◊ WHO THIS IS FOR ◊
those looking for a supportive tribe vibe and don’t take themselves too seriously.
WHAT YOU NEED
Water bottle, runners, leg warmers (not really but this is your opportunity)
Fill up on strength, empowerment and joy. There is literally no better way to better describe the gorgeous personality of this new studio in Toronto’s west end. There’s an undeniable charm that resonates from SOUL FUEL Fitness and it’s comes from the collective power of the studios visionary founder, the teachers, the students in class, and the studio itself. The types of fitness classes offered are incredibly unique, some of which are the only ones in Canada, like FITPOP, POUND, and FUEL BARRE, but SOUL’s original inspiration came from dance. The founder, Melissa-Jane Shaw, comes from a lifelong dancing and performing arts background as a Fitness and Dance Expert, actor, choreographer and theatre director, so many of the classes have an underlying dance component. There’s also no doubt that characteristics of the theatre – like putting yourself out there, being bold, and playing it big – sneak into SOUL’s well…soul.
But what sets SOUL FUEL apart from many dance and fitness environments is inclusivity. Big time. Those communities can often be intimidating as all hell but SOUL has made it their #1 mission to break that wide open and literally open their doors to everyone no matter what their journey with fitness (the whole front of the studio can be opened up to the street). Having just opened this last September, SOUL has already made a massive impact in their community by creating a communal space that is every bit genuinely personal as it is a ton of fun. This is the kind of fitness studio where everyone knows your name and you don’t even feel like you’re working out because you just have such a damn good time. It’s a place where you’ll make new friends and you’ll want to bring friends with you, and this is a place you’ll want to leave your life at the door and just let it go.
Read on for the full article of SOUL FUEL Fitness.
SOUL FUEL is located on Bloor Street West by Dundas West & Bloor, just east of High Park. Considering they’re on a bit of a quieter strip of Bloor, they’re mostly attracting locals that live nearby, but it’s still a super convenient location for anyone given it’s accessibility on public transit and not being far from the downtown core. Street parking is available on Bloor Street or nearby side streets!
SOUL FUEL only offers small group classes with a maximum of 16 participants so every class feels very intimate and individualised. They offer over 35 classes a week with a number of them being unique to SOUL FUEL (FITPOP, BOOSTCAMP, SOUL SCULPT) or trademark imports like ZUMBA and POUND. We took POUND and FITPOP (read on for more detail) but we literally wanted to try everything because all classes have a unique take on the original. Like FUEL BARRE, which is a barre class using Lebert Equilizer bars (EQ’s), but MJ created a version of this class with the inventor of the EQ bars, Mark Lebert, to bring to SOUL FUEL. Or HIIT HOP & SOUL SCULPT, instructor Emily Thorne created their version as a lower impact, light equipment based class for all levels. And on that – every class is available to all levels and truly, all levels attend which is so damn refreshing.
They’re also there for the parents with pop-up pre-register classes like GROOVIN BABIES, which is an easier version of FITPOP with your babe strapped into the carrier, followed by some post natal strength training, and they’ll be offering childcare during select 9:00am and 9:30 am classes very soon. And if you can’t make it to class, SOUL has an “OPEN GYM” where you can workout on your own terms with access to the main studio with dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, yoga mats/blocks/straps, gliders, resistance bands and more), as well as the basement body shop (a personal training studio with all of the above + treadmill and squat rack).
In terms of the schedule, classes start as early as 6:15am Monday-Friday with the last class ussually at 7:00pm or 7:30pm. Weekends are concentrated in the mornings starting at 8:00am on Saturdays and 9:30am on Sundays and wrapping up by midday. More classes will be coming soon to their weekends and daytime schedule as well and they’re super keen on hearing feedback from clients, so if there’s a class time or class type you’d like to see – let ‘em have it!
Prices are a little bit on the high end for drop-in at $27+HST but the prices become more reasonable as you purchase classes in bulk or sign on for a membership – which honestly most people do. The memberships absolutely provide the most benefit and highest value if you plan on attending class more than 2x/week with access to unlimited classes, priority access to class registration (which is extra nice when the class capacity is 16), free workshop passes for you and a friend, access to the open gym when classes aren’t going on, 5 guest passes, membership suspension, and more. They also have class punchcards in 5, 10 or 20 increments and those provide great value bringing the cost down to as low as $20/class. See below for full pricing.
- Single Class: $27+HST
- 5 Class Punchcard: $119 +HST
- 10 Class Punchcard: $219 +HST
- 20 Class Punchcard: $399 +HST
- Monthly Membership: $195/month
- 3 Month Membership: $185/month
- Annual Membership: $175/month
SOUL FUEL Fitness DOES NOT accept ClassPass as of January 2020.
SOUL FUEL is a small studio but FULL of fire and personality. It feels like you’re walking right into the studio because the front desk area opens up to the solo studio space they call the “group fit garage”. Its a long and narrow open room, and it’s very possible you might walk into the space when a class is already in session so they’ve thoughtfully placed feet markers on the floor to guide to the downstairs change rooms and washrooms. As a first timer that may feel a little intrusive, especially if your literally walking in front of someone looking at themselves in the mirror, but it kind of adds to the casual, and “don’t take yourself too seriously” vibe. Downstairs is where you’ll bring all of your things (except shoes) and get ready for class. They have lockers (with locks), complimentary towel service, change rooms/washrooms, a shower, coffee, tea, and water, and another personal training room.
They’ve playfully injected elements of the SOUL FUEL personality into every space they can and it creates a major vibe. Think on-brand and v inspiring neon signs throughout, a disco ball casually laying in the corner, and plenty of throwback vintage photography of kick ass women working out. Like some 40’s housewives in an outdoor fitness class, a chick from the 20’s working on her jab wearing her of-the time feminine attire but with boxing boots and gloves, and Miss Piggie herself in her 80’s aerobics class (queen). Every detail contributes to SOUL FUEL’s intent to motivate you but in a fun way.
The people at SOUL give it life. This is be no means an exclusively female studio, but the feminine power is strong and is therefore attracting a consistent audience of local women and ex-dancers. But THE MOST inspiring and refreshing part is that they really are attracting an incredibly diverse group of people that come in all shapes, all sizes, all ages, and all levels of fitness. This was, hands down, the most diverse group of women we’ve worked out with since doing Fit-City.
THE CLASS 🍍
WAY HARD | HARD | MIDDLE OF THE ROADSIES | CHILL | HELLA CHILL
The first thing you MUST believe – no dance experience is required for this class. It IS a dance class but it is so chill and so fun, it truly doesn’t matter if you think you’re a horrible dancer. It would probably make it even better! This 60 minute class ends up being incredible cardio dance workout set to the best pop classics and hits from the 70’s to today. You essentially learn a little choreographed ditty for each song but because it’s so short and sweet, you don’t even have time to stress the steps because your onto a new song and therefore new choreography. This is a SOUL FUEL exclusive class and it is a HIT. Roughly the same choreography is given for the same songs so it was clear for the regulars in the room they knew what was coming. What is absolutely key though is not to take yourself too seriously. Required: the ability to laugh at yourself.
So this is exactly what it sounds like. You pound the $hit out of stuff with drumsticks. POUND is the world’s first cardio jam session inspired by the infectious, energising and sweat-dripping fun of playing the drums. It was first created by two women who were both recreational drummers that relied heavily on stability-based exercises like pilates to keep their bodies aligned, symmetrical and lean, but were bored with routine and longed to reignite the fun in exercise. It wasn’t until they were forced to drum without a stool and squat over the drum kit that they realised drumming and exercise could be one and the same and hence; POUND was born.
You end up becoming the music in this full-body class that combines cardio, conditioning, and strength training with yoga and pilates-inspired movements. Similar to FITPOP, each song brings a new set of choreography but you use the Ripstixs® to bang against each other, the ground/mat, or just use as an extension of your arms. Also, here’s some fun facts on the Ripstix®.
+ Ripstix add 1/4 lb extra weight to each movement which throws the body
off balance, creating contraction in the core and stabilization system.
+ Ripstix intensify each POUND position with light, peripheral resistance
that not only works the shoulders, biceps, triceps, forearms, and back, but
also dramatically increases the amount of instability in the body.
+ Ripstix allow participants to experience audio-muscular connection. This
means they can hear what their muscles are doing.
+ They’re made of durable plastic and are easily transportable – and can go
through airport security – so you can take your Ripstix anywhere!
So in summary – this class was really f$kg fun.
And that’s that! Click here to visit SOUL FUEL Fitness for yourself and book in for a class!
Tabs is a freelance brand marketing strategist, co-host of The After30 Podcast and creator of Fit-City Guide. You can find her in a fitness studio every week, chatting up the instructors and fellow class goers on their experience, and generally being a creep in the background taking photos of everything. When she isn’t writing for Fit-City Guide, Tab is chasing her toddler son, drinking bubbly (likely at the same time), and eating popcorn.