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Fitness Clubs

Hard Candy Fitness Toronto

Posted by Erica Berman / Posted on December 4, 2013

Hard Candy TorontoHard Candy Fitness is the newest high end fitness club to open in Toronto. Found near Yonge and Gerrard on the fourth floor of the swanky Aura condo tower, this is the latest outpost of the chain owned by no other than Madonna.

So far, this is the only North American location of the Hard Candy Fitness empire aside from Mexico City. There's also one in Chile but all the others call Europe home. According to Justin Elie, the club's operations manager, Madge chose Toronto because it's one of her favourite cities.

Hard Candy TorontoAs you might expect, this ain't yo mamma's health club. If you're looking for a shvitz and schmooze in your moth eaten sweats, you might want to head elsewhere, Hard Candy is equal parts fitness club and night club for those who want to see and be seen. Justin tells me the target demo is young professionals aged 25 to 45 with an affinity for style and having fun.

Hard Candy TorontoThe space itself is extremely impressive. Wall to wall windows and high ceilings provide a great view and abundance of natural light. Everything, including the top notch equipment (much of it customized specifically for Hard Candy) matches the sleek white, black, red and grey colour scheme. Not surprisingly, there are quite a few murals of the Material Girl herself.

While there is no doubt the intent to make this club a social destination, fitness is taken quite seriously. The club is 42,000 square feet with ample cardio and strength training equipment guaranteed to turn you into Hard bodied eye Candy.

Hard Candy TorontoNot only is there a lot of high tech equipment, but there is a greater variety than you will find in most fitness clubs. I give them bonus points for having a large number of step mills (stair climbing treadmills) - one of the best and most underutilized cardio machines out there, as well as tread climbers (treadmill/elliptical machine hybrid), something not often found in Toronto fitness clubs period.

Hard Candy TorontoThere's also a juice bar with smoothies and snacks, a massive spinning studio and a group fitness studio. A hot yoga studio is also currently under construction.

Along with all the equipment, the club offers a large array of group fitness classes. Along with the standard conditioning, yoga, Pilates, spinning and cardio classes, there are also proprietary classes which all have the Queen of Pop's stamp of approval on them. Instructors of these dance-focused classes must receive Hard Candy's own training. Apparently the choreography is designed by Madonna's own workout regimen.

Hard Candy TorontoThe change rooms are sleek and expansive, much like the rest of the space, and absolutely immaculate. Towels and basic toiletries are provided. Membership cards also function as keys for the lockers, using a technology I have definitely never seen at a club before. There are still under construction terraces, which Justin tells me will be used for outdoor classes and social events, and I am sure, are guaranteed to draw members in droves.

Hard Candy TorontoMy visit includes checking out the midday class taught by the group fitness coordinator, Lori Kirwan. Kirwan led us through her own signature class called Tornado, which is essentially HIIT training, with a strong focus on core. After a retro-style aerobic warm-up, she took us through a circuit (using hand weights, a ballast ball, a step, etc.), first doing each exercise for 75 seconds, then each exercise for 60 seconds, and finally going through them again for 45 seconds each.

While this may not sound tough, believe me it was. After the second time through I was feeling pretty bitter about having to do it all again, even if just for 45 seconds. And my core? It was sore for a good 48 hours afterwards.

Lori tells me that Madonna's philosophy regarding fitness is to avoid offering beginner classes, to have all classes strive for a certain level of difficulty, but allow participants to make whatever modifications they need. This will likely be welcomed by fit folks but may intimidate newbies.

Hard Candy TorontoIn the change room after the class, a bubbly member tells me she is already addicted to the dance classes and has started coming 4-5 times a week. Hey, anything that encourages exercise adherence is good in my book. While this club may not be the right fit for every fitness enthusiast, Hard Candy gets top marks for friendly staff, fabulous state-of-the-art equipment, a beautiful facility, and solid classes.

Interestingly, while you pay a premium for a day pass, which will cost you $50, membership fees are far more reasonable, starting at $99/month plus a $69 enrollment fee.

Hard Candy TorontoPhotos by Jesse Milns

Discussion

26 Comments

e82 / December 4, 2013 at 08:36 am
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Was kind of skeptical to what a madge-branded gym would be like, but this actually sounds / looks all right and a $99/month fee actually seems like a pretty competitive price compared to some of the other gyms in the city.
p / December 4, 2013 at 08:37 am
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.. looks like a nice gym, waaaay nicer than the one I go to anyway. Too bad there isn't a west end location.
OOO))) replying to a comment from p / December 4, 2013 at 11:13 am
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Not everything is about the west end. Go back to the hamlet you hail from.
Cindy / December 4, 2013 at 12:20 pm
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The price point is more than reasonable and looks like a great facility! Happy to check it out.
jon / December 4, 2013 at 02:56 pm
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The whole thing makes me want to dry heave. "target demo is young professionals aged 25 to 45 with an affinity for style and having fun". Seriously? Sounds like it's got douche written all over it. No thanks.
Eva / December 4, 2013 at 04:16 pm
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Damn this gym is amazing, but, I joined on whim and although the membership is very reasonable for what you are getting g as far as facility, and counter and cleaning staff are exceptional, the biggest drawback for me was leaving a big box style gym ( Walmart inspired) only to find the very same class Instructors at hard candy, was really hoping for a change , especially if you spin, if your a person who goes pm classes , you have a choice of 2 instructors both who have the same music, such a waste considering the epic spin theater, if it wasn't for Madge's mandate, this gym might as well been a good life, a few excellent classes doesn't make up for the mediocre ones,
Eva
Ryan / December 4, 2013 at 11:23 pm
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No need to ever build my dream gym, Hard Candy T.O already did. The gym gets better every week with great new members, expanding classes and instructors. The management is refreshingly helpful and caring to making your experience a great one.
Marg / December 5, 2013 at 02:11 pm
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Given that Madonna is in her late 50's it 's interesting that the target group in much younger - as I fit 59 yr old I found this statement a real turn off to joining this club
Hard Candy Fitness Toronto replying to a comment from Eva / December 6, 2013 at 04:27 pm
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Hi Eva,

Thank you for your comment and constructive criticism. Please email us directly at info@hardcandyfitnesstoronto.com so we can schedule time to review your concerns and make sure you have an excellent experience at the club.
Sikta / December 9, 2013 at 07:52 am
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Eva, nailed it, LOL, but not good life ,Extreme, all employees are from extreme, I understand sentiment about variety , coming from a small very excellent gym Totum, that providing a variety of instructors that rotate classes makes a big difference , Maybe the big girl could learn something from the little girl.
S
Luis / December 17, 2013 at 12:17 am
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It sounds to me like some of hardcandy competitors have nothing better to do! Not in my price range but when I visit they were nothing but nice. too bad no swimming pool..
Dean / December 19, 2013 at 09:16 am
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Unfortunately the individual who sold us on the HC experience is no longer with the organization and we bought into we have learned are lies. We we sold on over night cleaning and maintenance, luxury and a club like environment with motivational music. The day we were there was amazing - nothing like our old gym.

Now that we signed on the dotted line and the initial hype has settled let’s chat about what you promised.

The facility is okay. It is a large space but hopefully, kinks will be ironed out soon and once construction is done.
It is certainly better than Goodlife but certainly not a high-end experience so far – simply a high monthly fee.

Yes there are proxy cards for the lockers but the locker rooms are far from lavish as advertised. They are more like a high school locker room. They are cramped and tiny; the locker lacks space especially if arriving with a gym bag and winter coat. There is also a lack full length mirrors. There are only 2 in their entire men's locker room space. Certainly not a sanctuary – there are no chairs or bench like ottomans, simply hard benches. If you choose to use the sauna or steam room they are not turned on for morning workouts – they are not turned on prior to opening at 6am; one can only use them once you’ve waited for them to warm up or once someone else has turned them on a waited patiently for them to heat up.

Apparently the sound experience was designed to motivate members but it is far from what may be expected. According to Justin Elie, the club's operations manager, "Hard Candy is equal parts fitness club and night club for those who want to see and be seen. Not sure what "clubs" Elie go to but this promise falls short. There are tons of speakers yet the music is far from loud, making it far from motivating. The music levels vary day to day so you need to pack your iPod if working on the gym floor just in case a class’s music is louder than the music playing in gym main space. The classes are definitely appear to be motivating and have a great music level but the gym floor is certainly questionable.


Nota Bene replying to a comment from Dean / December 20, 2013 at 11:14 am
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Ever think there was a good reason the person you bought into is no longer there?
Dean / December 20, 2013 at 11:43 am
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@nota bene I'm glad they are no longer there mis representing the brand. It's just unfortunate we bought into it before they were caught and dismissed.
Tony / January 1, 2014 at 06:20 pm
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I checked out this gym using a 5-day pass I had. The gym space is great, the staff were super nice, the spinning studio is huge, and over the 5 days that I was there I never even got a sales pitch (shocking!).

The biggest drawback for me though was the absurdly small locker room. Given the size of the gym and the price point for a membership, the locker room is way too cramped. This was a deal-breaker for me. Also, no water fountain in the locker room? Really?
clare / January 9, 2014 at 08:18 pm
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Maybe I'm not a great person to review a gym, but I'm going to anyway! I hate gyms. I don't like going for the first time and trying to figure out how the machines work, I feel uncomfortable exercising on my own because I just don't know what is the right kind of exercise or how to start building a gym routine to stick to, and I usually end up giving up on classes because they're fully booked or cramped or I just don't have fun.
Hard Candy is included with our rent, so I tried it out when it opened. The staff gave me a tour and encouraged me to come back and grab one of them if I didn't understand any of the machines or wanted to see how to do various exercises. Then I got a call asking if I wanted an introductory session with a trainer to help me create an exercise plan, as I mentioned I'd not got a clue! I was encouraged to go to the classes, and I tried a couple out. The instructor introduced themselves in each one and whilst some of them were far too challenging for my basic needs, they offered alternatives when they recognised some of the moves were too challenging.
I'm still going after nearly ten weeks, so they earn my praise for helping me reach a new record of attendance!
jorge / January 22, 2014 at 09:23 am
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I felt a lot of pressure to join. It really didn't seem like they cared abt me. I won't be back. I left GoodLife a year ago but i really appreciate it there now. For a cheaper price guys and a million more locations you gotta admit GoodLife has every block coverrd
Alexander replying to a comment from Alexander / February 11, 2014 at 05:51 pm
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I got a membership for a month for free where I am attending to (because of bad circumstances but smartly it became good) where and of course, some says this new gym's fees is very reasonable, some says it is very cheap, some can't afford it or just don;t want to spend that amount, it depends on the individual. Too bad it is not a chain all over in the city, she cannot afford it. :-/ I wish she was the mayoress (:DDD) of Toronto.
PK / February 12, 2014 at 01:00 pm
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Hmm...most definite pass.
$100/mth for access to ONE location - which has clearly aligned itself with Douches and Douchettes across the city using the "see and be seen" slogan. I'm sorry - but if you're ACTUALLY into fitness or attempting to get into shape, there are considerably better alternatives. Getting healthy shouldn't be about vanity and public perception. Might as well rename this place "Roxbury".
Kate / February 12, 2014 at 05:01 pm
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I bet the Tinder usage in there is off the charts.
Roxy / March 5, 2014 at 04:11 pm
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Being a professional in the not "25-45" range and who works just down the street from Hard Candy at one of the major hospitals, I am someone who actually wishes to go to a gym for the fitness aspect. However, I sure am glad I read the comments here before I actually went to check it out. I think I will keep shopping around for a fitness club that actually appeals to people of any age who wish to get healthy and fit.
Wen / April 3, 2014 at 11:25 am
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If you are looking for a hard core training session, go to Fit Factory Fitness. I am a member and I love every minute of it. It's military style training and it's more like a family there if you go often enough.

Although I do understand why HC is appealing. If the target is seen and be seen, this is a training ground for beautiful single people who are looking for potential dates. Am I the only one that likes gym hopping? lol
Alex / May 24, 2014 at 03:18 am
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I have been thinking of joining this gym, as per the suggestion of a friend. It seemed like a place I would want to frequent. However, the comment about 25-45 range, really turned me off. Big Time. I am not in that range, and right away, I feel as if I would be given the rolling of the eyes if I joined. Funny, i do have the affinity for having fun and enjoy style

Sorry guys, I'm looking for a good workout, not a place where I want to be seen. U need to get an attitude check. Hard Candy Sucks...hell Madonna doesn't even fit that range, and she's a shareholder. Hey Madge, you are too old for your club!!!
April / July 23, 2014 at 09:16 pm
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Uh..... The "see and be seen" comments were made by Blog TO writer.
cate / November 1, 2014 at 07:00 pm
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Big disapointment...going back to Good life. I not sure where the author of this blog is getting $69 enrollment fee. I paid $187.00 for my membership. No parking validation, no childcare, not a hect of variety during the evening. If you are extremely overweight...prepare to stand out and be uncomfortable. During the free trial period I had someone with their hands out asking for money. They would not honour the $79.00/month I was quoted and after dropping 187.00 ...I was not provided with a membership card. I asked for it three times. Personally, as a mother if 4 from humble beginnings, I think Madonna would be disgusted by how her gym is ran. Instructors are good but like the other individual said, Goodlife has more to offer and is cheaper.
Emmy / November 27, 2014 at 12:00 pm
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Only been at HC a few weeks, but here's my two bits.

HC is definitely drawing it's target membership - the demographic skews young and the vibe is... bling-y? Every time I've been there the music is very loud and a pretty monotonous mix of prgressive EDM.

That said, the space is big and there is a lot (too much?) equipment. Also, the functional movement area is awesome and not something available at any of the other gyms I've tried in the city. Locker rooms are better than average, but can get crowded during peak times. Plenty of showers though.

The personal trainers look like a mixed bag. Some may be skilled, but I see others checking their phones while training. *Side note: It is never EVER acceptable for a trainer to be on their phone during your session. It means they are not doing their job. If your trainer does this - fire them. I mean it.

I mostly do my own weights and strength work, but I've tried a few classes. For my taste they are a bit gimmicky (i.e. black light yoga) but other people seem to enjoy that. The spin studio is huge, but the video screens and music volume make it a chaotic ride. I'm still looking forward to trying Tornado or one of the dance classes - maybe I'll find my favourite yet.

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