UPDATE: This article has been updated from the original version.
Test Drive: The Huffington Post Canada's Living team will try out something that has sparked our curiosity, and as long as we live to tell the tale, we'll let you know all about it.
Test Drive Subject: Hard Candy's Fitness Toronto Studio's Addicted to Sweat (ATS)— Volume 1 Jaw Breaker master class, inspired by Madonna's workout regimen and created for the club's grand opening.
What It Is: A 60-minute cardio and dance class for all levels that challenges your ability to stretch, balance and dance. The class was taught by Madonna's trainer Nicole Winhoffer, who also happens to be the creative director of the Addicted To Sweat program and a kickass dancer. Using a variety of equipment, including steps and towels, the high-energy workout is meant to push your cardio limits and "harden" your body. On the current schedule, the ATS class description is quite similar to this class, but we're told the energy level and dance techniques are different. Classes in Toronto are taught by trainers at the studio as well.
Price: Memberships at Toronto's 382 Yonge St. studio start at $99 a month with a $69 enrollment fee. If you want to drop in like I did, day passes cost $50.
Trying It Out: When I got an email that Madonna herself would grace Toronto with her presence at a red carpet evening for opening of Canada's first Hard Candy fitness studio (of which she's a co-owner), and that members of the media had a chance to test out classes beforehand, there was no way I would say no. Even though Madonna wouldn't be there for the class, working out with her trainer was the next best thing.
The mid-afternoon dance class was packed, with about 60 to 70 people in a large studio space. Participants were dressed in everything from leather shorts and red lipstick to body-hugging short-shorts (I had on yoga pants and a tank top). I didn't feel like I was in a gym, but instead a hybrid of Madonna's music videos with training equipment. The gym itself was filled with pictures of Madonna, high-tech workout equipment and Vega juice bars offering fancy pink drinks. The large workout space with separate rooms for classes had elliptical machines organized side-by-side and Hard Candy's colours of red and white on every single piece of machinery, floor and wall.
Before the class started, a majority of the people broke out into what I thought was a random dance routine, scooping their hands and moving side to side. I stood there like an awkward teenager, questioning if I was even in the right class. It was then that I realized I would be in a class with Madonna's biggest fans... who just happened to be extremely talented dancers who'd already mastered most of the dance portion of the workout (like the dancers who auditioned to work out with Material Girl herself). This wasn't a class for first-timers like me.
Our Thoughts: The class itself was a mish-mash of dance, cardio and toning exercises. I'm pretty game for anything, so while I didn't understand the moves, I tried to make the most of it.
After the initial discomfort of watching everyone else master the routine, Nicole told us to get in place. With Beyonce's "Partition" playing in the background (there was probably one Madonna song in the whole 60-minute playlist), we used the step to do basic leg and core exercises. It was quick and it was hard, and for the most part, I could follow along by watching the people in front of me.
The cardio portion of the workout was well-paced, and Nicole walked around adjusting our moves. Next, we went into a dance routine, which was noted as one of Madonna's favourites, with a mix of hip-hop and intermediate dance moves. The dance routine is the basis of this specific workout program at Hard Candy, and with each subsequent class, new dance moves are added.
We practiced the new dance moves at least five or six times before putting them all together. Nicole yelled out the routines, but over loud music and trying to figure out which way your foot was meant to move, it was hard to keep up. Because the instructions weren't broken down step-by-step, I learned most of it from the people around me, not ever knowing if it I was doing it correctly.
Inspiration in the women's locker room.
After we put all the steps together, the rest of the class (and some brave newbies, including myself for the first five minutes) did the first portion of the dance that was taught in previous classes. Even though the trainer asked us to dance, it was quite embarrassing at points. So naturally, I decided to record everyone else being awesome instead.
The Warning: Call ahead to find out exactly what you're doing or try the class through DVDs or online videos before you get there. Class time goes by quickly, and if you really want to get the most out of your money, you need to know what you're doing. Unless you're a naturally awesome dancer like Madonna — then you'll have no problem fitting in.
Also, expect a lot of Madonna fans. It was nice to see everyone bond over their love of Madonna through dance moves and most people were welcoming (a guy even gave me his towel). But if you're looking for more one-on-one attention in a class, this is not the place to go.
Tips: This is meant for people who don't care how they look dancing (or who know they look amazing dancing) and for people who'd rather have more fun working out. The class itself is a great cardio workout and my legs were hurting just an hour after doing it. Go with an open mind and lots of energy -- a fabulous outfit wouldn't hurt either.
Have you tried out this class? Let us know what you thought in the comments below:
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