SAOR is a Gaelic term, meaning to find release and be free. That’s a fitting mantra for the fearless leader Nathania Harrison who’s leading women to better and beyond with her immersive flavour of fitness programming. Fitness isn’t an inclusive enough term to encompass what she and her dedicated team of trainers and staff are inspiring to create though. This is beyond ‘get a better butt‘ class, here your mind and body are truly challenged to change. If you’re feeling stuck in a rut SAOR is surely the antidote.

Nat Harrison + Puppers

While SAOR was mere days from opening when lockdown had all together different plans, the format of SAOR is an evolution of their well&tight foundation, which grew as organically in every sense and form, in Nat’s west end backyard. After years in corporate marketing working with pinnacle brands like Gatorade and Nike, Nat chartered a different path after becoming a Mom, and after the birth of her second child, she was spreading herself too thin, and began her journey towards fitness.

“My very supportive husband asked me, what did I need? I knew I wanted to be home, but I knew I didn’t want to *just* be home with them. Eva Redpath and the other master trainers became a huge source of inspiration for me when I was at Nike. Seeing them on the floor, motivating women, training women and inspiring them, I thought I can do that, I want to do that, that feels right to me…”

Nat Harrison, Founder, SAOR

Nat’s Cottage is Home to Wellness Retreats

Nat began taking classes and gaining certifications, on everything from Pilates to spinning, barre, yoga and nutrition. Over the course of two years her weekends and evenings were committed to the process, leveling up and learning not just about working out, but about herself and the mind-body connection. Buoyed by the endorphin boost we all receive after a particularly strenuous workout, Nat sought to inject an authenticity to her offerings, engaging with her classes on more than just getting fit physically, but mentally too.

“The secret sauce, it’s to be vulnerable and real. Movement is at the crux of everything I do. I’ve taken what I’ve learned to heal from my own mental health issues and bring them to every single class, we talk about the stories in our head, the limiting beliefs, it all comes from things that I have had to tell myself. A lot us are the same and we’re struggling internally with that internal dialog we have. If we can use the space to practice a different response thought pattern and recreate how we talk to ourselves in a more uplifting way then we can take that off our mat and be a lot more courageous in life and live a lot more fully.”

Nat Harrison, Founder, SAOR

Plant-based eats allow for your body to be nourished and rewarded

The result is powerful. You’re challenged to participate fully, you can’t phone this one in. It’s raw, and real, and yes, a little messy at times. In the fall of 2019 I was invited by some gal-pals to go on a wellness retreat at Nat’s cottage in the Muskokas. She hosts these events to her community regularly, the retreats offer decadent R&R in a pristine location (hello, cottage goals!) but the aim is more than just wine by the fire after a good sweat session. Our group shared plant-based meals care of our in-house chef, absolutely challenging workouts, meditation moments (yup, fell fast asleep by the fire on that one), journaling and a safe space to be challenged on well-established habits, like that inner dialog that discourages you from growing or trying new things.

Nat’s living room is meant to linger and allow for quiet meditation

“It makes it visceral, it allows you to cause real change, not just in your physical body but mental as well- our new tagline at SAOR is that you move the body to shift the mind to access the heart. Our mind only knows what we’ve done. Or what someone has told us what we can do, it cannot know what we’re capable of doing. If we keep listening to that dialog, we’ll never progress, we’ll never change, we’ll never grow, and for some people that’s okay. But it’s a human trait that we want to grow and evolve, and that happens in the heart, so we sit in that space, that intuitiveness and it’s our heart that allows us to access that space.”

Nat Harrison, Founder, SAOR

Paradoxically, how Nat began, offering free community classes out of the kindness of her heart, is similar to what is replicated now, some 5 years later. SAOR was due to open its brick and mortar space on April 6th. Nat kept the classes going via Zoom, delivering her flavour of thoughtful and connected fitness to her community when they needed it most. Her team of trainers and staff moved quickly to create playlists, deliver equipment and even offer free classes to first-responders. And sadly, her outfit is such that as she is earning a nominal amount, she doesn’t qualify for government assistance or funding.

While we wait with bated breath on phased-in openings, it’s a great time to show support for this female-led initiative and focus on our own future, the mind-body-spirit and go beyond your core vanity projects. You deserve it.

All photos by Libby Roach. Interview may have been edited for clarity or length.

Find out more about Nat and the launch of SAOR on their Instagram and find out how to join for just $49 per month!