◊ WHO THIS IS FOR ◊
anyone who wants to feel damn good – about themselves, about their bodies, about the world for just a minute
WHAT YOU NEED
a digital device & your bod
SOUL FUEL Fitness is a fairly new player to the Toronto fitness scene, having opened in September of last year on Bloor Street West and as they preapre for their 1 year anniversary that’s set-up to look very different than originally planned, they continue to position themselves with grace, support and above all else…joy. Major, major joy.
There was an undeniable charm that resonated from SOUL FUEL’s boutique, feminine, cheeky, and vibrant studio when we visited them in December last year (read the review here), but they’ve successfully managed to transfer the same kind of energy and feeling of inclusivity from their physical space to this new digital one – which is no small feat. While some studios have been scrappy and done what they can to broadcast classes from their living rooms, MJ Shaw, Soul Fuel’s Owner pulled from her background in film, television, and performing arts to leverage the camera to her advantage, turn SOUL’s studio into a mini TV set, and film everything from the studio from the beginning .
Like everyone else in Toronto on March 16th, they closed their doors thinking it would only be for a couple of weeks. After a few days of doing livestream classes on instagram (where ~300 people tuned in by the way) it dawned on MJ “that this could be months and I immediately went into fight or flight – and I’m always fight”. Being a small business, she had to devastatingly let her entire staff go, so she was on her own to completely redesign the website, film classes and move her entire business online. In under a week.
“I knew that if I didn’t get in quickly, I would loose my clientele”MJ Shaw
The good news is that SOUL had a tiny advantage. They were already on Zoom, as MJ had been offering classes and private training for high profile and international clients that have followed her over the years, so they were already familiar. And by March 22nd, less than week after shutting down, they relaunched a new website and complete online program with over 25 classes a week all filmed from their bright and friendly home studio.
Now, the thing you must know about SOUL Fuel is that inclusivity is their absolute guiding light. Every class is tailored to every level of fitness, they even include kids classes (5+), and the pricing of the programs ensures it remains accessible to everyone. They have a free intro week to try them out, the drop-in rate for a single class is $10, or you can join for $20/week for access to unlimited classes. This is easily one of the most affordable online programs we’ve seen.
They even have a sponsorship program where they pay for your unlimited access membership if times are tight. With just a minimum of $1.00 donation, and no explanation required just email them and ask for it.
The other thing that you must know about SOUL is that these classes are unique and VERY VERY cathartic. Yes they will make you sweat, and yes you will move, and burn cals, and tone muscles, but you will have a really damn good time. Since self-isolation we’ve taken their JUMP + CHARGE HIIT class and one of their signatures FITPOP – a cardio dance workout to the best pop classics + hits. Both classes were super easy to do in any space, didn’t require any equipment, they had killer & notable music choices (singing along is highly recommended) and the instructors were energetic, engaging and provided modifications and corrections even from zoom.
These are the perfect classes for anyone looking to sweat and smile. Period. Suitable for ALL ages and ALL fitness abilities, you’ll do movements that combine dance with bodyweight training, you’ll jump, you’ll do repetitive movement for toning, and you’ll do a lot of cardio. They also dropped subtle advanced moves to add-in if you wanted to push yourself. These exercises perfectly tricked my brain into thinking I was just dancing and having a good ol’ time, but all series’ of movement, targeted sections of my body and made sure I got a full-body workout.
When I had the opportunity to chat with MJ about what this COVID-19 journey has meant for her and SOUL, there were two very cool things that stood out to me. First – like many studios right now she’s thinking and preparing for the re-emergence stage.
Of course, no actions will be taken until they are given the go-ahead from government officials and every decision will be based on the latest medical information, but they are planning to do a combination of live and in-person classes for a while. They’ll be creating pods in the studio, which will be squared out spaces with a maximum of 10 people in the class to give appropriate space between participants, and they’ve invested in a camera and digital equipment to position a screen at the front of the room that can swing out and be part of the class. Think “part film set, part live class”. LOVE THAT.
The other thing that stood out to me is how in-touch MJ and her team are with their community. Like I’m sure many of you have been feeling (and myself included) the last week or so has brought on a sort of lull. There’s been a shift in peoples motivation and energy, and the impact of our realities is wearing on us and getting tired. MJ felt that in her own energy, from across the screen in her classes and in seeing attendance numbers dip. So she’s reacted. What motivates people she thought?! Money & movement.
This week they’ve started a 21-Day Challenge to complete 15 classes in 21 days, it costs $20 to enter, and you’ll be entered for a chance to win cash prizes. First prize is $500, the second prize is $200, and the third prize is $100. There are also weekly draws for prizes from local businesses, and everyone who participates receives online swag. Every extra workout above 15 gets you another ballot in the draw, and the classes can be live or recorded on-demand classes (they can track views). So you can work around your schedule to get your classes in.
“So get off the couch and onto your mat. Use those wine bottles as weights. Convert that lethargy into dopamine.”
Tomorrow (May 16th) is the last day to sign-up for the 21-day Fitness Challenge and you can do so here. Trust us it is SO worth it, you’ll have a blast, you’ll sweat, and you’ll experience a release from the combination of the nostalgic & catchy music that you probably haven’t felt since you were a teenager. Which is likely VERY NEEDED right now.
We can’t wait until we can get back in the studio and experience this contagious, positivity ourselves, but until then – we’ll be online sweating along with you.
Happy Sweating everyone!
Tabs is a freelance Brand Strategist, co-host of The After30 Podcast and creator of Fit-City Guide. You can find her at home like everyone else right now, trying to squeeze in time for a run and sample a fitness class online. When she isn’t writing for Fit-City Guide, Tabs is chasing her toddler son, drinking bubbly (likely at the same time), and eating popcorn.