By Susan Ciancio
Along the southeastern coast of Australia lies the city of Wollongong—a city known for its stunning beaches and its beautiful rainforests. Within that town is a little-known community populated by a truly unique set of individuals—those who belong to its F45 gym. F45 Wollongong is home to members of various ages, backgrounds, and sizes. It’s home to supportive coaches. And it’s home to one very special member. Her name is Rachael Wakely.
I had the privilege of chatting with Rachael about her F45 experience, and her story is nothing short of amazing.
Rachael joined the F45 gym in 2016 at the behest of her sister, who had heard of the gym from a coworker. They both knew that the workouts would be difficult, but they were intrigued, so they rose to the challenge and took that first step. And since walking through that door the very first day, they have not looked back.
Every morning, Rachael gets up, usually before her children rise, and attends an early F45 class. Yes, she goes seven days a week! She works out and gets back home before her kids get up. It’s the perfect time of day for her.
And now, Rachael has attended over 2300 classes! What a huge accomplishment!
While working out has become one of her passions, her one true passion lies in being a mother to her children and in giving them a healthy example of someone to emulate. She understands that, in order to be the best possible mom to her children, she must take care of herself. That belief spurs her on every day.
In the years that Rachael has been a member, the F45 community has seen her get married, give birth to two beautiful children—via c-section—and now it walks with her as she faces her greatest challenge yet.
Just eight weeks ago, Rachael was diagnosed with colon cancer. But she is a fighter, and the determination she carried with her when she walked into that F45 gym seven years ago has made her more determined than ever to win this battle.
To date, she has undergone four rounds of chemo, and she credits the F45 workouts with helping alleviate some of the side effects of the chemo. Even her doctors have remarked that the side effects don’t seem to be affecting her as harshly as they normally do for others.
This is great news to Rachael, who since beginning F45 has seen a transformation not only in her physique, strength, and stamina, but in her demeanor. Rachael explains that the F45 workouts have been an immense blessing in her life. She attributes the fact that she’s a new person to the training. Since joining the F45 gym, Rachael has noticed that not only does she feel better about herself, but she’s happier, more joyful, and has become nicer to others. She truly feels that the workouts have become something to look forward to and enjoy rather than something to dread.
And with 5,000 different combinations of exercises, we can see why! Members are never stuck in the same boring workout routine.
Rachael offers some sage advice for those considering joining an F45 gym. She admits that newcomers or those thinking about joining F45 might find the workouts daunting. The idea may even keep some people from taking that first step and walking in the door. But Rachael says to just do it and that once you get through that first workout, you won’t turn back. In fact, she believes that you will fall in love not only with F45 but with the community and the new you. The transformation you will see in your life will keep you coming back day after day.
While the cardio workouts at F45 are some of her favorites, she says she loves all the workouts and that the coaches are amazing people who work with you no matter what shape you’re in or what you’re going through in life. That, she says, has been crucial to her over the last several years, and it is especially important now.
This F45 community—which rallied around her after her two c-sections—is rallying around her again now. The encouragement of the coaches and of the other members has gotten her through extremely difficult days.
As we spoke, the F45 team was helping her celebrate Daffodil Day—a day created to raise awareness of cancer and to raise funds for research. This year, the F45 community donated in her honor, and Rachael’s twin sister, Ashley, made T-shirts with the F45 logo on the front and Team Rachael on the back for all F45 gym members to wear.
Why daffodils? Because they are a symbol of life. And nothing could be more fitting to Rachael’s experience with F45. It has not only given her a new life, but it has given her a new outlook on life.