Where to find the latest, coolest, most high-tech innovations in workout science

Where to find the latest, coolest, most high-tech innovations in workout science
Surfset Photograph courtesy of @SurfsetTO

Since the dawn of sweatpants, health nuts and fitness neophytes alike have sought out the newest, fanciest, techiest ways to get in shape, fast. It hasn’t always been pretty or pleasant (we’re looking at you, Shake Weights), but the gym rats of 2016 have access to a vast selection of gear, garb, classes and devices designed by honest-to-goodness scientists to deliver the latest and greatest in workout innovation. Here are the most high-tech ways to stick to that New Year’s resolution.

Break a Sweat

Three gyms that feature newfangled devices and futuristic machinery that make exercise feel more sci-fi than ho-hum.

1. Orange Theory Fitness

Multiple locations,

The gear: Patrons don specialized wristbands or chest straps that track their heart rates—and broadcast them on giant TV screens for a little extra motivation. The workout: A combination of lunges, squats, burpees, free weights and cardio machines—basically everything—in 60 minutes. The science: Orange Theory is structured around the idea of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (or EPOC). Gymgoers watch to make sure their heart rates stay above 84 per cent, which results in a calorie burn that lasts well beyond the locker room.


2. Surfset

2481A Yonge St., 416-787-3738,

The gear: The RipSurferX, a training board that simulates surfing. The workout: Classes include yoga and high-intensity interval training, all done while balancing atop the RipSurferX. The science: As your body weight shifts, the RipSurferX moves with it. Keeping the board level requires constant dynamic muscle engagement.



3. BodyInvest

170 Frederick St., 416-214-2639,

The gear: The Loncego, a charged-up bodysuit. The workout: Resistance exercises (think: lunges and planks) with a bit of stationary bike-riding. The science: The Loncego sends electrical impulses to muscle groups, creating an additional layer of resistance.


Enter the Bod Pod


Ryerson University’s Nutrition and Exercise Testing Lab (a.k.a. NExT) offers a battery of tests (ranging in price from $50 to $1,000) to the public that are typically only available to pro athletes. The lab’s technicians can do an ultrasound on your thigh or abdomen to measure the exact number of millimetres of fat; monitor you as you run on a treadmill; and put you in the Bod Pod, which collects and parses information about your body composition (body-fat percentage, lean mass, fat mass, etc.). Here’s how it works, in three easy steps:


1. Strip down to your skivvies. The presence of any excess air in the folds of your clothing can cause imprecisions. 2. Don the swim cap. Staff offer silicone caps in red, blue or a SpongeBob SquarePants–themed design. 3. Hop in. The egg-shaped machine is pressurized. It fills with cold air and takes body measurements based on the volume of displaced air. A detailed report is emailed to you later.


Get in Gear

State-of-the-art stuff that’s as smart as it looks.


To design the ergonomic Ultra Boost pictured here, Adidas used 3-D high-speed digital imaging technology that measured how athletes’ feet hit the ground. $210.


Toronto-based Adrenalease’s shirts have built-in adjustable elastic straps that, when tightened, correct posture and discourage slouching while working out (or just sitting at a desk). $120.


Lucas Hugh’s high-performance leggings are Hunger Games ready: Hugh created Katniss Everdeen’s leotard in the film franchise. $220. Ardith, 373 Roncesvalles Ave., 416-878-7088.


Lolë’s mat is made of thermoplastic elastomer, which is eco-friendly and easily returns to its original shape after being bent into submission. $99. Lolë, 88 Yorkville Ave., 647-748-9455.


The OMbra has integrated sensors that measure your heart rate as you work out, then an app delivers information on calories burned and other performance metrics. $189.


Wiivv’s mobile app scans the shape of your feet, then sends the data to a 3-D printer, which spits out a pair of completely custom orthotic insoles moulded to fit your feet. $107.

Photograph courtesy of Frontier
Photograph courtesy of Frontier

Local design firm Frontier consulted with biomimicry experts to create this tuque, which is a must-have for outdoor fitness enthusiasts. $195 (wait list only).



Post-workout sustenance that goes beyond protein bars.

tap web

Endurance Tap: A gel that gets its recovery-assisting electrolytes from the most Canadian of ingredients: maple syrup. $3.25 per pouch. Blacktoe Running, 95 Bathurst St., 416-792-7223.


Biosteel: The bright pink sports drink contains no sugar or caffeine, and has a fan in Oilers wunderkind Connor McDavid. $45 for 12 bottles.


Entomo Farms Cricket Protein Powder: Eating bugs may be the way of the future. For now, they’re a great source of post-run protein. From $12.38.



Get Appy

Laura Davidson, former staffer to Kevin O’Leary, developed Whistle, an app that matches you with workout buddies. We asked her for the backstory.

From the look of it, Whistle is like Tinder for athletes. Is that about right? Basically. It’s a social fitness app that connects people who are looking for someone to work out with.

Why did you decide that this was something the world needed? I’ve bounced back and forth between being in shape and falling back into bad habits. I needed someone to hold me accountable and keep me motivated, but I didn’t want to pay hundreds of dollars a month for a personal trainer. Trying to recruit friends and family to join me at the gym didn’t work either. I actually tried using Tinder. I created a profile to match with other women and would solicit workouts rather than dates.

And how did that go? Obviously, the people who I was matching with were actually looking for romance, so I was constantly explaining myself. I never met up with anyone. But, once I had the idea of matching with people for fitness, I started work on the app.


I assume you’re using Whistle now instead. Constantly. I’ve met some really interesting people, including a fitness match who used to play professional soccer in South America.

The app has been around for about a year now. How’s it doing? Great. We have around 3,000 users, 95 per cent of whom are from the GTA.


Sign up for This City, our free newsletter about everything that matters right now in Toronto politics, sports, business, culture, society and more.

By signing up, you agree to our terms of use and privacy policy.
You may unsubscribe at any time.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.


Big Stories

The Battle for Leslieville: Gentrification, opioids and murder in the city’s most divided neighbourhood
Deep Dives

The Battle for Leslieville: Gentrification, opioids and murder in the city’s most divided neighbourhood