I love sampling different fun fitness classes -- both at home (in Toronto) and when travelling. Trying something new helps me stay motivated, plus booking my workouts before I fly ensures that I always work out. I would never forfeit my money by not showing up. I especially love sampling classes in New York; I try something there and a few months later the class debuts Toronto.
Lucky for you, you don't have to live in either city to benefit from my research. A version of all the classes listed is offered almost anywhere, so you can try the workouts wherever you live. If you live in -- or travel to -- Toronto or NY, have fun trying the specific places on my list
Main take-away: If you are having a hard time motivating yourself to train, adopt this inner dialogue. "Self, being inactive is NOT an option. If you're bored, you better try something new."
Kathleen's Favourite Workout Classes
What is Pilates and is it for you?
I love Pilates -- as a Pilates specialist I am biased. Pilates emphasizes breath regulation, mindfulness, and alignment. Mat Pilates is primarily done on the floor, focuses on training the core, and utilizes small apparatuses including the Pilates ring, weighted balls, the Pilates ball, and/or a foam roller. Pilates can also be done on machines; historically, the most popular have been the Reformer and the Cadillac Chair. One new iteration of Pilates uses the Megaformer M3, a longer, wider, and more versatile version of the Reformer. If you like Pilates, but are looking for a faster-paced, more-intense workout, classes done on the Megaformer might be for you.
What is barre and is it for you?
Participants use small weighted balls or weights, the bar, a mat, resistance bands, their own body weight, and a small squishy ball to mimic the callisthenic, flexibility, and strength exercises typically done by dancers.
Barre promotes flexibility and joint mobility -- which most of us need since we tend to sit too much. When we do move, it is often in set forward-movement patterns (eg, walking, biking, elliptical, running), which can cause stiffness and certain muscles to become stronger than others. (As a triathlete I am guilty of this -- I primarily move in repetitive forward motions). If you sit a lot or your current routine includes repetitive activities like running, barre might complement your lifestyle. It is a great workout and tons of fun -- just don't buy into the hype that barre will automatically give you a dancer's "long and toned" body. No workout -- especially done once or twice a week -- will get you a dancer's body if you don't have his or her genetics, volume of training, and diet.
Favourite barre experiences: In NY it is a toss-up between FlyBarre and Physique57. I am planning to try ____ this trip -- maybe it will be my new favourite! In Toronto I love Barre3. I have such positive Barre3 memories; I first tried it in Cincinnati while visiting one of best girlfriends, and I sampled the Toronto location with my mom and best friend for my Sweat Test Globe and Mail column.
What is spin and is it for you?
Spin is cycling done in a group to music. The teacher guides you through varying cadences and cycling positions. You get a varied, intense, non-impact interval cardio workout.
The benefits include improved cardiovascular and musculoskeletal strength, and the extra motivation inherent in group activities. The negatives? Cycling can wreak havoc on your posture since, in essence, cycling is sitting and we all sit way too much. Plus, cycling is non-weight-bearing, which is ideal if you have osteoarthritis, but not ideal if you are exercising with the intent of strengthening your bones to prevent or manage osteoporosis. So, if you spin (great) just make sure you ALSO do weight-bearing exercises, posture friendly strength exercises (like rows), and multi-directional activities (such as hockey lunges or any multi-direction exercise).
Favourite spin experiences: In NY, who doesn't love SoulCycle? In Toronto I don't tend to spin often since I have a bike trainer (a machine I can place my actual road bike in). I have tried and enjoyed Rocket Cycle and Ultimate Athletics.
Interval cardio/weight classes
What are interval cardio/weight classes and are they for you?
These classes sandwich bouts of strength training between cardio -- usually on a treadmill or rower. Time-crunched individuals will appreciate getting both a strength and a cardio workout in one hour -- one-stop shopping.
Favourite interval cardio/weight experiences: In NY I love CITYROW, which alternates between rowing and weights, and Barry's Bootcamp, which alternates sprints on WoodWay treadmills with weights. As one of the founders of this class format, Barry's deserves a special shout out. The class format has recently really taken off. Orangetheory Fitness, which cycles between rowing, treadmill, and weights, has existed throughout the states for years and is now exploding in Canada.
In Toronto Track Fitness offers a Circuit 60 class, which is almost identical to what you would get at Barry's, and at Ferris360 you alternate between weights and cardio, but you can choose to use the treadmill, rower, VersaClimber, or SkiErg (sort of like rowing, but standing). I also love doing interval rowing classes at Ultimate Athletics and Nucleo Fitness.
I would love to hear your feedback! Contact me through my website and tell me about your favourite classes!
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