This weekend I had the privilege of participating in the Toronto Fitness Challenge in support of Sick Kids. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had working out. Being led by some of Canada’s best was a dream come true for me. I wouldn’t have been able to get this type of experience at any conference so am so excited that Sweat Equity Magazine and Fit Factory Fitness were able to make this happen. The staff that were helping out at the event were amazing and super helpful with any questions we had and with registration.

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The event started with an opening ceremony where Erica, a SickKids ambassador, shared her inspiring story about beating bone cancer and having her leg amputated because of it. She is now a National Rowing Champion and you can tell that nothing holds her back from striving for more. Her courage to get up on stage in front of all of us and speak was so humbling.

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The great thing about the 2 days is that you have options. You can participate in sweat sessions, workshops or take a break and see all of the vendors at the Pro Show. I have to admit I didn’t last all day, partially because I was waiting in line to meet Trish Stratus (which I’ll get to later) but from the sessions I did participate in I learned a lot and sweat a lot.

Jock Yoga was the first session I participated in and what an amazing workout it was.   Michael DeCorte, who is the founder, is a fabulous instructor. Reading his story on their website is very inspirational (I highly recommend you click and read).   Not only are you getting the benefits of the poses but you’re also getting some body weight conditioning too. Removing upward dog from our flow and replacing it with some push-ups made it more interesting and more challenging. Both men and women can benefit from this athletic yoga method, a term used to describe the workout on their website. It was refreshing to take such a unique class and the instruction to get you into the poses was fantastic. His team is quite remarkable and it was a pleasure to watch them on the side of the stage doing their yoga tricks.

Sgt. Tony Austin co-founder of Fit Factory Fitness is a former U.S Marine Corps Drill Instructor. His workout and approach to teaching was my favorite session from the entire weekend. He definitely raises the bar for any instructor in the city of Toronto. From reading his about section of his website you can tell he doesn’t stand for any garbage. I love how he calls out the bootcamp instructors who are following a trend and getting their certification from a weekend course. He speaks my language and preaches exactly what I do about the industry. I love this man already and have only met him once. Even though his workouts are fierce he is the kindest and most humble person I have met. I asked to take a photo with him and his response was, well can I take a photo with you? How humble is that! My favorite line he said during the workout was when a girl was fixing her hair and he said, “Don’t fix your hair. This isn’t a club. Nobody’s buying you a drink.” Hilarious right? Work hard and get sweaty doing it. Now that I’ve sung the praises of Sgt. Tony Austin let’s get into the workout. There were 4 stations led by his team and Marc Lebert (the humble, generous and kind man that gave me a pair of Equalizers for free). They consisted of multiple functional exercises which were fantastic. Each station was as if you were doing 3 different exercises but they were combined into 1. It may take a bit more coordination to get your flow going but knowing you were doing so much more in a short amount of time actually made it easier than pumping out as many push-ups as you can in 30 sec. The hardest part was when we would come together as a group and hold a specific exercise, for example, a straight legged v-sit. We had to count down to 10 but he wouldn’t start counting until everyone was holding it for a bit. If someone from the group dropped we had to wait. Brutal, but so worth it! If you live downtown and have the chance to attend a class I highly recommend checking Fit Factory out.

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I wish I had stayed for the Battle Arts Academy sweat session (partially because WWE Superstar, Santino Marella, is a co-owner) but was really itching to go and check out the vendors at the Pro Show. I did watch from afar and I have to say that Steven Wong is very educated and has great guidance and leadership skills. The workout looked amazing and like it targeted every part of your body. I will have to go and visit their stomping ground in Mississauga one day.

While browsing the vendors I came across this awesome Vegan chocolate company that is based out of Orangeville. Giddy YoYo is made from cacao, not cocoa and is free of gluten, dairy, soy, nuts, refined sugar and all other nasty funk and is certified organic. I tried both the sweet and vanilla with salt and they were equally delicious. They didn’t taste heavy like a milk chocolate bar. They have many other products so click here to check out this awesome local company. You can purchase their products online from their store or from health food stores.

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Now that I’ve tried many samples and watched some of the fitness model competitions it was time to work out again with a Zumba session. The instructors they had for this session were phenomenal. I’m not usually a fan of Zumba because of the non-verbal cues but Nile Said and Amanda Grant were outstanding. They definitely made the party super fun and are natural leaders. I love the energy they both had and the fact that they have different teaching styles is what made it fun and interesting. You could tell that Amanda has been a dancer her entire life and loves to perform which shone through when she was leading us. She had the animated face and all which makes you want to keep moving. I could see Nile being the guy at a local salsa club being the first one out on the dance floor and tearing it up.  He knows how to have a good time and is very motivating when he’s leading. The short segments that Zumba teaches makes it easy for anyone to attend a class; not like a typical dance class where you’re learning a bunch of steps over 8 classes to make it into a full dance routine. As long as you like to move and have fun then Zumba is for you.

Tommy Europe is well known and his workout should be as well. SHRED Abs & Butt focused on just that but keeping the movements slow and controlled which I can appreciate. Many times instructors are focused on speed and fitting in as many reps as you can within a set amount of time when they should be first and foremost concerned about form. Tommy’s class focused on just that, form first and keeping the movements controlled so you isolate and target the area you want to work. I appreciate this type of approach and was a nice change from the previous sessions I attended. I particularly loved the fire hydrant with leg extension to really target the glutes and abductors. There were some great alternatives to some already existing exercises too.  A great way to repackage a classic exercise. His no screaming at you demeanour was a refreshing approach to teaching and I thoroughly enjoyed the portion of the class that I took.

I had to duck out early though so I could get a spot in line to meet Trish Stratus. This made me miss Eva Redpath’s signature Equinox class, Stacked however I did watch it from line and was doing some of the exercises which felt awesome! I work very close to Equinox Toronto so know I can drop in one time to attend her class. Her instructing is phenomenal and she kept reminding everyone that they are sweating for Sick Kids. A great motivator to keep you moving. Eva is very well known in the fitness industry , is the creator of BCBD and is the first Nike Master Trainer in Canada. She also does a ton of charity events which makes you love her even more. The Stacked format is to keep adding exercises to the format which makes the workout very challenging. I am really looking forward to attending a class one day.

Waiting to meet Trish Stratus was interesting. She has a lot of dedicated fans which kept me entertained while waiting in line. I have been a fan of hers since her WWE days. She proved that you can kick ass and be sexy all at the same time. She was the face of the Women’s division and her athletic ability and character proved that. She could make you love her and hate her all at the same time which many talent now a days cannot do. The group of ladies she was with were the cream of the crop and in my opinion no other group of Diva’s can ever come close to that. She was inducted into the Hall of Fame last year where she announced her pregnancy. She had a baby 8 months ago and looks like this:

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What an inspiration to mom’s out there that you can do it. She has a very busy life running a studio, media appearances, mommyhood, family life, etc and still makes time to work out while spending time with her son, Max. You can see her workout routine in the May issue of Sweat Equity Magazine. She proves there are no excuses to fitting in even the smallest workout to keep your blood flowing and body moving. I didn’t have very long to chat with her at the autograph session so I was able to get our photo taken and have her sign a photo of her and my son from 2 years ago at the CanFitPro conference. She is very down to earth, kind and beautiful on the inside and out.

Day 1 of the Toronto Fitness Challenge is now over and time for me to head home to see my family and go out for dinner to celebrate my husband’s and my wedding anniversary.

Stay tuned for my experience with Day 2 of the event and the amazing workouts I participated in….and a much longer one on one chat about business with Trish Stratus.

To be concluded….

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