Top Fitness Studios in Toronto

For the past year, I have been compiling the content for this piece on my top fitness studios in Toronto. I was motivated to write about this for several reasons.

The initial reason was a constant request from my clients for recommendations on where to train when I couldn’t fit them in my schedule. Even after I started working full time in health care, I dabbled in and out of training clients. But the constant struggle of time commitment plus the decline in my own fitness goals brought me to the decision last summer that after 15 years as a personal trainer, the time had come for me to hang up that hat.

Several of my clients, however, felt at a loss and many didn’t want to hire a new trainer; they wanted suggestions for places they could workout. I didn’t just want to rattle off names of studios I had read in reviews or opinions based on others. I wanted to be able to recommend places that I believed were more than just “a fun workout” or “great for weight loss”. I wanted to add another dimension to a “review”. So here in began the idea to scope out various fitness studios across the city myself.

I began this quest last fall and to date have tried over 50 classes across the city (67 to be exact). But part way through this adventure things changed for me in ways I could never have previously imagined. My entire perspective on health and fitness shifted drastically.

My health declined significantly. I went from feeling chronic fatigue, soreness, joint pain, migraines, nausea and vomiting on a daily basis to numbness, peripheral neuropathy, intermittent paralysis, difficulty walking, difficulty speaking, speech impediment, blackouts and seizures which eventually led to hospitalization and time off work. Long story short, I got Lyme disease probably from one of my many reckless hiking escapades last fall.

Part of my recovery plan included getting back on track with my training. I had to start over as a beginner. My focus was no longer about hitting a P.R (personal record) with weight lifting; it was no longer about competing in competitions (fitness, crossfit or otherwise); it was no longer even about being a “trainer” and the expectation that I should excel at training. It shifted to that of being able to move again and to that of gratitude and honouring what my body is capable of doing that moment that day. So when I resumed auditing these studios, I payed attention to modifications, to movement and to the impact the workout had on my body.

Below I share with you my top 10 fitness studio, by category. I hope I can give insight on some things individuals may not initially think to look for or classes they may never have previously considered.


1. SPINNING- Spokehaus 

I will go on record and say I am not a cardio or large group training type of person. I had never done spinning before coming to Spokehaus. Truthfully I went because I wanted to write a well-rounded review that catered to all types of fitness but I expected to not be a fan. I was pleasantly surprised! I even purchased more than one class and occasionally go to a spin session here. I also checked out other spinning studios to better suss out spinning and Spokehaus remained my front runner.

All new clients are shown how to operate the bike (change the resistance, adjust the height of the stool, clip into/out of the pedals). This is extremely important not just for safety but also to make the client feel at ease and to give them an opportunity to ask questions or share concerns, if needed.

I expected to be out of breath during the class (again not a cardio person) but I found it manageable and easy to follow the instructions provided by the instructor, Melissa Jamie. I love her energy, but also appreciated that she came down to the floor during the class to check in with the spinners. And at the end of the class she provided some positive reinforcement that made me feel like I was at a motivational speech. And I loved it so I try to book with her for subsequent classes.

The class encompassed elements of HIIT (high intensity interval training) which I personally find an effective style of training. I was able to keep up while still feeling like I was putting in the work. The music selection was upbeat – I felt like the beats made it easy to keep up with the tempo. Spinning at Spokehaus is definitely high energy, which can offer a nice counter balance if you are also doing yoga or barre.

If you suffer from shin splints, any high impact movement such as running, jumping etc may cause these issues to flare up. Spinning offers an opportunity to raise your heart rate without the intense pounding of your feet, provided you don’t have any knee issues. The class also incorporates some low body weights so that you also get an upper body workout – bonus!

For more information on Spokehaus, check out the link below:




2. BARRE – Barre3 

I tried barre at several studios, and specifically did Barre3 in NYC and Chicago, so I was not that surprised that I really enjoyed Barre3 in Toronto.

For those of you not familiar, a barre workout uses a combination of movements inspired by ballet, yoga and pilates while using the barre as a prop to balance. Additionally, the class may incorporate light weights, mats and miniature stability balls (red rubber balls displayed in the photo).

The studio of Barre 3 Toronto offers a clean and bright space. The staff are extremely friendly. Moreover the members are friendly! I have never walked into a studio for the first time and have members make small talk, welcome me and offer to show me around. The manager, Jen, was also amazing at showing me around the space, introducing me to the instructor (Sara) and even set up a spot for me next to her during the class in case I needed help. This was my first workout since getting feeling back in my arm and post Lumbar puncture so I was both nervous and cautious.

The class was lower intensity, and while the core was the stabilizer, it provided an all over body workout. It felt great to do some core specific work that was not painful on the back. If you are like me with back issues (scoliosis), ab work can be very painful so I often overlook it or give up on the exercise part way. But their mini stability balls were ideal for core work, so much so that I had to purchase one after class for home use.

The barre assists with balance and the level of intensity can be varied based on positioning, as modifications are provided by the instructor if needed. The studio is equipped with a barre on either side of the room, and a mirror to assist with posture. The class size is approximately 20 individuals, with half at the front and half at the back. It is the perfect balance between not being too crowded and not feeling like you are on display.

Barre 3 is great as a workout on its own (3-4 days a week) or as a compliment to other styles of training ( it compliments a high intensity class like spinning, for example).

For more information on Barre 3, please check out the link below:




3. KICKBOXING- Big Hit Studios 

Even though I stated above that I am not a cardio person, I have to say I gravitate towards kickboxing. Maybe it’s the power in the movements that makes me feel strong?

Regardless, I tried Big Hit Studios a few times. And my opinion never wavered. It is a high intensity class that at times had me exhausted but not enough that I wanted to quit. It really provided me an opportunity to push myself. Be sure that you are well hydrated prior to class because you will sweat!

Big Hit offers a variety of styles of kickboxing (details can be found on their website, posted below). Initially I went to a class taught by Cassie Day (she now runs her own fitness company that empowers women- ALL DAY FIT. For more info, check out  and be sure to stay tuned as I will be featuring her in an upcoming blog piece soon). Her energy and the style of training made me feel like I was really working my body. I felt powerful and it’s honestly a great way to expend some negative energy. If you are ever pissed with someone, go to a kickboxing class and let out your aggression on Bob. Bob won’t answer back nor will he reciprocate the punch. It’s extremely therapeutic.

The second class I went to was taught by  Karina V (you can also find her at Barry’s Bootcamp which just opened in Toronto last week). She brought the same level of intensity and energy as Cassie, which was very motivating. If you ever want to feel like you worked out, kickboxing may be up your speed. As always though, be sure to let your instructor know before hand if you have any injuries or concerns. Both Cassie and Karina were great at coming over to offer motivation and to check form, which is key for safety (you don’t want to be round kicking your legs and hurting yourself in the process).

For more information on Big Hit Studios, please check out their link:



Training with Bob- my non responsive partner



 Post a$$ kicking session by Coach Karina


4. WOMEN ONLY- Move Fitness

Many women are not comfortable training around men and some are intimidated with the male species walking around the gym space  (sorry boys). We also know that physiologically men and women are different. That’s where the stereotypes comes from  about men being stronger, women have more body fat etc. These are stereotypes, not always true but unfortunately many people feed into these absolutes.

To have a space though that not only caters to just women, but stands behind the philosophy that “training isn’t just about looking good in a bikini, but feeling strong from the inside out”. YES!!! I LOVE THIS!! So before even stepping foot in this studio, I knew their message alone would make them a high contender for me.

There was also an additional bias for me. One of the coaches, Nina Jung from The Jung Way (  had previously coached me at RCFLV (see #10 below) and also performed fascial therapy on me so I knew I would have nothing but great things to say about here.

The studio is a bright open concept space with a yellow, black and white colour scheme. I was instantly attracted to the yellow turf and prowler (pictured below). And they offer alkaline water for its members to stay hydrated. That’s already another win for me.

The classes  are friendly and intimate, which I prefer. Classes that are larger with only 1 instructor are often more difficult to check client form (which for me is extremely important) and to connect with the clients. The program was written in a unique way: as a menu with the main course and the dessert. Cute, right?

Nina was great at providing high energy and motivation, while encouraging team work when necessary. For a tiny lady, she is loud and strong! And always smiling so she is sure to brighten your day.


For more information on Move Fitness, please check out their link:



                           Nina providing motivation while checking form


5. ROWING- Scullhouse 

Rowing is the only form of cardio I enjoy.  It is a regular component of crossfit and an exercise I do once a week to increase my heart rate. In fact, rowing is a great option for those with knee injuries as it is low impact but still high intensity.

Kristen, the owner of the studio, was very friendly and welcoming. She gave me a tour of the space prior to the class, which I always appreciate. My eyes immediately darted towards all the motivational quotes written on the mirrors of the studio. I like that during a class, you can look up and those words can give you the extra nudge to push through.

Emma was the instructor for the class I attended, and she immediately won me over with her firm handshake upon introduction. She provided the class with a great warmup, which not many studios do. This is key for injury prevention. The program was written on the mirror but Emma also provided clear instructions to the class. I was not the only new person joining the group and I noted the others had no problem following along or keeping up. But dare I  state that I struggled with the tempo. I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why I was always 1 step behind the rest of the class. After, Emma kindly reviewed the technique, which is vastly different from that of Crossfit. Even though I was warned prior to that the technique was not the same, I didn’t expect it to be noticeable. And I always appreciate when coaches can take the time to correct form.

The class was not exclusive to rowing for the full hour. Body movements (e.g. push ups) and weights (e.g. lunges) were incorporated. I noted that there were suggestions for scaling the workout and offered guidance, both if needed. And not only was Emma encouraging and motivating us but she called out our names during the class. I learned early on that in fitness, people often respond well to the person touch so good on her for offering personalized encouragement.

For more information on Scullhouse, please check out their link:




6. STRENGTH FLOW – Fitsquad’s Iron & Flow

This class is part kettle bell movement, part animal flow. The latter was my main motivation for signing up. I am intrigued by animal flow and currently in the process of getting certified.

What is it? According to the official animal flow website, it is “an innovative program that combines quadrupedal and ground-based movement with elements from various bodyweight-training disciplines”.

Combining this purposeful movement with a strength element provides a balanced workout. The class is mainly taught by Fitsquad’s trainer Julian and sometimes Aldo. The classes are an intimate size, which is perfect for form correction. I value form over anything so can always appreciate when instructors take the time to do so. If the movement is difficult, they provide substitutions or modifications. But any one at any fitness level can do an Iron and Flow class- you don’t need any animal flow experience; I didn’t have any when I tried my first class. In fact I loved it so much that now I go every week.  I will state that with the exception of crossfit, I am not a class person but this one has won me over.

I will also state with full disclosure that aside from my new love for Animal Flow, I am a bit biased about FitSquad. One of the owners was my former trainer/physiotherapist who was instrumental in correcting a decade long poor squat form. I knew that if his name was behind anything that the calibre of training must be high. Even knowing this, I was still blown away by the knowledge and expertise provided by Julian and Aldo. One class Aldo was explaining a movement to us and referenced the posterior chain and our anatomy. Wait, what? Was I being teleported back to a kinesiology or physiology class in university? I am a “why” person so while many don’t care for this type of verbiage, it resonated with me. I like knowing why.

Sidebar- if anyone is looking for a personal trainer, Fitsquad comes highly recommended!

For more information on Fitsquad, please check out their link:




7. PILATES – Misfit Studios

Misfit studios was created by Amber. It is described as a practiced “rooted in yoga, informed by pilates and inspired by dance”. The Misfit method is a mind-body-soul movement where they teach “movement as medicine” . Naturally I was drawn to this as I  believe that movement IS medicine, especially in light of my recent health issues.

I went to the Queen location for a pilates class,  which is housed in a former church. The studio space with the greenery and large coloured glass panes definitely sets quite the atmosphere. The class was not quite what I expected, however I appreciate that not every workout will be intense and encompass heavy lifting.  It incorporated elements of fitness such as squats, but with a dance flow movement to it. Again it isn’t my style but that’s why I have included it in here- because many people would love and get a lot of value from these types of classes.

For those of you that hate working out, the Misfit classes are for you. For those of you who enjoy dancing, Misfit classes are for you. For those of you who want to move, Misfit classes are for you.

For more information on Misfit studios &  Misfit method, please check out their link:




8. AERIAL YOGA – Whole Life Balance 

I have tried aerial yoga at several locations but was drawn to Whole Life Balance as this past summer it was my home away from home. After doing an IV drip therapy session (blog post to come), I was immediately drawn to the energy of Sandra Chabot Weber, one of the owners,  that I just had to return to try out their other services (side bar- highly recommend massage therapy with Katie there).

The aerial yoga class sizes are small.  The aerial silks are bright in colour and the room provides colour therapy.  I enjoyed a class taught by Melissa, who’s instructions were explicit and it was easy to follow along. I did the gentle flow class, which is a great compliment to any weight training regime. After the class and the following day I felt my body had really been stretched out and I noted my mobility and ROM (range of motion) had increased.

For more information about While Life Balance, please check out their link:





As a former competitive swimmer and lover of weight lifting, I was immediately drawn to Strive Life whose slogan read “we are life athletes”. They pair movement with conditioning in a high energy circuit form.

I was introduced to Strive Life last fall with a class taught by Ryan, one of the co-founders. I was immediately impressed with the quality of programming and coaching skills. I am a huge fan of Tabata, which is a large component of their classes.

I returned to another class a couple weeks ago and was happy to see that their space expanded and that new movements were introduced for me (a couple I’ve never done before!).

For more information on Strive Life, please check out their link:





10. CROSSFIT – Reebok Crossfit Liberty Village (RCFLV) 

I know Crossfit has a terrible reputation especially in the bodybuilding world. I came from the world of bikini fitness competitions (don’t judge) into crossfit because of my love for Power and Olympic lifting.  I will say on record ANY sport or activity will cause injury if not done correctly. Crossfit injuries are no higher than shin splints from runners or hockey related injuries. But these issues will be discussed in an upcoming article so stay tuned.

Crossfit is one of the few group classes I enjoy participating in and I have been a member of a few Crossfit studios across the city. I actually hired the owner of RCFLV, Nic Martin, a few years ago to help me with my techniques, while I was a member at another box. I was so impressed by his level of knowledge and expertise (I often referred to him as the Crossfit Doctor although I am not sure I’ve ever told him that) that I made the switch.

I know many people say Crossfit is intimidating. Even though I worked at a fitness facility that had an Olympic lifting room for Team Canada, and even as a certified personal trainer, I was intimidated. I value technique over anything so appreciated taking the Foundations classes (the intro to crossfit) and the coaching sessions by Nic.

I drank the Crossfit cool-aid. I love their philosophy and I strongly believe in their method of movement. They are a sport that advocates for a healthy lifestyle and are constantly pushing the boundaries on what the human body is capable of.

What sets RCFLV apart, in my opinion, is they value technique over a PR, they value effort over competition, they value safety first. Every single coach (Amy, Stephen, Josh, Jordan, Jenna, to name a few) at RCFLV exudes knowledge and skills that truly inspire and motivates their members.

And if the idea of lifting those heavy weights scare you, RCFLV offers “burn” classes- HITT delivered in a fun and highly energized environment. They offer something for everyone.

For more information on RCFLV, please check out their website:


With Head Coach Amy Aldrich



Head Coach Amy with Owner Nic Martin

Pumpkin Spice & everything nice

IMG_1787 2 copy


It’s that time of year again here in Canada and many other countries. The time where we start adding the layers of clothing, see the leaves changing colours and resume our obsession with everything pumpkin.

I personally do not like coffee so the infamous Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Latte, or PSL according to some, never excited me but I am obsessed with pumpkin – pumpkin pies, pumpkin smoothies, you name it. Most of it I have to make on my own though as I don’t enjoy processed foods so over the years I have tweaked some of the popular recipes to replace butter, sugar and white flour with healthier options.

This year I have decided to share some of those recipes. AND I have formed a collaboration with some of my Instagram friends to also include some from them.

I hope you enjoy these recipes.

Leave a comment if you have any suggestions or future requests!

Also, I have created a Facebook page called “Scrubs2Sweats”. I would like to invite you to follow so you can be notified on any new posts- fitness, wellness or travel oriented including blog notifications.



  1.                    Pumpkin Pie





Pie filling:

  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2  cup egg whites
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1.5 cups almond milk



  • 3 cups coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup almond milk



  1. Mix wet ingredients together for pie filling
  2. Mix dry ingredients together for pie filling
  3. Mix wet and dry ingredients together to form the pie filling batter
  4. For the crust, spread out the coconut flour in a pie pan. Mesh together using a fork to form a crust. Slowly add in drops of coconut oil and almond milk to “stick” the flour together. If you have access to a pie impression mould, you can use it to flatten the flour and create the pie crusted edges shown in my photo above.
  5. Refrigerate the pie crust for about an hour
  6. Preheat oven to 425F
  7. Pour the batter into the pie crust
  8. Bake at 425F for 15 minutes
  9. Reduce temperature to 350F for 45 minutes
  10. Let pie cool for about half hour. Ideally put in the fridge for another hour before serving.
  11. Serve with tea or your favourite gelato. Enjoy!


Contributor: Jessy

Instagram: @scrubs2sweats

Facebook: Scrubs2sweats



2.                   No Bake Pumpkin Chocolate Energy Balls





  • 1/3 cup pecans
  • 1/3 cup cashews
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 3 tbsp. hemp hearts
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 6 medjool dates
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cloves and nutmeg
  • pinch of ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp of sea salt


Added later:

  • 5 tbsp. rolled oats (use gluten free if necessary)
  • 2 tbsp. chocolate chips



  1. Add all of the above into your food processor until the mixture comes together.
  2. Refrigerate this for about 20 minutes so they can harden a bit.
  3. Add the rolled oats to the mixture and pulse until they are combined.
  4. Move the mixture to a medium sized bowl and add the chocolate chips.
  5. Roll into balls and keep them in the fridge.


Contributor: Jaclyn Irwin

Instagram: @holistic.foodie 




3.                       Pumpkin Spice Energy Balls 





  • 10 dates
  • 1/2 cup organic puree
  • 1 tbsp organic maple syrup
  • 1 cup gluten-free rolled oats
  • 3 scoops Arbonne vanilla protein powder
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 6 pecans



  1. Blend all the ingredients together in food processor
  2. roll into balls
  3. Refrigerate for 1 hour


Contributor: Steff Sullivan, RN, BScN, DM 

Instagram: @fitnursepreneur 

Website:  to order Arbonne protein powder check out 



4.                       Creamy Pumpkin Pie Smoothie





  • 1 cup of Almond Milk
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 scoop of plant based vanilla protein powder
  • 1 tsp. hemp seeds
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Vanilla extract
  • Optional: handful of spinach


Blend all ingredients together and enjoy!


Contributor: Amanda Bottiglia, RHN

Instagram: @amandabotnutrition




5.                                Pumpkin Pie Smoothie




This recipe is very similar to the one above by Amanda, with minor variations.


  • 1 cup cashew milk
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2  cup fresh pumpkin (boil then blend to puree)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup  dates
  • 1 tbsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 scoop vanilla plant based protein powder


Blend all ingredients together and enjoy!


Contributor: Jessy

Instagram: @scrubs2sweats

Facebook: Scrubs2sweats



6.                        Paleo Pumpkin Coffee Cake  





Crumb topping :
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup


Coffee cake:

  • 1 cup pure pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat oven to 325° F
  2. Line a square baking dish with parchment paper.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the crumb topping. Mix until all dry ingredients are moistened. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the melted coconut oil, maple syrup, coconut sugar, and pumpkin. Mix well.
  5. Add the eggs and mix until blended well.
  6. Then add the almond flour, coconut flour, cinnamon, pumpkin spice, baking soda, and salt.
  7. Mix until completely blended.
  8. Pour into prepared pan and sprinkle the top with the crumb topping.
  9. Bake for 50-55 minutes.


Contributor: Diana 

Instagram: @dianashealthyliving 



7.                 Chocolate Coated Pumpkin Pie Truffled 


image1 9.12.41 PM


  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp coconut flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp each of ginger, cloves, all spice
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil



  1. In a food processor, pulse the first 5 ingredients until well combined. Then roll into balls and freeze.
  2. Melt the chocolate and coconut oil together.
  3. Dip each ball into the chocolate sauce and lift out using a fork. Place on a lined cookie sheet.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. Enjoy!


Contributor: Jessica Urack 

Instagram: @healthyhabits.byjess 




8.                 Pumpkin “cream” filled Muffins





  • 1.5 cups coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup blended zucchini
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp vanilla essence


Cream filling:

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice



  1. Preheat oven to 300F
  2. Mix wet ingredients together
  3. Mix dry ingredients together
  4. Mix wet and dry together to form a batter free of clumps
  5. mix together ingredients for filling
  6. Pour batter into muffin pan (coated with coconut oil) half way, then layer with the filling before topping off with another layer of batter
  7. Bake for 20-25 mins
  8. Cool for 5-10 minutes before serving


Contributor: Jessy

Instagram: @scrubs2sweats

Facebook: Scrubs2sweats














Photo courtesy of Joga House


I am sure many of you reading the title JOGA have probably never heard of it, and more importantly wondering what it is. A few months ago, I encountered the term a few times within my fitness circle.  One person even described it to me as “jock yoga“, which immediately got my attention.

Recently I decided to research and explore this type of approach to yoga. For me, yoga has always been a mindful practice. It certainly has many physical benefits and many people incorporate it as part of their fitness routine. But my style of training is predominantly heavy weight lifting and crossfit. That was until I started having health complications that limited my ability to move. My thinking on yoga shifted to include a deeper appreciation for what it can do for my body. The universe was also opening up my eyes to other types of movements that weightlifters alike may enjoy.




JOGA was founded by Jana Webb, a yogi with an athletic background. She wanted to bridge the gap between “traditional yoga and the biomechanics of sports”, creating a unique blend of postures and breathing techniques. To read more about this radiant soul, please check out the link below.

Jana spent years training with top athletes using this unique style of yoga. Working closely with health care professionals and fitness experts,  she created a system that benefits the athletic body.


Joga + Reebok

Joga coaches including Founder Jana (blonde babe standing in the centre).  Photo courtesy of Joga House.


JOGA is defined as a practice that ‘focuses on finding a balance of strength and flexibility, joint mobility and stability and techniques for core/breath integration while the body moves through different planes”.






So one might ask why JOGA, and not yoga? The simple answer is because traditional yoga involves long static holds which neurologically does not align with what most athletes do- they are required to move, and in many cases fast and explosively.

After trying a few classes, I can appreciate this approach which appeals to my athletic background and love for weightlifting. There are many elements of traditional yoga to it, with a spin on the intensity of the poses. In fact I dear call is the HIIT (high intensity interval training) of yoga.

Does that mean only athletes can partake in JOGA? No! JOGA is a program that incorporates specific positions aims at developing strength and flexibility. Everyone can do JOGA!




If you live in Toronto, you must try their many styles of JOGA classes (JOGA balance, JOGA strong etc) at JOGA HOUSE, located at Bloor and St George. Please refer to their website (linked below) for class descriptions or feel free to contact them directly. I got a plethora of information from both Allie MacIntyre and Allison High so don’t hesitate to ask them.

You can also become a JOGA coach. They offer certification at their Joga House as well as across the country as this style of training continues to grow.  Follow them on Instagram for updates on course dates and location. This certification is something I plan on adding to my list of accreditations early next year so stayed tuned.

For more information,  check them out on Instagram @jogaworld or their website linked below.



Photo Courtesy of Joga House


Jessy xo

Creating Autonomy for Fitness Clients

AUTONOMY- What is it? And how does it relate to fitness and training of clients?

Autonomy means to create independence with one’s own thoughts or actions. Many of us developed autonomy as a result of parents/guardian-child or teacher-student relationships. We are taught a certain task and then given the free reigns to apply those tools so that we can learn to master the said task on our own. For example, learning to ride a bike. We are shown how to do so and with practice over time, we can ride a bike without help from others.

The concept of autonomy has been adapted within many other professions. In health care, creating patient autonomy is a huge initiative to reduce medical costs and allow patients to have more control and say in their treatment. Several studies have been conducted in support of patient autonomy. For example, published papers by Elwyn 1 and  Entwistle 2 encourage enabling and providing support which allows patient to be better informed and manage their treatment.

This movement isn’t as prominent in fitness outside a regulated health setting (i.e. sports medicine, rehab etc) but it also isn’t a novel idea. Unfortunately many fitness businesses rely on the clients depending on their trainers to navigate their sessions and thereby create a dependency. From a business model it makes sense to have this type of dependent relationship. But if the purpose is to truly promote a healthy lifestyle, then helping the client create the foundation for proper movement is imperative. Thus creating client autonomy.




Client autonomy isn’t just about teaching the client what to do and expect them to perform the task on their own. IDEA Fitness Journal defines autonomy for clients as one where the individual engages in exercise because they choose to do so 3. They state that the trainer can do the following to create client autonomy:

  1. offer the clients exercise they will choose to do
  2. help them redefine what exercise means to them (i.e. that doing certain exercises at the gym on x day for y sets for z time isn’t the only exercise they can do. If the client feels restrictive then the drop out rate will likely be high.)

But in order to create client autonomy, other elements must play a role for it to be effective. The self -determination theory is a contemporary theory of human motivation and it comprises of three elements, one of them being autonomy.

  1. Autonomy- a desire to engage in an activity of one’s choosing
  2. Relatedness- feeling connected or belonging to an environment
  3. Competence- feeling desired to interact effectively with the environment




Teixeira et al  conducted a systematic review of the literature looking at exercise, physical activity and self-determination theory. Amongst the 66 empirical studies, the literature demonstrated the importance of client autonomy in fostering physical activity.

Further to that, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM’s) Health and Fitness Journal published an article suggesting that if the exercise environment is rich in autonomy support, structure and interpersonal involvement, then the needs of autonomy, relatedness and competence will be supported 4. This would thereby allow health and fitness professionals to empower their clients to take ownership of their exercise and subsequently achieving the benefits associated with an active lifestyle.

There are some fitness establishments that take pride in creating client autonomy. Bang Fitness in Toronto, for example, offers “Hybrid Training” whereby the client gets the best elements of personal training and group fitness. They get an individualized program design, nutritional counselling and 1:4 ratio personalized coaching.



Example of the Hybrid Coaching- A few clients training independently and one Fitness Coach on hand to provide guidance


As I was curious about this style of training, I sought out more details from Founder and Head Strength & Conditioning Coach Geoff Girvitz. He described the Hybrid approach as one where they “bend the system to fit the person”. He explained that they believe in creating a meaningful process with long term goals in that the client can learn proper biomechanics so that later on in their lives they can remain durable and better aware of their body’s movement i.e. a concept rooted in movement.



Geoff Gervitz- Founder and Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at Bang Fitness in Toronto


Initially the clients are shown the proper techniques, and instead of micromanaging them for the hour, they are given their program and left to train on their own but with their trainer present. This allows the clients to train independently and show their trainers what they know, and the trainers can subsequently correct the clients when the biomechanics are off. It’s a concept which truly empowers the clients to take ownership in their training.

I encourage those of you reading this article who desire a more independent style of training, especially for longevity, to seek out fitness professionals willing to create a program or system that promotes autonomy in training.


For more information on Bang Fitness, please check out their site:


** All photos depicted in this article were taken at Bang Fitness, with permission of Founder Geoff Gervitz




  1. Elwyn D. Advocating mandatory patient ‘autonomy’ in healthcare: adverse reactions and see effects. Health Care Analysis 2008; 16: 315-28.
  2. Entwistle V. et al. Supporting patient autonomy: the importance of clinician-patient relationships. J Gen Intern Med 2010; 25 (7): 741-5.
  4. Edmunds J et al. Helping your client and patients take ownership over their exercise: fostering exercise adoption, adherence, and associated well-being. ACSM Health & Fitness Journal 2009; 13 (3): 20-25
  5. Teixeira P. et al. Exerces, physical activity, and self-determination theory: a systematic review. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 2012; 9:78-108.



Anti-Inflammatory Diet




An anti-inflammatory diet is one of the most common diets recommended for inflammation reduction by a number of fitness and health care professionals. These can include injury recovery from a sports related activity, chronic disease management such as autoimmune, for overall better gut health and in some cases even cancer.


While many health care practitioners and naturopaths advocate for  an anti-inflammatory diet, a literature review of scientifically published research shows minimal studies that definitively supports evidence of  a correlation between diet and inflammation 1 . Many will argue that nutrition studies are hard to prove as there can be a number of other factors influencing outcomes.  There are few studies such as Giugliano et al, that supports the role of diet with a reduction in inflammation 2  . The conclusion for majority of studies, however, tends to be an observational one where an anti-inflammatory diet can help reduce, versus eliminate, inflammation. It should be noted that the Mediterranean diet is often cited in the literature and is very similar to the Anti-inflammatory diet as it consists of a high intake in fruits, vegetables, plant proteins, whole grains, low fat dairy and olive oil 3 .  Regardless of the diet name, more funding and resources needs to be allocated to understanding the role of diet with respect to diseases (especially autoimmune which is on the rise and not well understood).


Personally I incorporate a strict anti-inflammatory diet for a few weeks when I am recovering from a sports related injury, suffering from stomach issues or in recent times autoimmune symptoms.




Dr. Gary Kaplan, founder of the Kaplan Centre for Integrative Medicine provides a fantastic summary on the Mind Body Green website of anti-infammatory issues and foods that can be used to help reduce inflammation. The link to this article can be found in the reference section 4  but throughout this article I will share some of his suggestions as well as useful information from other articles.


What is Inflammation?  

Your immune system becomes activated when it detects a foreign invasion such as a microbe or pollen. As such this can trigger a process called inflammation. Your body is designed to help protect itself from these invaders. But when inflammation persists when it is not threatened by a foreign invader can become problematic especially when the body produces excessive inflammation. This is often the case with diseases like arthritis, cancer, diabetes, to name a few, that have been linked with chronic inflammation.

According to Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, experimental studies have shown that some foods may have anti-inflammatory effects 5  .


Anti-inflammatory foods  4,5

  • Tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Nuts such as walnuts and almonds
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Fatty fish such salmon and tuna
  • Fruits such as strawberries, cherries, blueberries, oranges, apples


Foods to Avoid   4,5

  • Saturated fats such as margarine and butter
  • Refined sugar such as those found in candy, sweetened beverages etc
  • Refined carbohydrates such as those found in pasta, pastries etc
  • Gluten
  • Dairy and casein
  • Fried foods
  • Processed meats such as hot dogs and sausages
  • Artificial ingredients such as MSG, aspartame
  • Alcohol


Other triggers of inflammation 4

  • stress
  • smoking


Other holistic remedies for inflammation 4

  • Meditation
  • Vitamin D
  • Green Tea
  • Tumeric and Cucumin
  • Chilli Pepper


Dr. Kaplan’s 11 Rules  4

  1. Consume 25g of fiber daily
  2. 9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily
  3. 4 servings of alliums (e.g. garlic, onion)  and crucifers (broccoli, cabbage) weekly
  4. Limit saturated fat to 10% daily intake
  5. Consume Omega 3 fatty acids such as cold water fish (salmon), flax meal, walnuts
  6. Eat fish 3x a week
  7. Use oils that contain healthy fats e.g. Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Coconut Oil
  8. Eat Healthy snacks twice a day e.g. Plain Greek Yogurt, Carrot sticks and nuts
  9. Avoid processed foods and refined sugars
  10. Cut out trans fats (eg magarine and those present in pastries and cookies)
  11. Sweeten meals with phytonutrient rich foods (eg apricots, berries) and spices (cinnamon, tumeric, ginger)





  1. Marcason W.  What is an anti inflammatory diet? J Am Diet Assoc 2010: 1780.
  2. Giugliano et al. The effects of diet on inflammation. Emphasis on the metabolic syndrome. J Am Coll Cardiol 2006; 48 (4) :677-85.
  3. Schwingshackl L. Mediterranean dietary pattern, inflammation and endothelial function: A systematic review and meta-analysis of intervention trials. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc 2014; 24: 929-39