You might be the type to toss tires at CrossFit, ride the fake waves on a surfboard simulator, or scale a rock-climbing wall in two minutes flat. Whether it's a state-of-the-art gym or something you’ve never tried before (fencing, anyone?), here are 25 of the best spots in the city to get active and get fit. [Image credit: iStock.com/m-imagephotography]
Cycling enthusiasts flock to this Bathurst and Wellington spinning gym, especially during our antsy winter months. The centre was the first in the city to install an army of RealRyder stationary bikes, which flex from side to side, allowing riders to lean into turns. The larger spectrum of movement mimics the sensation of outdoor biking and works a whole slew of additional muscle groups. The Toronto-born cycling studio hosts various membership plans, though early risers looking to get in a close-to-dawn workout (who are you people, by the way?), should take note of the gym’s economic Early Bird special.
It doesn’t get more local than this Liberty Village climbing gym. Originally opened in 1990, this wood-beamed warehouse was the first spot in Toronto to offer 40,000 square feet of climbing space with beginner, intermediate and advanced courses. The $40 beginner lesson is ideal for a little weekend intensity (do it with a friend or partner if you think you’ll need a cheerleader). The three-hour workshop will train you on multiple courses and covers harnessing and belaying, so next time, you’ll have the know-how and confidence to jump right into the climb.
Not only does this King West fitness centre – opened by locals Stacy and Tim Irvine – kill it in the fitness department, with state-of-the-art workout machines, personal training, and group classes, it also rounds out its athletic offerings with a gorgeously designed, sprawling space in the centre of the city, as well as an impressive team of on-site healthcare providers for injury recovery, consultation, or emergency care – be it a triathlon coach for an intense workout regime, or a massage therapist for a deep tissue rub afterwards.
Get sweatin’ with attitude during a West Coast hip hop class at this downtown dance centre specializing in energetic dance styles designed to keep you moving. For some waistline action, try the Caribbean-inspired Wind and Grind class, and for some cardio fury, the jazz funk class. A range of beginner and intermediate classes make it easy to start fresh or pick up a forgotten but beloved hobby. Seasoned dancers can slip into the Advanced or Master Hip Hop class, brush up on the competition at the Improv Jam, or train for their next showcase at the oh-so-intense Conditioning 101 class.
Spinning and yoga get hitched to parent one powerful mind-and-body workout. With classes taught by certified cycling and yoga instructors, this hybrid studio neighbouring Casa Loma (additional location in Thornhill) will get you that cardio push your body might be craving, but only after stretching out those thighs and hamstrings with some poses as old as yogic antiquity. My pick is the dual-discipline spyngaFlow HIIT, the studio’s signature class in which participants bike like hell for 20 minutes, and calm it back down with active yoga sequences and recovery poses.
Pique your parkour curiosities at this 10,000-square-foot indoor and outdoor climbing facility that mimics the terrain of an urban environment. With stair-like ramps, horizontal and vertical poles, and platforms that resemble low- and mid-rise buildings, this is the go-to spot for parkour masters to refine their skills when they’re not hitting the actual streets. The west-end spot also specializes in freerunning, tricking, gymnastics, breakdancing, stunt training and circus arts, offering beginner, intermediate and advanced classes (teen and just-for-women classes available as well), while advanced movers can simply jump into one of the open gym slots.
Contrary to some assumptions about ballet-based fitness, there’s nothing wimpy about this traditional-barre-inspired workout. The huge upsurge of barre fitness has led to a slew of specializing studios in the city, although Barreworks was among the first to appear in its stunning Queen West digs (second location on Yonge). Though they offer a range of offerings (including spin classes), their signature mixed level class is a must-try, as is the DripBarre class, which will have your heart pumping and sweat pouring with its high-intensity cardio intervals.
This east-end trampoline park may well be the most joyous place in Toronto. Not only does it host a next-level airborne dodgeball league for adults, it also features daily Skyfitness and Skyrobics classes, a low-impact workout that burns up to 1000 calories in an hour. Memberships and passes are shockingly affordable – $110 for a 10-class Get Fit pass and $70 for a monthly membership.
Three words: Fat. Burning. Squash. The fast-paced racquet game was named the number one healthiest sport to play by Forbes Magazine. There’s a host of upscale Toronto fitness clubs that have courts and house leagues, but you can keep it casual and cost-efficient at one of the city’s YMCA locations, (namely Central, West End, Mississauga and North York centres), all of which feature free squash court time for YMCA members (11 bucks for a guest accompanied by a member). Bonus: finish off the match with a victory-celebrating or disappointment-nursing dip in the hydraulic-floor pool or soak in the whirlpool.
No use debating it, the Toronto location of Madonna’s we-have-absolutely-everything fitness club will get you active in just about any way you can imagine – but my suggestion is jumping in on the club’s patented “Addicted to Sweat” dance-meets-aerobics workout class. Ever watched one of Madge’s dance sequences and briefly but seriously considered becoming a backup dancer? Fulfill the fantasy via this high-energy class that requires absolutely no training in shaking, shimmying or any other kind of dance background.
As Torontonians, we don’t get much access to killer waves, so urban-dwelling surfers keep skills sharp and bodies ripped at this indoor surfing studio in North Toronto. The patented Surfset board is the world’s first total-body surf trainer, a surfboard affixed to a hydraulics system that simulates the balance-invoking feeling of the open water. Take your quintessential plank exercises and put them on the wibbly-wobbly board and you’ll find you working all kinds of muscles you never knew existed.
Anyone who’s seen Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, crossing swords with the villain of Die Another Day (while a leather-corseted Madonna looks on no less), knows how entirely badass the sport can be. You might not have the sword skills of the dashing Brit, but you can get a taste of the sport at one of Toronto’s premier fencing clubs. Battle your bestie at a two-person private lesson, or try a month of beginner classes for $95. Known for youth, intermediate and high-performance tournaments, the club hosts three locations across the GTA.
Get literally uplifted at this aerial yoga studio that employs suspension bands to explore strength through balance. Not only will you get the rare sensation of defying gravity, you’ll discover an imaginative play of movement possible on the Gravotonics suspension apparatus, and even get in some hard-core body conditioning to boot. Change it up with a few Reformer Pilates classes and bust your bad posture with calm but intense core workouts. Beginners can enjoy a two-week unlimited pass for $40.
This King West studio has developed a reputation for its pole-dancing classes via exposure on Canada’s Next Top Model and Much Music, but the pink-hued and exposed-brick spot specializes in aerobics classes featuring sexy dance-workout combinations that burn calories and boost confidence. Top options include the weight- and toning-based Body Blast class, and the Bikini Bootcamp, which uses cardio intervals, set to upbeat music, to keep the interest and energy high. Whether you’re picking up the quintessential lap dance or learning the choreography to the signature Coyote Ugly moves, this women’s-only fitness centre is guaranteed for a unique workout experience.
Get your heart racing and your adrenaline pumping at this Wallace-Emerson cardio boxing studio. Complete with a gang of BOBs (Body Opponent Bag – a human-shaped punching bag), the studio hosts six high-intensity classes complete with upbeat music and energetic instructors. In the Corebox class, you’ll notice an extra focus on abs and core strengthening, while the Kickboxing class is ideal for all levels of fitness and experience, and introduces combinations to help develop technique. With your first unlimited week for just $40 (which includes some hard-core Everlast boxing gloves), your wallet itself won’t be taking the beating.
Pirouette and pas-de-chat your way to a healthy body at this quintessential dance studio overlooking Queen and Spadina. The large windows and hardwood floors will get you in the mood for an elegant and posture-conscious workout, one of the few that combines kick-in-the-butt conditioning with classical piano. Dancers can choose from beginner, intermediate and advanced classes (plus a rarely seen beginner pointe class), or try a ballet-inspired workout at the Ballet Boot Camp and Power Barre classes. Those looking for a higher tempo can groove their way into a range of other classes, from Argentine Tango to All-level Dance Hall.
Canada’s oldest boxing gym has hosted such juking and ducking legends as Lennox Lewis and Muhammad Ali in its rings, creating an instant air of intensity and competition in the Wallace-Emerson studio, the ideal place for seasoned boxers to keep their skills sharp or get prepped for an upcoming competition. But newcomers are welcome too – with a women’s-exclusive class as well as a training program for kids. Put simply, if you’re into boxing, this is your go-to Toronto spot.
Feel the balance of West Coast vibes and Toronto-level intensity at this Vancouver-born yoga, Pilates and spinning studio that’s recently flown east. Not only do the two Toronto-based centres (second at Queens Quay), boast infrared saunas for a pre- or post-class sweat, bamboo studio floors, and nearly 200 classes a week, they also host top-of-the-line local instructors, many of whom have been practicing for decades. These studios combine a fierce fitness experience and spa-like atmosphere, which includes spacious tea lounges, high-capacity change rooms (no sweaty shoulder-rubbing with fellows yogis), and a team of showers stocked with all-natural soaps and conditioners.
If the name itself doesn’t inspire you to join in the intensity at this Ossington CrossFit gym, perhaps the on-staff Olympian weightlifter will. In the ranks for crème-de-la-crème CrossFit centres in Toronto, the spot offers WOD (Workout of the Day)-style classes – which take a daily focus and employ a week-long program of barbell, squatting, gymnastics, and pushing and pulling strength – as well as personal training and bootcamp. Athlete’s bonus: Follow your personal workout or group class with a protein smoothie, buttered coffee or grass-fed beef jerky from the gym’s intensely aesthetic café and apparel boutique.
Capoeira, the Brazilian-dance-meets-martial-art, is a physical form flush with movement, metaphor and subtle strength. Toronto dancer-fighters are well-equipped for capoeira practice at one of many studios cross the GTA, but this martial arts academy at St. Clair and Dufferin is among the top-rated for lesson quality, class intensity, and instructor expertise. With two additional locations in the York Region as well as Downsview, the centre hosts month-long beginner courses that teach the basics and get you participating in regular capoeira classes in no time. Wild card: Keen audiences can also go through Axe for Capoeira performances, shows and workshops.
What makes this Toronto fitness centre a cut above the rest? Well, the industrial space looks more like an adult jungle gym beckoning play than a static club filled with Stairmasters and bench press stations. With unfamiliar-looking curved treadmills and adventurous suspension devices, the training club gets busy urbanites the energetic workouts they need in a condensed class. With two locations – Richmond/Spadina and Adelaide/Sherbourne – Fuel makes it easy for professionals across the city to get in on the personal training and fitness classes offered by the unique studio.
This clubhouse for martial arts aficionados may be well known across Toronto for their Muay Thai kickboxing classes, but it’s also a prime spot for one-on-one training, strength-based kettlebell classes, 6:30 a.m. bootcamp, and a green-turf-lined gym which features such unique inclusions as battle ropes and tractor tires. The red-hued training club is accompanied by an air of intensity, with a full-size competition ring and statues of Muay Thai masters supervising the training sessions. Featuring two locations, Kensington and Don Mills, Krudar offers a trial class for a mere 10 bucks as well as a 30-dollar-a-month “Happy Hour” membership.
Working out in a church is always going to be a pretty superior experience, but practicing energetic vinyasa yoga in one takes it to the next level of bliss. Founder Amber Joliat scored much praise when she transformed the Queen West relic into a space where people can be active every day, offering a selection of Reformer Pilates, yoga and fusion classes. While Get Cheeky targets the tuchus, Get Spent delivers some much needed heart-pumping cardio. No wonder this Trinity-Niagara studio is lauded as one of Toronto’s best spots for Pilates and yoga like you’ve never seen them before.