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.
Stretch has yoga classes for all ability levels and hosts special events | Courtesy of @stretchvancouver / @andimcleish
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.
The Vancouver Seawall is the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path, stretching for 17 miles (28 kilometers) from the Vancouver Convention Centre to the beaches at Spanish Banks Park. You could easily spend an entire day walking, jogging or cycling this route, stopping off at some of the city’s most famous landmarks and attractions along the way. The Stanley Park loop is probably the seawall’s most popular section, home to forested hiking trails, beaches and the Second Beach Swimming Pool – an ocean-adjacent heated outdoor pool with three 164-foot (50-meter) lap lanes for serious swimmers.
Canada’s original barre franchise studio offers nine spins on the ballet-inspired workout. If you’re new to barre, start with the classic class, which involves precise, repetitive moves with a focus on posture, correct alignment and breath. From there, you can progress to hybrid sessions blending high-intensity intervals, cardio drills, yoga stretches and traditional strength training. All those muscle-shaking pulses will pay off in the form of longer, leaner limbs, a solid core and (hopefully) the posture and poise of a ballet dancer. During the warmer months, Barre Fitness hosts outdoor classes, so keep an eye out for sessions at Chaldecott Park, White Rock Beach and poolside at the Parq Vancouver hotel.
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.
The Grouse Grind is one of Vancouver’s most-used hiking trails (over 150,000 people tackle it annually) as well as one of its most intense workouts. Known as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster,” the trail climbs 2,800ft (853m) up Grouse Mountain in fewer than 1.8mi (3km). On average, it takes 2,830 steps and around two hours to complete, and many regular hikers have a Grind Timer Card that uses a radio frequency chip to track performance. Once you make it to the summit, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of the city before taking a gondola lift ride back down (descending the trail is prohibited for safety and trail-erosion reasons, much to the relief of your quaking quads).