Fit Factory Fitness
Fit Factory Fitness just opened its new studio on King West , east of Spadina, after making a move from Yonge and Wellesley. The club is the brainchild of Tony Austin, a former drill instructor with the Marine Corps, and co-founder Ivan Ho. As you might have guessed from Austin's previous life, Fit Factory specializes in military-style boot camp classes, including their O Course training events geared toward adventure racers.
The second-floor studio features floor to ceiling windows, a large, open studio, and bi-level lounge. Immaculate change rooms have lockers, showers, and private toilet stalls along with some basic personal hygiene products and amenities.
What I learned, first and foremost, from my visit is this: the aptitude test I took in high school could not have gotten it more wrong, and I am not suited to be a military officer. In fact, I suspect any attempt I'd make to enter the military would likely involve my dishonourable discharge on the first day. If you have issues with authority, as I clearly do, this is not going to be a workout for you.
Having arrived just as the class was starting (thanks to having trouble finding parking), my friend was given orders by Austin, who was teaching the class, to come and drag me out of the change room. We were already starting off on the wrong foot. The studio is introducing new technology to track your heart rate and calories burned, etc. which projects your stats on to a monitor. Unfortunately, mine wasn't working.
The class began with stretches, including some static stretches, which is old-school, and generally now accepted as something that should be left to the end of a workout. Next up was laps around the studio of running, heel/butt kicks and lateral gallops to warm up. There is no doubt we were all huffing and puffing by the end.
Next, Austin put us through a series of drills, such as jumps, sit ups with medicine ball throws, pushups, and a whole bunch of exercises using TRX suspension systems. His schtick is to yell at you and push you to the max - and I mean the max. He also calls all the shots. He tells you where to stand and how much weight to use. He tells you when to take a water break. My friend Nat kept getting yelled at to do a full push-up, even though she prefers to do them from her knees.
At one point I felt like taking a breather, so I stopped what we were doing; he hollered at me for it. When I claimed I had an injury (true, but the lower body exercise we were doing didn't require use of my aching rotator cuff), he called me out of line and gave me a talking to. Apparently I should have let him know about my injury at the beginning, but since I was tardy, I missed that announcement at the beginning of class. The whole experience started to bring back flashbacks of my nasty elementary school gym teacher.
At the end of the class, having sensed we were less than impressed with the class, he launched into a speech about how his style is all about pushing and, he admits, it is not for everyone. People generally know immediately whether it suits them. I couldn't agree more. Then he claimed that as long as everyone who comes gives it their 100%, whatever that may be, that he's cool with that. Neither Nat nor I felt that truly reflected how he taught the class.
Austin set a bar so high, none of us could really reach it. This might inspire some, but it will certainly frustrate others. We definitely won't be going back as we are clearly in the group for whom this style of class doesn't work.
Should you go? If you want to be pushed hard and don't mind yelling and being called out, go for it. (A single class is pricey at $35 a pop, but they currently are offering an introductory special of $30/unlimited for $60.) Just be mindful of what your physical limits are and assert yourself if you feel you've reached them, even if this means you get 'punished.' It's definitely not worth an injury.
Photos by Jesse Milns.