By Lynn Burshtein for DELECTABLY Chic! Magazine
As summer comes to a close, time spent exercising outdoors decreases and fitness-minded individuals return to their local gyms for their regular workouts.
A lot of people have love/hate relationships with their gym. On the one hand, many believe there is almost nothing that compares to the euphoric feeling you get after a tough workout. On the other, sometimes it can be a real challenge to actually get through said workout. What can help tip the scale (no pun intended) in either direction is the relationship you have with your gym and, more particularly, your instructor. When the relationship is solid, you will enjoy a good rapport and get the sense that he or she genuinely cares about helping you reach your health and wellness goals. When the relationship is not so good, you might get the sense that the trainer is basically out for himself: trying to convince you to purchase a boatload of his sessions while remaining largely indifferent to your goals. When it gets to this point, your hardest task won’t be getting through your training sessions – it will be trying to get out of your gym’s iron-clad membership contract.
Luckily, the choice of fitness clubs in Toronto has expanded greatly over the past few years, with many facilities offering individually-tailored programs, a la carte classes and flexible membership plans. So, if you are fed up with being treated like just another number at your current gym, know that there are many other alternatives – places where you will be treated like gold (even if you’re not training for Olympic gold).
While everyone will have their own preferences in terms of personal fit, here are some boutique fitness facilities in Toronto I have discovered that seem to go “the extra mile” for their clients.
With the doors at its Yonge & Summerhill location set to open this month, Ultimate Athletics Club (UAC) may be the newest kid on the block, but its founders have a wealth of experience behind them. Owners Paula Ryff and Vlad Radanovic have enjoyed longstanding relationships with their clients in the community for over 12 years. Now at UAC, they will lead a diverse team of instructors who offer a wide range of classes such as spinning, personal training yoga, athletic Pilates and barre-based workouts. The facility also offers health services including massage therapy and chiropractic as well as a second location of MedSpa.
UAC’s yoga and stretch classes will perfectly complement UAC’s killer conditioning workout. The club also provides fantastic bonding opportunities for Type-A families, with teen-focused classes suitable for after-school, as well as specialized men’s conditioning classes.
Chiropractors Adam Reynolds and Craig McNamee, who are also certified strength and conditioning coaches, have set up a one-stop shop, a multidisciplinary fitness and health clinic with services including personal training, boxing instruction, Pilates and corporate group boot camp classes, along with chiropractic, massage therapy and nutritional counseling services.
With a second floor terrace overlooking swanky Yorkville Avenue, newcomers may consider the Catalyst studio as the ideal spot for celeb-spotting while taking a leisurely ride on a lifecycle. Not a chance. The minute you hit the floor, Catalyst’s team of trainers will push you to your limits and you will be far too preoccupied trying to keep up than to concern yourself with mundane pursuits like people-watching. Competitive types and athletes will delight in the weekly fitness challenges designed to test their strength and endurance, and all personal training clients undergo rigorous fitness assessments every three months to ensure their goals are kept on track.
Certified Personal Trainer/Holistic Nutritionist Danielle Bossin-Hardy provides sage advice to help her clients reach their nutritional and fitness objectives while CPT and Boxing Coach Adrian Gonzalez’s infectious energy helps make his tough workouts a little more bearable. Catalyst also sponsors a seven-week running club during the summer that is free to members of the community. The clinic is in preparation for the B&O 5K Yorkville Run held each year in September, so it serves a dual public service: it helps individuals improve their fitness for a marathon which in turn raises funds for YWCA Women’s Shelters.
Don’t be alarmed by Studio Lagree’s “Megaformer” machine. At first glance, it may look like some kind of medieval torture device but this unique workout method, named after its founder Sebastian Lagree, will actually lead you on a path to greater fitness. The facility’s owners admit that the fifty-minute Fusion Class will be one of the hardest workouts of your life: the Lagree method has been dubbed “Pilates on Crack” with good reason. However, once you get the hang of it, classes can actually be strangely fun. That said, people who are unsure of their form, or who are perhaps nursing an injury, will want to sign up for a private session first to ensure proper technique is learned at the outset. Otherwise, group class options make this unique workout more economical and are still somewhat personalized (classes hold no more than twelve people at a time).
Studio Lagree is tucked away in a second floor Forest Hill location where staff great you with a warm smile upon entering the modern but compact facility. Fresh fruit is also provided to clients to help replenish nutrients post workout.
Instructor Lara Marquez wanders around during class correcting students’ positions, increasing their weights on an as-needed basis. Also, her eclectic and upbeat musical playlist is one of the better ones around.
The most seasoned member of the crop, SHAPE, was founded almost fifteen years ago and now has two locations in Toronto, one at Avenue & Davenport; the other at Leslie & York Mills. Like Catalyst, Shape offers highly-skilled chiropractors, physiotherapists and massage therapist practitioners who work with personal trainers to assist clients in optimizing their health and fitness. Having a chiropractor or physiotherapist “quarterback” the clients’ fitness programs enables SHAPE’s practitioners to supervise their clients’ progress in a more holistic way. The practitioners and trainers keep detailed notes in clients’ files to ensure an individual’s fitness program remains internally consistent across the various disciplines.
Physiotherapist Kevin Villafana’s sessions are first-rate. He goes into detail to explain the root of certain back or neck pain and also provides his clients with individually-tailored exercises to assist in their rehab. He’ll even email them post-session to check on their progress. Registered Massage Therapist Tori Baker has excellent technique that comes from actively listening to her clients’ concerns and tailoring her sessions accordingly. Ed note: Any fitness program should be followed under the direction of one’s physician. Please consult the facilities’ websites for further information on their programs and pricing.