Amy Pohler had the best advice in her speech to a graduating class at Harvard University: “Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you; spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” It spoke to the impact of friends and work colleagues on us. Imagine the effect if you took this mantra with you to the gym. And that’s exactly why we have this list of Toronto gyms and top fitness studios and trainers. They don’t just provide great places to sweat (which they do), but their resiliency and commitment to their communities make it damn hard not to support them. So if you’re looking for a new workout spot in the city, consider any or all of these. 

Toronto workout: Body Barre Fitness and & Training Studio

Located at the corner of Langstaff and Weston in North York, Body Barre is a women’s fitness studio offering classes, small-group and one-on-one personal training. Owner Tina Di Leo always seems ahead of fitness trends, offering her clients classes that check off all the boxes, from reformer Pilates to treadmill strength classes, as well as barre of course. I love that her classes have a wide range of fitness levels, yet I never feel like I compromised how hard I could’ve trained. 

What keeps Body Barre going?

“The community at the studio. The members and the staff are all very supportive. Every time we had an opportunity to re-open. People came back, and everyone was expressing interest and missing their classes and coming to the studio. I had to create more space in the classes for reduced capacity, increase our cleaning protocols, and shorten the class times to allow for a 15-minute window to reduce the traffic in the studio.”

How has owning a studio changed for you?

“There’s definitely been an increase in clientele. Because of that, we’ve had to schedule more classes and open up more spaces and double our class capacity. It feels like everything’s back to normal. With a surplus, that is making me feel like I’m always trying to catch up and provide more availability for members and new people.”

How do you inspire your clients to face adversity?

“We inspire clients by showing up every day and teaching them when life gets tough, not to give up. Life is going to give you challenges, and we need to rise above them and keep moving forward. Our class philosophy is very much like that. we teach people to be mentally strong, as well as physically strong. And that will translate to other areas in their life. Health is your greatest wealth. All it takes is a little movement to make you feel good and to improve your quality of life. And even though there are uncertainties in life, the number one thing that you can insure is that you can make the choice to move your body daily and watch how your body will make you feel better, healthier and stronger.”

Body Barre Fitness and & Training Studio
8383 Weston Rd Unit 110/111


Toronto workout: Body By Chosen

When you walk through the doors of Body By Chosen, you immediately know it’s legit. It has the feel of an old-school boxing gym but is modernized with better equipment and know-how. To be honest the members have such comfort in the space, that it’s hard to tell them apart from the trainers. Jason Crewe, the director of operations for the gym, is obviously passionate about a space where members and trainers both thrive. 

What keeps Body By Chosen going?

“Our mindsets have always been a no-quit attitude, and our perseverance and ‘less talk more action’ (LTMA) keeps us going. Through the lockdowns – physical activity, getting sunlight, drinking water and eating a healthy diet – that was our best defense against any illness, you need to be in the best shape you can be and eat healthy to provide you with a strong body, mind and immune system. We did online training, sold online programs and LTMA fitness, and travelled to other parts of the world where we could continue business as usual.

We focused on areas of the business that were in our control and didn’t pay any attention or put any energy into things that were out of our control. There was nothing that was going to stop us from helping people get healthy and prepare them to fight off any illness, by losing weight, building muscle, eating healthy, drinking water, getting rest and getting sunlight.”

How has owning a studio changed for you?

“Nothing has really changed. We welcome all clients from all fitness levels and different demographics. Everyone is always welcome at Body By Chosen. If anything, there is more demand for our services now because people are now seeing that being physically fit is their number one defense in fighting anything in life. We continue to do the same things we always have done as a private studio: sanitize all equipment before and after every appointment. As an appointment-only gym, we have always run a safe business and kept a healthy environment for all our clients. We were already prepared by using the tools of having good hygiene.”

How do you inspire your clients to face adversity?

“Everyone that trains at our gym works at their fitness level. And, it’s up to us to guide them and motivate them past that point to help them get their desired results. We have continued to add new classes before and after the shutdowns, and we keep a positive attitude about life always. We inspire our clients to face adversity by pushing them to new limits physically and mentally that they thought they couldn’t achieve on their own. We also live by what we teach. We just don’t train our clients, we also train and live healthy lifestyles – the LTMA lifestyle.”

Body By Chosen

1312 King Street West


toronto gyms
Trust and Accountability Kept Members in Check And Coming Back For More

Toronto workout: FitSquad

I’ve never been to a gym where the trainers are having this much fun. Co-owner Jennifer Lau, who you may recognize as a trainer from the Apple Fitness+ app, has a great sense of humour, as does her team. It makes the lifting (hello deadlifts, burpees and pull-ups) they make you do more enjoyable. Located at Peter and Adelaide, the studio was opened in September 2019 and the trio of owners, including Gabriel Lee and Aldo Frixone, don’t show signs of slowing down. 

What keeps FitSquad going?

“We want to see your dreams actually come to fruition. We were also really driven by keeping the door open for our community and for our clients and for our staff. And, quite frankly, the amount of liability and loans we had in order to get to our space, was not something we were going to walk away from easily. We made such a big effort to get there, we just knew that we needed to still be here at the end of everything, on the other side of the pandemic.” 

How has owning a studio changed?

“We definitely have moved into more of a one-on-one personal training experience, just because it didn’t make sense for us to have large groups. So, we reconfigured our entire space. And, now it’s specifically for one to four services with a trainer. And then we moved to membership for people who want to come in and train. So this way, we’re able to kind of service the people that weren’t able to access those big box gyms or didn’t feel comfortable training in a facility like that.

Also, we’re addressing a lot of things, like tight low back and necks from sitting and being more sedentary. For the most part, it became more of a focus on functional training. Because we’re such a strength-based gym, our training is low, five-to-six reps, with heavy weights. But now we’re hitting 12 to 15 reps, so a lot more volume. The capacity of our client’s training went up. And it was a nice bonus because they were training harder.”

How do you inspire your clients to face adversity?

“It’s about finding the passion to push for what you want and being motivated by the support around us. The past few years have motivated our community to speak up and really fight for things that were important or the things that we saw to be unfair. When you find something that you’re passionate about, and someone is trying to dictate a path for you that you don’t feel is your given path, you’re definitely motivated to push through that. I think we’re stronger and better for it. Seeing us make it through a pandemic and seeing that we’re still standing, has brought the broader community closer together. They really understand we’re really here for them.”


111 Peter Street, Unit 102



toronto gyms
Flow Together, Grow Together

Toronto workout: Kardia

Heather Gardner has a small but mighty gym offering cycling, yoga, running and strength training programs and classes at Spadina and Queens Quay. She grew her business from a running group to opening her space back in 2017. What I love most about her Kardia classes is how detailed she is with her instruction. She never assumes anything, which means you will know exactly what you’ll be doing and you won’t be going through the motions mindlessly. Plus, Gardner sneaks in fun-themed stuff into the studio’s schedule, like spinning to the Spice World movie, a hair bar, outdoor classes and more.

What keeps Kardia going?

“We did so many things as a studio to keep our community feeling connected. Like many studios we started offering classes through social media, then Zoom, then created an online subscription library. We are still building with many active members. It was a constant 2.5 years of being creative and thinking outside the box, to keep our community connected and engaged.”

How has owning a studio changed for you?

“As many people in our community are still working from home, the class times have definitely been the biggest change. In the past, a 4:30 p.m. class time would’ve never worked. Now it does. We’re also offering 30-minute cycling and strength classes which we started during the pandemic and they’re still a hit. While we’ve stopped live-streaming classes, we do still offer our on-demand platform for people who simply find it more convenient.

Having a large library of on-demand classes lets our clients who have moved out of the city still join our vibe and feel connected while being apart. One practice we started during the pandemic was having distancing stickers on the floor in our yoga/strength room. This is something that we kept as it ensures space between our members and keeps everyone in their own area. We also started displaying class attendance numbers through our booking software. We’re still doing this, so people who might feel hesitant can book classes with fewer people.”

How do you inspire your clients to face adversity?

Many of our classes go beyond the physical workout to connect to the ‘mental gymnastics’ involved. Holding sprints on the spin bike for four minutes, completing 45 seconds of a strength training move, or trying a new posture in our Intermediate Vinyasa Flow class. It’s the mindfulness and resilience skills we build in class, which grow confidence that we can take out into the real world. Fitness is simply our vehicle for resilience, community and fun.”


10 Lower Spadina Avenue, suite 100


Toronto workout: Yoga with Michael Decorte

Popular Toronto yoga instructor Michael Decorte is on the list of who’s who for fitness in Toronto. He has a loyal clientele base that follows him and his postures wherever he flows. I love how he nudges you to do more than you might have expected you could do. He has a knack for creating seamless yoga flows and transitions, so you don’t even have the chance to pause and think “What’s Next?” Check out his Instagram, @michaeldecorte, to keep up to date on his in-person and online classes.

What keeps you going?

“I didn’t have much of a bubble. And so I took my business online and taught almost once a day during the lockdowns. That kept me going. I bought weights and did my own yoga practice and training at home. I took my business online and people enrolled for class packages. The connection from interacting with people on Zoom actually kept me connected to the outside world. That kept me going – and financially, it helped as well.”

How has teaching yoga changed for you?

“Well, I took it online. And I was only online during the lockdowns because we weren’t allowed to teach in person. But when I did go back to teaching in person, I still continued to teach online as well – three days a week. I’ve noticed that there are a lot of newer people taking yoga and the general ability of students for advanced postures seems to have gone down a little bit.  People are looking to me to demonstrate more than before the pandemic. More intricate instructions and cues. There is more beginner energy in the classes. It’s still really hard to stay active when most of the time you are at home.

Also, yin yoga is a very popular style of yoga now, which is important in our current culture and state of things. It is very slow and is the opposite of power yoga. So I’m now offering yin as well, and it helps to slow down our minds, really stretch out our bodies and ground ourselves. It’s only been officially practiced for about 30 years. It developed out of our need to slow down and deal with challenging things. My yin classes are waitlisted now I have they’re always completely full at Equinox. Now after the pandemic, I’m busier than I’ve ever been.”

How do you inspire your clients to face adversity?

“It sounds cliche because I’m a yoga teacher, but help them to slow down and connect with the breath. I help them to notice how they feel rather than drift off with their thoughts. Because with your thoughts, you’re not present, when you’re feeling physically what you’re feeling that’s being present. And yin yoga is very helpful for that. But it’s also really challenging because you hold postures for a long time. It helps to remember that there’s always a finish line and nothing is permanent. It’s a way to get through challenging moments.”

Michael Decorte

Virtual and at Equinox

Lisa Hannam is an award-winning journalist and the digital lead at, covering fitness, health, beauty, food fashion and more. Sign up for the FLEETSTREET newsletter to read more.

Looking for more Toronto Gyms to explore? Scope out Libby’s roundup here.

All images by Libby Roach. Lead image of Equinox Yorkville.