In 2004, Warren Lee was a high-school teacher by day and a muay thai kick-boxing private trainer on the side. But demand for his private lessons grew, and eventually the one-man business blossomed into a full-time combat fitness business. Today, Lee runs Toronto Kickboxing & Muay Thai (TKMT) Academy at three locations, all of which provide friendly atmospheres for students to work up a sweat, shed stress, and learn self-defense. The staff credits its unintimidating and professional attitude with helping to draw an almost even split of male and female students—a rarity in martial-arts gyms.
All three locations feature pristine facilities and include men's and women's changing rooms and individual showers, as well as a boxing ring, grappling mats, thai pads, heavy bags, and an assortment of training equipment. The staff of committed instructors includes Ajahn Amnat Yodkwain, a former professional fighter and muay thai master who has trained in Thailand's combative arts since the age of 7. All of the academy's instructors possess CPR and first-aid certification and participate regularly in professional development. In order to join the team, they must also pass a series of rigorous tests designed to challenge their skills in muay thai, general fitness, and kicking cookie jars off the top shelf.
Named after the word tula, which signifies balance, Tula was created to promote guests' inner and outer harmony and well-being. After a Pilates or Hatha- or flow-yoga class—available in a hot or temperate studio—patrons can indulge in spa treatments ranging from herbal body wraps to Ayurvedic facials and massages. Each location evokes a soothing, nature-inspired look, characterized by wood flooring and water fountains. The studios' radiant heating panels, natural cleaning products, and organic spa products also speak to a desire for balance with the earth.
Tula has built a loyal local following for both its yoga classes and spa services. The Tula West location made a list of Best Health magazine writer Kat Tancock's favourite yoga studios. Studio director Isabel Lambert's "meticulous approach" to sugaring was praised by Fashion Magazine in 2010, and the establishment was voted Best Hot Yoga by BlogTo in 2012, along with Toronto's Best Workout Studio by Now.
How does an old glass factory become a must-book venue in Toronto Life's annual wedding guide? 99 Sudbury’s owners would say, give it a makeover. They swapped the factory’s noisy machines for elegant furnishings, repurposed three sections of the building, and turned the straggling ghosts into coat checkers. The three sections they repurposed include a baroque lounge area, an art gallery with 17-foot ceilings, and a plush loft space aptly named the Glass Factory.
With the leftover space, they added a health-and-wellness centre and a 30,000-square-foot fitness club that has three weight rooms, two exercise studios, and a spinning loft. It even has a cross-training room with monster-truck tires, fire-truck hoses, kettlebells, punching bags, and TRX-suspension-training gear. The idea behind all of these additions was to create a hip atmosphere where people could socialize and have fun while statistically increasing their ability to lift up their cars when they drop keys under them. The effort helped 99 Sudbury catch the eye of various press outlets, and the Food Network even held its 10th anniversary at the spot.
Heat seems to emanate from Fireflow Yoga’s cozy confines. It could be the soft lighting or the warm tones of the hardwood floors, but the studio’s teachers swear it’s the energy flowing through the students in their signature Ashtanga classes. Here, yogis of all levels rehearse poses that summon sweat while they stretch and strengthen muscles throughout their bodies. The instructors, each of whom possesses at least three years of teaching experience, also lead classes for specific populations such as athletes and moms-to-be. The staff keeps its routines up to date by regularly welcoming renowned master yogis to the studio to share their sage knowledge of body-mind alignment and what sound a tree in the forest makes when performing downward dog.
After class, students can peruse the studio’s boutique, which teems with sporty, stretchy fashions created by indie designers. Though most classes are designed for adults, the studio hosts kid-friendly activities such as yoga-themed birthday parties and play sessions filled with animal-inspired poses.
The path to health and happiness is often built from scratch, according to yoga master Bikram Choudhury and the stretchy sages at Bikram Yoga Red Tree. Filled with triathletes, engineers, and social workers, the studio’s teaching staff illustrates yoga’s ability to inspire and transform people from diverse walks of life. Between bright windows and mirror-lined walls, students of all skill levels reflect upon wellness while practicing 26 poses designed to pump oxygen through the blood. Tight muscles loosen as bodies absorb heated air, which seeps into pores during twists, balances, and forward bends. Coupled with deep-breathing exercises, the heat helps to oust toxins and tension through sweat beads and focused exhalations. When fatigue sets in, students draw inspiration from one of Bikram’s loftiest challenges: a knee injury that threatened his ability to walk. With hard work and the support of a caring yoga teacher, he regained his ability to stroll, sprint, and perform the hokey-pokey.
At Wynn Fitness Clubs, exercise isn’t about altering how the body looks. It’s about changing clients for the better from the inside out. Here, during group and one-on-one training, fitness experts pair encouraging words with adaptable exercises involving dumbbells, kettlebells, Selectorized weight machines, and functional movements such as pushing and balancing. In addition to bolstering the body, these programs strengthen the will to achieve, propelling exercisers toward goals faster than an espresso-fuelled hockey puck. Calming fitness classes such as yoga and Pilates unite the mind and body with deep stretches, focused core exercises, and measured-breathing techniques. Club members can torch calories with solo sessions on the clubs’ cardio machines or during boot camps, cycling routines, and Zumba dance parties that cultivate friendships while boosting energy and endurance. Post-workout, spa-like locker rooms and couch-lined cafés invite exercisers to relax and recharge.