Academy of Lions
Academy of Lions is one of a few options for west ender's looking for a CrossFit-affiliated work out space. Newly settled into its third location near Ossington and Dundas, the gym hopes to bring the "old-school" back to working out.
For the uninitiated, CrossFit is a workout movement featuring intense conditioning and very few machines. Often used by police and elite athletes, it combines strength training with things like sprinting, gymnastics, and plyometrics. If you're looking to revive your childhood playground prowess or if you just can't stand lifting weights, this is probably the way to go for your conditioning needs.
Dhani Oks, who created the Academy with his best friend Sohail Bastani, walks me through the new location at 64 Ossington, and explains the gym's cardinal rule: no douches.
How, I wonder, is that enforced?
"We like to focus on athleticism here, not fitness," he tells me. "We want to go back to the primary, traditional physical things people used to do before commercial gyms became popular."
In a typical workout session, members run through custom workout programs featuring activities like hitting tires with hammers, climbing ropes, and lifting kegs. Sessions are designed to emulate sporting events and games, and feature simple movements like squats, pushups, and gymnastics. The focus is not on calories but on athletic challenges using minimal equipment.
To train, you usually have to come during a scheduled workout time when group classes are held. Academy of Lions doesn't have a well-stocked open-gym, and all workouts are coached.
Oks tells me about one of the gym's coaches, Olympic bronze medalist and three-time world champion weightlifter Alexander Varbanov. Noticing the traumatic gym class memories spreading across my face, he assures me that even grandmothers manage to survive their intense workouts.
The location itself looks nothing like a typical gym; there are no televisions of treadmills in the non-descript building. The minimalist decor and bare walls create a "Rocky meets Fight Club" aesthetic, and a giant tire sits right in the main entrance. Just a month ago, the building was an industrial complex, and you can tell.
Over the next couple of months, the Academy plans to make a number of renovations. Oks says he wants to build a rooftop garden and a café dedicated to the "paleo-lifestyle." In addition to serving espresso, Academy of Lions will serve local, organic, locally-raised food that's sustainable and appropriate for a caveman diet.
The studio also offers nutritional training, and runs a non-profit foundation for at-risk youth. The Foundation assists with skill training, lifestyle coaching, and job placements for members of the community. "We don't build muscles, we build people," Oks says proudly.
A full membership to the Academy of Lions costs $175 per month, which includes an assessment, some private coaching, and unlimited training in group classes. Drop-ins are not allowed, but interested parties are invited to meet with one of their trainers.