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Toronto for fitness lovers: 6 fun ways to get active

Danielle Groen | posted Thursday, Jun 16th, 2016

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A city that boasts four major sports teams, no fewer than 200 tennis courts and, once the snow melts, a race practically every weekend is bound to be a major destination for fitness enthusiasts. But even if you tend to skew less “gym rat” and more “gym curious,” there’s a Toronto activity to get you moving. Here are a few of our favourites.

Paddleboarding on the islands

Rihanna, Jennifer Garner and (this should really come as no surprise) Matthew McConaughey are all fans of stand-up paddleboarding, and now you can hop a quick ferry and try it out on the islands. Toronto Island Stand Up Paddleboarding operates every day of the week and usually pushes off from Ward’s Beach. They have rentals, lessons and a Sunday morning eco tours, which takes you through the nooks and crannies of the archipelago’s 15 islands. Afterward, get lost in the William Meany Maze, a crazy labyrinth made up of 1,200 black cedar trees, or get brave on Hanlan’s Point, the city’s only clothing-optional beach. torontoislandsup.com.

Yoga at the AGO

Every Monday and Thursday, while the museum is closed to the public, drop-in yoga classes are held in the Galleria Italia, a light-filled, Frank Gehry–designed gallery of curving wood and glass that stretches almost a full city block. All skill levels are welcome, experienced instructors fine-tune your alignment and you can encourage an even deeper triangle pose by imagining you’re reaching to snatch a Lawren Harris off the wall in the room next door. (But don’t actually do that, no matter how flexible you are.) ago.net/drop-in-yoga.

Photo, Arthur Mola.

Running through High Park

It’s hard to find fault with the Parkdale Road Runners’ motto: “Rain or shine. On time. No one left behind.” And since this free-to-join running club is based in Toronto’s west end, it’s hard to find fault with their routes, too — they often include a jog past High Park, or along the boardwalk next to Lake Ontario, or underneath the highly photogenic pedestrian Humber Bay Arch Bridge. There’s a short (roughly 5k) and a longer (around 10K) run each week, and the Saturday morning run is reserved just for women. The pace is brisk enough for a workout but not so gruelling that you can’t chat with the runner next to you. parkdaleroadrunners.com.

Lawn bowling in north Toronto

This one’s more for the “fitness” lover (because anything popularized by British gentry on their ninth G&T doesn’t really count as fitness). The Lawrence Park Lawn Bowling Club in north Toronto is over 100 years old, but members say it’s a bit rowdier than the dozen other bowls clubs in the city. White clothes aren’t mandatory, and every Wednesday, they open up the lawns so non-members can try them for free (though the club says people are welcome to drop by anytime). If you’re after a slightly more satisfying sound, croquet balls can also be whacked on an adjacent lawn.lawrenceparklawnbowling.com.

Photo, Arthur Mola.

Dance classes at the National Ballet of Canada

We may have long ago abandoned our childhood dream of playing the lead in Swan Lake, but thanks to the National Ballet of Canada’s public drop-in classes, we can at least sweat like a prima ballerina. Sidle up to the barre for a Dance Fit class or work your core with pilates — the workshops are open to all levels and, reassuringly, no previous dance experience is needed, though you may spy principal dancer Heather Odgen teaching a master class. There’s also intro to ballet available if you want another kick at the Swan Lake can. national.ballet.ca/explore/in-studio.

Keep moving in the cold by skating in the east end

If you’re prepared to get active during the winter months, pay a visit to Greenwood Park, which perfected the art of cold-winter compromise with the city’s first covered outdoor skating rink. Strap on your skates and do a couple laps, or, since the owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs threw in a bunch of hockey nets, opt for a game of shinny to prove you have vastly more skill that those last-place Leafs. Over at the Evergreen Brickworks, the open-air trail under old industrial beams happens to be very smart. A cooling system underneath the ice keeps everything frozen, even when it’s above zero out, while the excess heat is used to warm up the market next door — which is a lovely spot for a post-skate hot chocolate. The rink is open from November to March. cityrinks.ca.

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