17 virtual fitness classes at Toronto gyms, ranked from least to most intense
Gyms are still closed, but a host of them are offering online workouts—from restorative yoga to gut-wrenching HIIT sessions—that will keep Covid-induced existential angst at bay. Here are our picks, ranked from tranquil to taxing.
What to expect: Instructors lead a mix of restorative and vigorous classes designed with human anatomy in mind. They choose movements designed to protect joints, lengthen muscles, banish tightness and build strength.
Top of the class: Såana’s Flow with Music is a fast-paced, one-hour sequence jointly taught by instructors Jackie Szabo and Jenny Lee. They provide modifications for the less limber set, making this the ideal class for hardcore yogis and newbies alike. The instructors send out a Spotify link before class with playlists ranging from ’90s hip hop (Busta Rhymes, Aaliyah and Lauryn Hill) to indie electronica.
Cost: $6 per Zoom class.
Schedule: One to two classes per day, times vary. See the schedule here.
What to expect: This Ossington studio is known for its dance-infused workouts that combine Pilates, yoga and traditional exercises like squats and curls.
Top of the Class: Misfit’s Movement class will have you pliéing, planking and lunging towards a happier state of being. The high-volume repetitions don’t just boost endorphins, according to the studio’s mission statement, they also untangle emotional knots too.
Cost: $18 per live drop-in Zoom class, $85 for five classes (as well as $45 for a two-week intro rate).
Schedule: They offer 55 live Zoom classes every week (schedule available here) as well as twice-weekly free livestreams, which can be found on Instagram.
What to expect: These Pilates classes bring the burn without any high-impact jumps—both your knees and your downstairs neighbours will thank you. Body Mason has streamlined their offerings down to three no-equipment-needed mat classes: one for beginners, the other for Pilates vets, and one that offers a happy middle ground.
Top of the class: Body Mason founder and retired modern dancer Emma-Kate Millar is a cheerleader, RMT and coach rolled into one bubbly package. She’s quick to fix form over Zoom during her energetic Body Conditioning Mat II classes, which aim to build long, elegant muscles while correcting alignment and muscular imbalances. For those with nagging injuries, she suggests excellent modifications.
Cost: $15 per Zoom class and $200 for unlimited online membership, which comes with access to Body Mason’s library of pre-recorded classes.
Schedule: One to three classes per day; schedule available here.
What to expect: Contemporary dancer Ming-Bo Lam founded this on-demand dance, fitness, yoga and meditation online class repository at the beginning of the pandemic, with plans to open a brick-and-mortar studio in the virus-free future. The website lets you browse by difficulty level and class length—you can even search by different types of dance such as hip hop, jazz fusion, contemporary.
Top of the class: With her Play and Party classes, Lam wants to make contemporary dance approachable and fun… even for those with toddler-level hand-eye coordination. These 30-minute follow-along sweat sessions will get your blood pumping, and might even teach you a few moves to bust out when we can all go dancing again.
Cost: $20 per month, or $182 for a year.
Schedule: The on-demand class catalog can be found here.
What to expect: This ballet-inspired workout—which blends dance moves with Pilates and yoga—won’t transform you into Karen Kain, but the movements will build strong, lean muscles. The instructors get creative, with both cardio sets (who knew sweating could be elegant?) and equipment, too: a dining chair can act as an ersatz barre.
Top of the class: Professional dancer Paulina Witkowski’s bAAArre class proves low impact doesn’t necessarily mean easy. These 50-minute sessions target the arms, abs and butt with dance-inspired moves.
Cost: $50 per month for unlimited virtual classes; equipment, including resistance bands, weights and mats, are also available for purchase.
Schedule: Two new classes are uploaded daily, with the entire catalogue available on-demand, as well. See the schedule here.
What to expect: In its brick-and-mortar incarnation, Elle is a women-only gym; online, they’re open to anyone who wants to sculpt a bubble butt. Classes range from weights-only strength sessions to equipment-free cardio classes.
Top of the class: There’s a reason over 180 people tune in three times a week for co-owner Michelle Epstein’s 55-minute Bootcamp Class: these high-intensity circuits will leave you smiling from the endorphin rush—that is, after you catch your breath.
Cost: Free, but donations are welcome.
Schedule: Seven-day Instagram Live programming with a variety of classes per day. Check their Instagram for the weekly schedule.
What to expect: Pre-pandemic, this swanky gym specialized in two things: boxing and blowouts. Now, they’ve pivoted to offer a fitness smorgasbord. Boxing is still on the menu, but there are also classes for people with equipment as well as equipment-free boot camps.
Top of the class: Bolo’s Tabata workouts creep up on you with 20 active seconds followed by 10-second breaks. The first sets of lunges, curtsey pulses and toe touches breeze by, but by the last round of long-jump bear crawls, you’ll be begging for a longer rest.
Cost: $8 per Zoom class, which can be bundled for $50 for 10 classes.
Schedule: See the Zoom class schedule here.
What to expect: This martial arts gym has forged some seriously impressive black-belt fighters who have won international titles. But that doesn’t mean you need wrestling, boxing or jiu jitsu experience to take one of their classes, which range from beginner’s boxing to equipment-free fight fit.
Top of the Class: OpenMat MMA is one of the few gyms running kid-friendly programming, which is why their Parents and Kids Boxing is our number one pick.
Cost: Free, but you can become a sustaining member for $40 per month.
Schedule: Schedule updated on their Instagram, DM for links to the Zoom classes.
What to expect: A diverse cast of coaches with backgrounds in everything from gymnastics to boxing lead high-impact, no-equipment classes (like Bodyweight HIIT), low-impact, no-equipment classes (like Power Pilates), as well as classes built around minimal equipment like resistance bands.
Top of the class: Any class helmed by Harmony owner Ali Lubin is going to be a heart-racing blast. Lubin is a treasure trove of creative exercise moves, which means her classes are always fresh, fun and engaging.
Cost: $10 per class or $80 for 10 classes. Saturday’s 9:30 a.m. class is a freebie.
Schedule: Zoom classes are at 7:15 a.m., 9:30 a.m., and noon on weekdays, and 9:30 a.m. on weekends. On-demand classes are also available on the Harmony Fitness website.
What to expect: This music-driven boxing workout matches jabs, crosses and hooks with up-tempo beats. Most boxfit spin-offs focus on flash over form, but Undrcard strikes a good balance between technique-focused breakdowns and high-velocity cardio movements meant to push heart rates into the stratosphere.
Top of the class: Head Trainer David “Wild” Rose (no relation to Dan Levy’s Schitt’s Creek alter ego) kicks off his Boxing HIIT class with shadow skipping before progressing into punches and footwork. If the non-stop punching, pivoting, and slipping isn’t enough to make you break a sweat, the planks, jump squats, and plyo lunges sure will.
Cost: $8 per live class, $120 for 20 live classes and $8 for on-demand class rental.
Schedule: See the live class schedule here; on-demand classes are posted here.
What to expect: This gym is dedicated to providing space for all bodies, regardless of age, income, gender or athletic history.
Top of the class: Formation is a twice-weekly class specifically designed for women of colour, aimed at fostering a space for marginalized people to feel empowered. Coaches open with mobility exercises to warm up the muscles before launching into an intensive HIIT workout that challenges endurance and strength.
Cost: Formation is PWYC. Drop-in classes are $8 per Zoom. Unlimited sessions for a week at $25.
Schedule: See the schedule here for Zoom classes.
What to expect: F45 is a worldwide Aussie-based franchise, so the local gyms get a tech leg-up from HQ: on top of Zoom classes led by Toronto trainers, there’s also a fancy app with on-demand workouts, as well as yet another app to help with fitness tracking, meal planning and goal setting. F45’s 45-minute sessions will leave you a gasping mess after a routine of sprawls, and on-the-spot high knees. These high-intensity burners keep your heart happy but are not ideal if you live in a building with downstairs neighbours.
Top of the class: On Saturdays, the unflappably enthusiastic duo of Ryan Greene and Britt Davies lead Hollywood, a mix of 27 cardio and body-weight strength exercises ranging from classic masochistic favourites (burpees) to lesser-known exercises like Egyptian push-ups. While Davies (a dancer who makes jumping lunge squats look effortless) demos the moves, Greene watches the screens, correcting form and dolling out encouragement.
Cost: $29 per week for the live Zoom classes plus the on-demand F45 HQ workouts, or $30 per month for just the on-demand classes. More pricing information here.
Schedule: Twice daily weekday Zoom classes, and at 10:00 a.m. on weekends. Slide into their DMs for more information.
What to expect: This Bloordale boxing club usually runs 90-day camps aimed at getting newbies ready for their first fight in the ring. They also run elite training sessions, as well as cardio classes that hone hand-eye coordination while revving up the heart rate. With in-person punching currently on hiatus, though, UBC’s Mayweather-wannabes are getting their boxing fix from the gym’s live-streamed workouts.
Top of the class: Owner Geordan Thomas’s Fitness Boxing adds punches to just about every exercise imaginable. High knees or burpees too easy for you? Sprinkle in some air punches. Thomas makes these moves look easy, but his cardio and strength sets will knock you out.
Cost: Free workouts posted on Instagram and YouTube.
Schedule: See class schedule here, or check their Instagram.
What to expect: Philosophy owner Phil Ortwein rented out just about every dumbbell, barbell and kettlebell in his 12,000-square-foot St. Clair West gym to facilitate the move online. With equipment in his members’ hands, Ortwein is able to offer an expansive range of virtual classes, from yoga to boxfit, as well as targeted strength sessions aimed at tightening cores, lifting booties and sculpting rock-hard abs.
Top of the class: Jill Saltzman’s Strength Bootcamp will push your muscles to their limit using a mix of weights and bodyweight exercises. Her eagle eyes are unfettered by webcams—she’s quick to correct form, even over Zoom.
Cost: $120 a month for unlimited virtual classes, or $70 for five classes.
Schedule: Between two and four live Zoom classes a day. Booking for the classes is done through Philosophy Fitness’s app. See the schedule here.
What to expect: Academy of Lions has adapted CrossFit for those stuck at home with no equipment on hand. Expect daily workouts that challenge strength and cardio endurance with burpees, squat variations and skipping. Regulars without home weights can get creative for floor-to-overhead movements using things like laundry detergent jugs and sacks of flour.
Top of the class: Learn how to walk on your hands by taking one of The Academy’s gymnastic handstand classes.
Cost: $17 per Zoom Class, $135.75 for a monthly membership.
Schedule: See schedule here.
What to expect: This year-old downtown gym has some of the best-produced and varied videos in the city. Workouts range from 45-minute HIIT sessions (featuring tuck jumps, mountain climbers and boxing combos) to slow yoga flows. For those with a stationary bike, they also offer Spin classes.
Top of the class: Odeta Kasa’s Booty HIIT and Core HIIT classes aim to lift your butt or sculpt out abs in just 35 minutes, combining strength exercises and cardio bursts for optimal results.
Cost: Free daily 30-minute Instagram Live classes as well as $8 per Zoom class, and on-demand classes for $15 per month.
Schedule: Free IG Live class schedule posted weekly on Instagram. See the live Zoom class schedule here.
What to expect: This gym is obsessed with progress. Their trademarked HiFlux program ups the game every four weeks by adding reps, increasing load and decreasing rest time, so that aspiring athletes never plateau. Equipment—including dumbbells and a heavy weight, such as a kettlebell—is recommended.
Top of the class: One Academy co-founder Jesse Bruce (one of Canada’s top obstacle course racers) is an Energizer Bunny of pure, unfettered enthusiasm. And you’ll need to feed off his hype to survive his once-a-week Everest classes: a 75-minute marathon of structured HIIT circuits designed to fatigue just about every muscle of the human body.
Cost: $17.50 per class or $209 a month for unlimited classes.
Schedule: See class schedule here.
An earlier version of this story misstated the need for equipment during virtual One Academy classes. They are recommended, not required. Past sessions at One Academy have included a variety of equipment replacements including backpacks, cans of beans and wine bottles.