from trying to ride on the momentum. Classes were packed with so many people coming in for their two-week trial thinking it would only be offered for a limited time at the start. We had a lot of support from Adriana ‘Fudge’ who had previous experience opening several studios and was an incredible influence in helping me learn to manage, coach, administrate, and provide basic reminders (rest, breathe, smile, enjoy).
Our apparel shipments got stuck in customs for months, every few days our TVs wouldn’t work due to China internet issues, we had to develop our own backend system due to our location. There were so many challenges and things to figure out and learn, but the community and the trainers were such a tremendous source of support that we got through it. With support from HQ to try and maneuver through this new horizon (China), those hardships have disappeared, and only seem a faint memory now. Within six months, we were already opening our second location.
Over the last few years, the biggest support has been the trainer team. They are just some of the most incredible people, from all around the world… China, Australia, the US, Ireland, England, Tunisia, New Zealand, Morocco, Columbia, Poland, South Africa, Singapore, Italy, Canada, BraziI. know I’ve probably missed a few. Through this international team, we have learned so much, how to communicate with our diverse clientele, understanding and learning from one another and our backgrounds, and also developing unique relationships with our members.
Shanghai is a very transient city so we’ve had many members come and go—some who have even gone back to their home countries to open up their own F45s—but through the support of our multinational team, we’ve really developed some strong and lasting connections, and also grown as individuals. The more our team puts into the community, I really believe the more they personally get out of it as well.
We’ve made some incredible memories over the past three years. We’ve been fortunate enough to have some special opportunities as well, like leading rooftop workouts above the Bund skyline. In a city of 24 million people, it really felt like we were on top of the world. There have been fitness retreats, which have given members a chance to go and work out in nature and come together through different means, something we don’t always have the opportunity to do often in this cosmopolitan city. We have our community events, and of course our Challenge parties, which celebrate so many individuals, as well as team, achievements, and usually wind up into dance parties 12 hours later! Even our most recent 45-day Challenge finished with over 40 people submitting scans after coming out of quarantine/COVID-19, which was inspiring, and incredibly tough to determine winners!
We also just hosted our largest Playoffs yet, with 100 participants, and over 200 supporters. We have come a long way since our first one with 30 members in our tiny Xuhui studio, and a bucket of orange slices to enjoy afterwards. What was unique and exciting about this last one was we also had the support of F45 Training Jiading and F45 Training Shenzhen - Shekou. It was really cool to see their teams come out to support both with trainers and members. The more we can work together as a community, the better we all will be.
This year has definitely seen an interesting start. We closed in late January due to COVID-19, so essentially were at the forefront of what many others experienced after us. And while it was tough, so many beautiful things came out of it, too. Seeing the trainers get creative and bringing the community even closer together, our members supporting one another and even though we couldn’t be physically with one another. They truly set fire to a period which had a somber cloud hanging overhead. And when we finally could reunite, the energy was incredible—you just wanted to (safely) hug and high-five everyone.
All of these opportunities we take and see how we can grow and become better from them. I’m incredibly grateful to this community. For their support, laughs, determination and friendship. The people who have built this community, especially the trainers and full-time staff, are all inspirational in their own right.
I’m so lucky to have learned from and be supported by people who truly care, want to grow, inspire change, and also…just really like to have fun. At the end of the day, if you can make each other smile, you’re doing something right. I look forward to seeing where we can take the rest of 2020 to, and every year after that. It’s been a wonderful journey with people who are not just my friends, but also my family, and I’m grateful for that every single day.