Blast Athletic is a two-year-old training facility where, rumour has it, hardcore fitness folks go. Located on Dupont, just west of Spadina, when you walk into Blast, you may wonder if you are in a CrossFit gym. It's housed on the first floor of an industrial warehouse with high ceilings and cement walls and floors.
The equipment includes many of the latest and greatest strength and conditioning trends such as Kettleballs and TRX suspension systems. When I arrived, two strong looking men were pushing and pulling an enormous amount of weight from one end of the gym to another and then whacking a massive tractor tire with a mallet. Little did I know that in short order I would be performing similar feats of strength myself!
Owner Marv admits he gets asked the CrossFit question all the time; however, he feels his training philosophy differs significantly from that of the CrossFit model. While CrossFit training is based on the belief that any exercise can be adapted to work for any individual, Marv thinks differently. He believes training should be tailored more specifically to each individual's abilities and goals.
Given Blast's reputation, I was a little nervous for my one-on-one training session with Marv. I like to train hard, but anytime you try something new it's a bit scary. Marv reassured me that he had no intention of hurting me. He started by putting me through a cardio warm-up with some dynamic stretches to get the muscles and joints ready to go. Next, he had me pushing and pulling weight across the floor, much like the gentleman I watched earlier.
When he first told me I would be doing this, I admit, I had my doubts that I was capable, but Marv reassured me I was, and he was right. This firm encouragement is what makes him an ideal coach: he is not overly pushy or aggressive, but his confidence gives you the courage to try (and succeed at) new things. He also had me doing heavy ropes, and doing some plyometrics, dynamic core work and strength exercises with a medicine ball and the TRX Suspension Trainer.
While there is no doubt he gave me a butt kicking unlike any I've had in recent memory, true to his word, I survived injury and pain free. In fact, I woke up the next day feeling pretty awesome.
Considering that it was one of the toughest workouts I've done, it was very humbling when Marv reminded me that the body of the workout, based on three timed circuits of exercises, which I was asked to perform as many times as I could in a given amount of time, amounted to only 16 minutes. This efficiency is one of the reasons Marv prefers this type of metabolic training.
Folks in the Annex area looking for a great place to take their training to the next level should definite check out Blast. The facility offers both group classes including those designed for beginner, intermediate and advanced level participants, and private and semi-private training. Packages of 8 classes start at $149 while 16 can be purchased for $260. Private coaching is $480/8 sessions and semi-private coaching is offered for $480/8 sessions.
Photos by Connie Tsang