Fuel Training Club
Fuel Training Club opened a couple weeks ago near Queen and Spadina offering expert instruction and small group classes to those who (to paraphrase the website) work hard, play hard, and want to train hard. The class descriptions include phrases like "functional and primal exercises" and "metabolic conditioning". I'll admit I wasn't quite sure what to expect, or how I'd fare, when I recently visited to try out a class.
My hesitation immediately subsided when I entered the club and was warmly greeted by trainers Greg Hetherington and Kristina Hassell. Hetherington (named one of Toronto's top personal trainers last year) founded Fuel to help health-conscious urban professionals make fitness part of their lifestyle. "We want to make it work for you. We don't require too much time, but you're able to get what you need out of it," he tells me.
Before the workout, I was given a quick tour of the intimate, industrial-chic facility. Past the comfy lounge area, the main exercise space is filled with equipment like kettlebells, suspension devices, hurdles, and unfamiliar contraptions like curved treadmills. Needless to say, I was curious to see what the class would entail.
While only 50 minutes long, my Strength & Conditioning class felt like a comprehensive workout. I was joined by five fit men and women in their 20s and 30s. Hetherington first led us through mobility exercises using foam rollers, lacrosse balls, and suspension belts. After a day spent sitting at a desk, I could feel the tension in my shoulders and hips melt away.
The intensity gradually increased as we moved to what Hetherington calls "grooving patterns." The goal is to build muscle memory by learning exercises with perfect form under Hetherington's close supervision. We quickly transitioned through movements like one-arm suspension rows, deadlifts, swings on the bar, and assisted pull-ups. Hetherington said this was all to "prepare us for the workout." After a challenging circuit of deadlifts and pull-ups, my classmate and I wondered aloud, "isn't this the workout?"
We then began the high-intensity interval training session, and I understood what Hetherington meant. The fast-paced circuit involved pull-ups, sprinting on a curved treadmill, and pedaling a stationary Airdyne bike with our arms. The session was less than 10 minutes long, but it left all of us gasping for air. My heart was pounding and my arms were shaking by the end of the intervals, but after some light stretching, I left the class feeling energized and empowered for the rest of my evening.
What makes Fuel the optimal approach to fitness, Hetherington believes, is not just exercise, but the small group setting, with classes strictly capped at 14. Working out with fit and motivated people, I definitely wanted to push myself so they wouldn't see me slacking off. At the same time, Hetherington was able to provide each of us with individualized instruction and encouragement. I also appreciated Hetherington's coaching style - energetic, knowledgeable, and fast-paced, but not aggressive.
To ensure clients receive optimal results, the monthly unlimited membership ($215/month) includes the Fuel Plan, which provides an initial assessment, goal-setting, and ongoing assessment of your progress. Hetherington believes that "being able to track results really holds people accountable and motivates them," and it was apparent that the trainers are committed to helping each participant improve. By the end, I was tempted to sign up to see what results I could achieve with short and intense classes and a personalized plan.
In addition to the monthly membership, Fuel offers 8-class or 5-class packages ($165 or $115 respectively), or drop-in classes ($25), and the personalized Fuel Plan can be added on for $60. Free orientation classes are available, as well as an intro two-week course for $100. For its busy professional clientele, Fuel has lockers, change rooms (in the final renovation stages), and showers, although with only one shower for men and women each, I could foresee line-ups during peak times.
Photos by Jesse Milns