energyXchange has the makings of an intimidating fitness club experience. Except that it's not. A slick interior, matchy-matchy trainers' uniforms and a Flash-heavy website are typically strong warning signs. But here, the staff is friendly and encouraging, and the muffins are free.
I'm not the gym type. Although I've held barely-used memberships on and off since high school, the experience has always had an anxiety-inducing effect. My workout motivation already suffers from laziness. The added social awkwardness ensures that I have plenty of excuses to skip the gym altogether. Sure, my skinny jean-wearing potential is suffering. It's a price I'm usually willing to pay to avoid sweating in an oversized band tee alongside Fitness Barbie and Bodybuilder Ken flirting to a soundtrack of Z103 club anthems.
The alternatives, however, can be pricey. At up to twenty bucks a pop, yoga studios demand more of a financial commitment than my thighs are actually worth. And sometimes I crave a cardio workout that the zen practice can't provide. I can see why I've been sucked into fitness clubs more than once. But, while gyms like Goodlife and Extreme Fitness offer a better bang-to-buck ratio on the surface, energyXchange owner Marea Taylor asks me to reconsider.
We look at my old routine - 45 minutes on the elliptical machine, 3 times a week - and weigh the benefits. "You have to confuse your muscles," she insists, "You won't see any results if you do the same thing every time." It's true - I don't see any results. At energyXchange, members are encouraged to switch it up.
A packed schedule of yoga, gravity, pilates and TRX classes keep it fresh. While pricier than most gyms, plans can be built around patrons' frequency of visit. I still worry about my own motivation. Marea and her team have me covered, though. "We'll actually call our members," she quips. This "remote personal trainer" service is just the encouragement I could use.
Marea opened the business as a reaction to poor customer service she experienced while working for other clubs in the city. Aveda products in the washrooms, free nutrition workshops, no-commitment memberships, complimentary "industrial" muffins for 7am classes, an in-house RMT, and a chill-out patio all address the gaps in the usual gym experience.
In addition to familiar group classes in yoga and pilates, energyXchange keeps on top of fitness trends. Marea demonstrates TRX - straps affixed to the ceiling that use body weight as resistance - and the Powerplate. This little wonder, invented by astronauts and used by the pros, is a vibrating plate that promises to build bone density and improve circulation. I am skeptical and immediately think of the ludicrous vibrating belt machines of the 1950s. But even remaining stable while holding a static bicep curl proves challenging. And, just 25 minutes will do the trick.
energyXchange is not just about building chick-magnet abs or looking fab in a push-up sports bra. The self-proclaimed "un-gym" is about fun and safe fitness for the mind and body in a supportive environment. "The hour you spend here will affect the rest of your life," Marea tells me, of the studio's beyond-physical results. I'm convinced. The location is still a bit of a barrier (excuses, again), but once the concept moves westward, I'm an un-gym convert.
Photos by Dennis Marciniak