Nature workouts and boutique fitness converge in Canada’s fittest city. Here’s where to get a sweat, indoors or out, in Vancouver.
Vancouverites are spoiled for choice when it comes to workouts. Canada’s third-most populous city has no shortage of boutique fitness studios and gyms, from parkour playgrounds to aerial yoga, but it’s also blessed with doorstep access to incredible nature. Surrounded by snow-dusted mountains on one side and the Strait of Georgia in the North Pacific on the other, Vancouver’s topography lends itself to outdoor pursuits of all varieties: skiing, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking and swimming, to name a few. No wonder the city consistently comes out on top in surveys of Canada’s fittest, healthiest locations.
Welcoming, inclusive, community-focused yoga (with something for every ability level and mood) is the goal of Stretch, an airy Chinatown studio dotted with hanging plants. Classes here are divided into “therapeutic” (restorative yin-style), “stretch 1” (breath-oriented hatha sequences in which poses are held for longer to increase flexibility) and “stretch 2” (vinyasa flow, helping build strength while raising your heart rate). The thing that really sets this place apart from other yoga spots in the city, though, is its focus on music. Look out for workshops with live DJs and a weekly restorative “cozy yoga” class accompanied by a cellist.
“If the body is a temple, where does it go to worship?” Eastwood’s website asks. Presumably to this independent studio in Downtown Vancouver, where spin classes and meditation coexist harmoniously in the same space. Eastwood follows the winning formula of rhythmic, music-focused rides held in a darkened studio and sprinkled with positive affirmations. After you’ve showered off, settle onto a Moroccan floor pillow for a guided meditation. Sessions last 45 minutes and employ visualization techniques to amplify awareness and increase relaxation.
Any personal trainer will tell you that in order to continue seeing improvements in your strength and cardiovascular fitness, you have to keep the body guessing. Cross-training is the basis of Kondi – a methodology that’s 25 percent callanetics (small, structured movements that target the deeper, smaller muscle groups), 20 percent pilates, 25 percent TRX (total body resistance exercise) and 30 percent HIIT (high-intensity interval training). With nine different class types, you can keep tweaking your regimen to challenge your body and mind continuously. Kondi has two Vancouver studios in South Granville and Yaletown and also offers online training for flexible workouts when you can’t make it to a brick-and-mortar location.
Vancouver is within driving distance to three ski mountains – Cypress Mountain, Mount Seymour and Grouse Mountain. Cypress, which hosted many 2010 Winter Olympic events, is the largest skiing and snowboarding mountain in the area, with 53 runs, 600 skiable acres (243 hectares) and a vertical rise of 2,010ft (610m). If you’ve never tried snowshoeing (traversing mountain terrain wearing special footwear that helps you ‘float’ on top of the snow), Mount Seymour, previously named Snowshoe Magazine’s number-one resort for snowshoeing in North America, is a great place to try it. Researchers have found that snowshoeing burns up to twice as many calories as walking, cross-country skiing or running at the same speed.
This purpose-built parkour gym, situated inside a heritage building in Mount Pleasant, is like a giant playground. Utilize boxes, bars, springboards and a huge foam pit to climb, swing and vault your way around the 10,000-square-foot (929-square-meter) space. Origins Parkour offers classes for all ages that outline the foundations of free movement and help build strength and spryness. However, you can also attend an open practice session for independent, unsupervised parkour. You might be sharing structures with actors and stunt doubles – Vancouver is known as Hollywood North, with many showbiz types coming here to train for physically demanding action scenes.
Former pole dancer Tammy Morris established Tantra Fitness in 2004 after realizing that no regular gym regimen could provide the full-body strength and agility workout that the pole could. More than 15 years and four locations later, Tantra has expanded its fitness repertoire to offer a full range of gravity-defying classes, including aerial yoga (which uses a fabric hammock for suspended, deep inversions) and aerial silks and hoops for beautifully choreographed upside-down poses. If dance is more your thing, sign up for lap dancing or erotic-dance classes, but don’t forget protective knee pads – floor work can leave bruises on fragile knees.
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