FitWall Toronto is the latest gym to offer (you guessed it) FitWall, which is one of the latest fitness trends to hit Toronto, but you probably haven't heard of it yet. It's vertical training involving a specialized ladder-like contraption that you hang from, forcing you to fully support your body weight, and allowing you to engage more muscles than you would performing the same exercises on the ground.
Resistance bands and suspension straps can also be attached so that you can perform a variety of strength, balance, and cardiovascular exercises. The FitWall tagline is "you are the machine," because the challenge comes from lifting, pushing, and pulling your body weight.
Originating in the U.S., until this year the only FitWall gym in Canada was located in Vaughan. Just a few weeks ago, the newest location opened in Leaside. Inhabiting the second floor of a building on Bayview, just south of Eglinton, the FitWall Toronto gym is a bright, clean, and sunny space.
Founder Bonnie Goldmacher, explained to me the many benefits of this type of workout, which, she claims, is easily adaptable to any fitness level. While the concept is fairly simple, I can tell just a few minutes into my demo session with two of FitWall's certified trainers just how intense and effective it can be.
I am directed to hang off the FitWall, with my toes/balls of my feet perched on a lower 'rung' and my hands grasping a higher 'rung' (the closer together your hands and feet, the more challenging the workout), to perform back, chest and lower body exercises for 30-40 seconds. The trainers also show me how to use the FitWall for cardiovascular drills, which effectively get my heart rate up, and suspension exercises that work my upper body and core. It's extremely challenging, but also fun.
If you resolved to exercise more this year, but lack the motivation to accomplish this goal on your own and/or think you do not have the time required, this may be the perfect solution. Sessions are generally 30 minutes long, and Bonnie explains that the workout is so effective, they needn't be any longer, and can be done in a group (up to 8 people) or privately. They are always done with a certified trainer to motivate you and guide you through the workout.
One of the most unique aspects of the sessions, however, is the ability to quantify your efforts. Each participant has the option of wearing a heart rate monitor, which is linked up to a computer. This allows both you, and your trainer, to track how hard you are working throughout the session. This makes it ideal for both individuals with medical issues who need to limit intensity, as well as elite athletes, who want to ensure they are working in their target zone.
The FitWall can also be used for rehabilitative purposes, and Bonnie's partner, Duilio Bertolo, a chiropractor and exercise physiologist, will be offering treatment sessions in a portion of the studio dedicated to rehab work and physiotherapy.
The only potential downside of the FitWall is that it requires significant arm strength, which may make it particularly challenging initially for individuals who have relatively weak upper-bodies. Despite my regular strength training sessions, my forearms fatigued just a few minutes into the workout.
Should you be patient enough to endure this when you are starting out, you will see significant gains in upper body strength fairly quickly. Given the intensity of the exercises, it is also important to notify the trainers of any relevant injuries or physical limitations you may have prior to trying it out.
FitWall currently offers numerous session packages, including the most cost-effective option of three sessions weekly for a year for just $20 per session. Although potentially intimidating for those who are commitment-phobic, pre-paying for a specific number of sessions may keep you motivated, and I'm pretty sure that just three weekly FitWall sessions are sufficient to improve most people's strength and cardiovascular fitness.
As an added bonus, there is free 1-hour parking on many of the nearby side-streets, which gives you just enough time to pop in for a half-hour session and get back to your car without getting a parking ticket. Just be sure you allot enough time in your day to go home and bathe, as the studio does not have shower facilities.
Photos by Jesse Milns