◊ THE CLASS: Open Gym, Prenatal, Elliptik, and Trek ◊
WHAT YOU NEED
It’s not very often that we review gym’s, but Keep Cool is like, a cool gym, so it made the list. The truth is, as soon as we heard that it’s a gym “concept” (key word) from France, we were even more intrigued bc anything that makes us feel French we’re into. The nuts of it is, Keep Cool has the makings of a typical gym with a bajillion treadmills and ellipticals, but its virtual classes, super high tech equipment, unique equipment that we’ve never seen before, and attitude that preaches acceptance and balance, sets it apart from every other member only gym that we’ve been to. Direct quote – “in France the importance of fitness is matched by the importance of wine” – YAS. Also, the fact that this is the first Keep Cool gym outside of the 200+ locations scattered across France, had us paying attention. If we were the betting type, we’d be putting $$ down that you’ll be hearing a lot more about this franchise in the near future.
Keep Cool is located a tad north of the downtown core of Toronto, just south of Wellesley on the second floor of 530 Yonge Street. It’s not a bad location but it could probably get more foot traffic if it was a bit closer to the core, and since parking in the area isn’t super easy to find, being accessible on foot/public transport is important. The good news is, it’s easy access from the TTC with the Wellesley subway station up the street and tons of buses and streetcars running on Yonge. Apparently they’re planning to open a second location in Toronto soon (timing not known yet) but the location is rumoured to be downtown but further west. Oooooo.
Since it’s a gym, the class schedule is a bit different. First off, there are a number of facilities and sections of the gym to cater to everyone’s tastes and workout goals. There’s the cardio section, a ladies only fitness area with standing circuit training machines, a stretching and bodyweight area, a HIIT zone that includes a training wall, TRX, medicine balls and daily WOD’s (workout of the day) from the trainers, and six virtual class rooms. Mouthful. The most impressive thing to us was the caliber of the equipment. There are ultra-mobile bikes that have gaming options with handlebars that move from side to side, the treadmills and ellipticals have TV, games and internet access including netflix, instagram, and Ted Talks, and there are a ton of machines that we either rarely see (like self-operating treadmills) or we’ve never seen (like a better version of a foam roller machine).
Now for the classes. Of the six virtual classrooms, one room uses Cyberobics® workouts which are v Hollywood and we’ll explain more later, and the other five use Keep Cool proprietary workouts. What that actually means is that because Keep Cool is a mega brand in France, there’s a giant library of workouts they create in the motherland. This is one of the most appealing things about KC that had us squealing in delight (actually). The gym room, for example, has nearly 15 categories of workouts, such as strength, postnatal, yoga, dance, abs, etc. and within each category are multiple workouts that range from a few minutes long to an hour. You can select by type of instructor if you’re really favouring one, or you can select by level of difficulty. There is a TON of flexibility here, no doubt you’ll find something you like, and there’s also hundreds to choose from that even if you did one everyday it would take you a while to try them all. Plus, they regularly add to the videos, whenever KP headquarters shoots another.
OK – so, I can’t believe we’ve gotten this far into the review and haven’t mentioned this yet, but the thing is EVERYTHING IS IN FRENCH. All of the workout screens are in French, but they use little graphics that make it intuitive, and half of the actual workouts are French. Also more on this later in the instructor section, because either the workouts are actually in French, or the instructors are super French and speaking english (with the exception of the v Hollywood Cyberobics® classes). Also worth noting, staff are onsite from 9am-11pm everyday but the gym itself is open from 5am-11pm everyday of the week.
As far as prices goes, the membership options are a tad confusing, or maybe it’s just the French way, but this is where we shaved half a fineapple. First off, there is a free trial, so I would say to everyone you should do that and check it out, second there is a $15 drop-in rate, and thirdly there are membership options. For memberships you can either go the commitment route which means you can cancel at any time with no additional charge as long as you do so within 21 days notice before your renewal date, or you can commit and save $7 per month. There is also a Live-In Partners deal that takes an additional $20 per month off the price tag of a commitment membership, BUT there is a non-commitment option (Two Cool) that basically does the same thing anyway? Either way, all memberships include towel service and are transferrable/useable in all 200+ locations in France. We break down the pricing options below cuz we were confused;
No Commitment Options:
- Cool: $49.90/mth – incl towel service
- Two Cool: $59.50/mth – incl towel service, bring a friend whenever you want but they have to be with you, pause memberships one month a year
Commitment Options (12 month min):
- Cool: $42.90/mth – incl towel service
- Two Cool: $52.50/mth – incl towel service, bring a friend whenever you want but they have to be with you, pause membership one month a year
- Cool + Live-in Partners Promo: which means essentially two memberships but one is at a deeper discount, therefore 1) $42.90 and 2) is $22.90 = $65.80 per household for two memberships (or do the commitment Two Cool if you’re always going to workout together for $52.50/mth per household)
- Students: Save $10 month from the commitment option so either (Cool) $32.90/mth or (Two Cool) $42.50/mth
- Initial Consultation: $50
- Comeback: 3 one hour sessions – $135
- Revival: 10 one hour sessions – $400
- Reborn: 20 one hour sessions – $700
As far as the vibe – these guys describe themselves as being community first, and an open and welcome place without judgement and intimidation. The best part – we actually felt that. One of the members that was working out during our visit came up to us and gave us an unprovoked ggloooowing review saying that her love was so fierce because they made her feel comfortable first and foremost. She used to be a member at World Health and Gold’s Gym, but both hard body institutions made her feel less than bc she couldn’t match her treadmill mates’ bulging 8-packs (our words). With the video game bikes, multi-tasking treadmills, private virtual classes, and trainers that are waiting in the wings for anyone that needs guidance, there is an undeniable chillness and acceptance for any body at any stage in their fitness journey. Like actually tho, because a LOT of studios claim this but the existing clientele and target market for Keep Cool is diverse with everyone from students, to retirees, to suits to people who have never owned a gym membership before and are in their 50’s.
The layout and flow of the gym is really quite nice. They have this green theme going on with a bit of a rando grass decor that separates each section, cute inspirational quotes on the walls (like “either oar” in front of the rowers – CUUUUUUTE), but the most striking thing about the space is that there are NO MIRRORS. Whaaaaaaa. Playing into the no judgement ethos, they’ve made the space an intentional no-comparing zone. The entire gym is quite large but it’s broken up into smaller, private sections so the space seems to go on forever and could hold a TON of people if it were full. There is also a small foyer with magazines and food and drinks for purchase, and the facilities are genderless, with individual change rooms that have a change space and private shower in each one. Also cool, is the key cards that you use to get into the building are also the same key cards that lock the lockers.
- Full towel service
- Filtered water station
- Free internet access
- Individual change rooms
- Access card that also opens and closes locker
- Selection of healthy snacks and drinks for sale
- All equipment provided
Since this section is a lil’ different to report on than a typical one-and-done fitness class, we’re focusing on the instructors we had for the four virtual classes we sampled (vs the personal trainers – I’m sure they’re great, but you’ll have to test those waters for us and let us know). The instructor for our Elliptik class was a very very French dude but taught the class in English and actually had us in stitches saying things like ‘move like your floating on ze cloud’ which is my new favorite way to think about doing anything on an elliptical. For the Trek class, we had a blonde bombshell that was so French cuz she was natural and gorgeous but not too perfect and her hair was all messed up but damn we loved her anyway, and she taught the whole class in French. And then our third Keep Cool class was in the Gym room and we tried the post-natal class (thanks L for sticking with your homegirl on that one) and the instructor taught the class in French as well.
So here’s the thing. If you speak French, then absolutely no problem. If you speak a little bit of French, then your probably still good bc you can pick up enough “allons-y” and “bien jue” to know what’s going on. But if you speak basically zero French, the full French classes are gonna be tricky. Interestingly, for the Trek class where we were facing a giant projection screen and following the instructors movements, it was actually very easy and intuitive to pick up what they were doing, but for the post-natal class where 90% of the exercises were on the mat with our heads down, it made it super difficult. Especially for a class where people are recovering from having a baby, correct form is paramount, and to be wrenching our heads to the side or up from downward dog constantly cuz we couldn’t understand her verbal instructions – it definitely took away from the class. Unfortunately, there isn’t the ability to choose the French speaking classes and just have them translated, which would be really amazing and resolve all of this. Hence, half the pineapples. For the fourth virtual class we took, we sampled an hour long Cyberobics® yoga class and this was all in English and the classes were filmed with an instructor on some cliff in Hawaii looking like she eats kale for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And although we have to admit that it felt nice having a giant screen of Hawaii in front of us, this reminded us more of a typical yoga video that’s been around since the 80’s or that you see on TV on the channel no one watches at 5am. Although the English speaking was great, we still preferred the uniqueness of the Keep Cool classes to the Cyberobics®.
One thing we will say, is that all four of those instructors were working their ASSES off. They were sweating hard, and unless they were filming in a sauna, it was super encouraging to know that if you did the exercise right, and pushed yourself hard, you can get a lot out of the classes.
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY
WAY HARD | HARD | MIDDLE OF THE ROADSIES | CHILL | HELLA CHILL
During our time at Keep Cool we did a few things. First off, lemme tell you about the gaming bicycles – which are the secret key to getting any couch potato gamer off the couch, or the secret to burning a high amount of calories and having absolutely no idea that you’re doing so, or just anyone in the general population bc they are SO FUN. I only rode for five minutes and in that time I was sweating and panting an embarrassing amount bc the Coin Game makes you ride faster and increases your tension every time you hit a certain level of coins or snag a lantern. Told you. FUN. Anyway, after that they impressed us further with the hooked UP treadmills and ellipticals that are fully loaded with Netflix, Instagram and Facebook, Ted Talks, BBC, the list goes on. Then finally we tried the four different virtual classrooms.
Trek – 20 minutes
The Trek class was our first impression of these virtual classrooms that hold 2-3 machines max and have giant projector screens on both the front and back of the walls. The Trek machines are like the self-operating ones we tried at Core (review here) where they only move if you start walking on them and half the exercises are about you manipulating the treadmill, like standing on the ground with one leg and pushing like a skateboard on the Trek machine with the other. Actually SUPER hard. We chose the 20 minute full-body workout and it included a warm-up, short cool down and then at least 18 minutes in between of cardio that included walking backwards uphill, the aforementioned skateboarding move, jogging, high knee walking, and galloping. We’re giving this one a Hard. Also super ideal for anyone looking for a low impact but high heart rate calorie killer.
Elliptik – 20 minutes
The Elliptik class is winning the award for most unexpectedly awesome – if such a category existed in high school. It should. K so, full disclosure – I hate ellipticals. To me, they have only ever been the lame cardio machine you only go on if all the other machines are taken and where I’ve witnessed too many a passive gym goer working on a level 1 and might as well be wearing jeans. But, alas, our French friend taught us a thing or two about being judgey. Ellipticals are AWESOME. This class was by far our favorite because it had us using these machines to their FULL POTENTIAL. We were squatting, doing intervals with increased resistance like a spin class, alternating between using our upper body to push through vs the lower body. And we were SWEATING. Full pineapple, Way Hard.
Gym (Post Natal Class) – 15 minutes
Reminder – you can choose from a ton of different kinds of workouts, but we chose the post-natal class, bc I’m still six weeks out from having my little bub, and L just did it with me for the support. Unfortunately, this was our least fav. This was one of the classes that was only in French and surprisingly it was very very very focused on core. One without a baby might think, oh yes, this makes sense to focus a post natal class on getting back your core bc you haven’t had one for nine months, but then anyone with a baby will tell you that doing that COMPLETELY depends on where you’re at in your recovery process. Rehabilitating your core after having a baby is a big deal, and should be done right, starting with your deepest and most isolated pelvic floor muscles before any kind of “ab” work. Best advice I ever received PS was to see a pelvic floor physio. They will help you understand how to properly rehab your core so you’re building it back up the right way. Anyway, the balls part about this class was that because it was in French we could have been missing a lot of direction about how to work our core properly, or even if she had different modifications depending on what stage you were in, but bc we couldn’t understand her, we were just trying to follow along and the entire 15 minutes was major ab work, so I only could do 1/4 of it. Anyway, we’re docking a quarter of a pineapple for this one cuz the very last thing you want is to get injured.
Cyberobics® – Yoga 60 minutes
Cyberobics® are the only workouts offered at Keep Cool that are not their own workouts and you can immediately tell the difference. The marketing is much more Hollywood, as mentioned, and instead of the instructors being in a Keep Cool gym or in front of some green screen, they’re in an exotic ultra-humid location meant to “motivate you”. We took the 60 minute Vinyasa flow yoga class and it was great although started off VERY slowly for a Vinyasa class. We felt this would be a really great option for those new to yoga, or wanting a gentle flow bc the instructor did a great job of explaining what you should be focusing on in each position in addition to demonstrating full-out. On the flip side, it wasn’t the heat building vinyasa style that we have come to know because it was at a slow pace, think 2-3 breaths in each position – swan dive, 3 breaths at the bottom, half-way lift 2 breaths, release 2 breaths, step-back to plank 2 breaths and on and on. We’d rate this one a Middle of the Roadies for Level of Difficulty but it was nice being in a small room with a giant screen of Hawaii. It low-key reminded me of California Adventure vr rides.
Finally – *a country known for its pastries, probably knows a lot about exercise*
To try anything else, see Keep Cool’s contact info below:
Web: www.keepcool.ca Phone: 647.812.1202 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Open: 7 days a week 5am-11pm Instagram | Facebook