Explosive kicks. Gravity-defying backflips. Raucous beats. Capoeira matches act as a colourful form of cultural expression in addition to a powerful form of self-defence. Though Marcos Martins—also known by his capoeira name, Paraiba—was born in Brazil, it wasn't until he moved to Canada as a child that he discovered capoeira. At 14 years old, he began training with Mestre Barrão, an internationally renowned capoeirista and the founder of Axé capoeira, which has schools around the world. Marcos went on to open Axé Capoeira Toronto, where he carries out his mentor's mission to preserve capoeira as a fighting style, art form, and vital part of Brazilian culture. During beginner capoeira classes, the instructors teach the form's basic martial arts and dance moves, as well as musical elements and basic aerobics. Advanced classes train students in the more tricky motions and the holistic knowledge necessary to advance in capoeira's belt system, such as how to predict gravity's current strength before executing a backflip. CapoeiraFit women's-only classes impart self-defence skills during high-energy, whole-body workouts that focus on core muscles. In kids’ classes, wee ones cultivate self-esteem as they train their bodies and learn capoeira's noble history. The classes also engage youngsters' creative instincts as they sing, dance, and learn to play instruments.
At the beginning of his fitness career, Conor Kelly was a walking paradox: an out-of-shape personal trainer. Though he had taken part in powerlifting and strongman competitions, he found that much of the weight he had gained over the years was fat rather than muscle. So, he became his own client. He observed how lean, toned people conducted their workouts, paying special attention to practices that weren't mentioned in mainstream gym classes. He spoke with other trainers to learn which strategies produced results, and which were ineffective fads. Eventually, he combined all of his research into a new philosophy—one that banished his excess weight, and became the founding principle of Evolution Fitness.
The method he created relies on personalization. Clients meet with him or another certified personal trainer for an initial assessment, during which they identify their goals and take several measurements. The trainers then plan workouts to address specific aims, whether it's weight loss or muscle sculpting. They coach their clients in a private studio with a mix of cardio intervals and strength exercises, keeping the routines varied and, to the best of their ability, fun. Nutritionist Dr. Abazar Habibinia also contributes dietary advice. His manageable tips work within the client's lifestyle, and refrain from stressful rules that prohibit your favourite foods unless you're eating them while doing a wall-sit. And, for those that can't commit to an ongoing, customized program, Conor and his team also host group boot-camp sessions.
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.
The team at Toronto Adventures create winter, summer, spring, or fall fun adventures by taking urbanites out of their condos and A-frames and into the area's nearby-yet-faraway outdoor streams, trails, and forests. In winter, the guides lead groups snowshoeing in the Humber Valley and Copeland Forest, and in warmer months, they glide teams over two rivers for kayaking and canoeing adventures. Paddlers cast gentle ripples over waters that harbour salmon and turtles while admiring shores that shelter deer, foxes, and blue heron.
Summer enthusiasts can also bask in the warm weather by sailing on Lake Ontario in keelboats, staring directly into the sun, or standing astride a paddleboard at Sunnyside Beach. For land lovers, guided hikes explore the Humber and Rouge valleys as well as the Bruce Trail. Toronto Adventures also offers adventure bus trips, dogsledding, stand up paddleboarding, hiking, and sailing.