High-Intensity Gym F45 Opens Bethesda Location

The fitness business is among the fastest-growing franchises in the world


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David Whittenburg inside the new Bethesda F45

Andrew Metcalf

In the four years ago since the franchise gym business F45 began opening locations, it has grown to more than 500—many in Australia, where it was founded, but also in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Canada and the U.S., where it has continued its rapid growth.

Earlier this month, franchise owner David Whittenburg opened F45’s first location in Bethesda, marking the company’s entrance into the Washington, D.C., market. The new location is at 4800 Auburn Ave. in the ground floor of the Gallery Bethesda apartment building.

Whittenburg had moved to the Bethesda area after a stint as a television director in Qatar, where he says he met a friend from Bethesda who opened a F45 studio in the Middle Eastern country—inspiring him to open a gym in the U.S., where he partnered with a friend from Fairfax County.

“Bethesda in general is very into the fitness scene,” Whittenburg, who grew up in Vermont, said during a reporter’s visit to the 2,300-square-foot fitness center Friday.

The studio offers free weights, a few stationary bikes, stair climbers, kettle bells, exercise balls and rubber mats. The gym specializes in 45-minute focused workouts that change every day and are displayed on TVs inside the gym while two on-site trainers help individuals perform them. Whittenburg said the workouts primarily use "gravity weight"—meaning the weight of your body like in exercises such as push-ups and jumping jacks.

TVs guide workout participants through the daily workout.

Whittenburg said Friday’s class was focused on cardiovascular training, while a boxing class was offered the day before.

“I think it will appeal to local people because you get to do something different every day,” Whittenburg said. “It’s also scalable to your fitness level. You can push yourself to whatever intensity your body can handle.”

The gym is offering new customers two free weeks of attendance. Otherwise, customers can pay $45 per week for unlimited classes or $27 for an individual class, according to Whittenburg.

The franchise business has been able to expand so rapidly by using relatively inexpensive equipment—compared to more expensive equipment found at other fitness centers—and by having a low break-even point—with most locations requiring about 50 regular customers to break even, according to the Australian Financial Review.

The new gym occupies a space at the Gallery apartment building that hasn’t had a permanent tenant since the building opened in 2014.

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