photography courtesy of barry's bootcamp

A Beginner’s Guide to the Most Intimidating Workouts in Toronto

You’ve heard it all before: That your body will be incredibly sore after a workout at Studio Lagree, that you’ll lift insanely heavy things at F45 and that the magical red glow at Barry’s Bootcamp will make you feel like a god despite the fact you’re on the verge of puking all over your treadmill.

While these accounts are, well, true, they shouldn’t deter you from trying out any of these so-called intimidating classes. To help put your mind at ease, we tried all of these exercises and put together a beginner’s guide on what to expect during these workouts. Read on for advice and tips from the city’s best instructors on how to make your experience at these places less intimidating.

photography courtesy of scullhouse


Indoor Rowing

You don’t need rowing experience to visit Scullhouse: Owner Kristin Jeffrey gets a lot of first-timers as well as people of all fitness levels dropping by her St. Lawrence Market studio, so don’t sweat it. “We commonly hear that the lack of experience with the rowing machine makes people nervous about their first class,” she explains, adding that these very people tend to be surprised once learning how accessible the workout is. “The great thing about the rowing machine is that you are always in control of your effort.” To get the most out of your class, try snagging a seat beside or behind your instructor so you can observe their movements. “These are hands-down the best spots,” says Jeffrey.

photography via instagram/@f45_training


Functional Group Training

You probably know more than one person who has extolled the benefits of attending sessions at this Australian franchise (which combines HIIT-, group- and circuit-training into a 45-minute workout). You probably have also peeped your local F45s schedule, only to feel overwhelmed by the 36 class options. If you don’t know where to start (we don’t blame you!) Lauren Neal, a trainer at the Liberty Village location, suggests taking the strength classes on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, in which you will squat, deadlift, push and pull. Also note that there are TV screens around that studio that display the exercises to be done at each station. Of course, if you have questions don’t be afraid to ask! “Our trainers are here to assist and help with technique, to ensure the best possible experience,” Neal says.

photography by alexa fernando

Studio KO


Whether it’s your first time here, or your 200th, Studio KO prides itself on “making sure everyone feels like a badass before, during and after the workout,” says senior trainer and assistant manager Tara Vartanian. The classes—a fusion of cardio and boxing—are designed with both beginners and those at intermediate/advanced levels in mind, so no need for prior experience in the ring. If it’s your first time here get to class early so a staff member can go over hand-wrapping with you. “We’ll make sure you’re all set up before class, and during, we’ll focus on correcting form while keeping you motivated,” says Vartanian.

photography by arthur mola photography

Studio Lagree

Muscle Endurance Training

If we had to name the most intimidating piece of fitness machinery, it would hands-down be Studio Lagree’s Megaformer. The contraption features fixed platforms, as well as a moving platform (called the carriage) outfitted with a weighted spring system, which offers resistance while you perform sets of challenging muscle-burning movements. “We get beginners every week,” says Jennifer McChesney, Lagree Toronto’s general manager, who recommends checking out the studio’s Back to Basics class (held every week at all locations) before easing into the regular programming. During the workout, don’t be alarmed or discouraged once your muscles start quivering—it’s normal. “This is the foundation of the Lagree Method,” McChesney explains. “You will feel shaky and a deep muscle burn throughout the session because our method targets strategic muscle failure, which means we work a certain muscle group until exhaustion.” Also note that modifications are available for each move.

photography via instagram/@ridecycleclub

Ride Cycle Club

Indoor Cycling

We’ve mentioned it before: Stepping into Ride Cycle Club is like setting foot into a nightclub (not at all intimidating!). But once you’re on your bike, it’s literally just you and your body. “We always encourage new riders to sit down and find the beat first,” says co-founder Ashley Ander. “You have to learn to crawl before you can walk.” Once you’ve booked a class, try and arrive to the studio 15 minutes early for staff to give you a tour of the facilities and help get you set up. Since this indoor cycling class is based on moving to the beat, Ander suggests newcomers sit in the back or second row and towards the middle so they can observe how the class moves together. However, don’t feel like you always need to be on beat. “You are in complete control of your resistance and are encouraged to sit down and find it if you’re still learning,” she says.

photography courtesy of barry’s bootcamp

Barry’s Bootcamp

HIIT and Strength Training

Newsflash: You do not need to be fit to do Barry’s Bootcamp (a.k.a. the best workout in the world). In fact, according to instructor Darcy Pierce (who is probably the fittest person I have ever laid eyes on) “you use Barry’s to get fit.” During the 50-minute class you’ll alternate between cardio work on the treadmill and strength training on the floor. According to Pierce, lots of his clients prefer to get the treadmill component out of the way first, but where you begin is up to personal preference. He also urges newbies to not be intimidated by the weight and treadmill rages. “When I call out a sprint on the treadmill don’t focus on your speed; focus on what feels right for you while still giving it your all,” he explains, adding that not everyone is at the same fitness level. “I appreciate this and welcome every body,” Pierce says. “The beautiful thing is that we are all under the red lights for the same reason.”

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