My whole life I've had a love/hate relationship with fitness. I was always the chubby kid with glasses and no athletic ability, so I quickly learned to associate exercise with team sports and being teased (especially by the boys). Throughout elementary school and high school I avoided sports like the plague (I don't think curling counts), and by the 11th grade when I was at my heaviest, I developed an eating disorder to take the weight off and to gain the acceptance I was craving. I dropped over 50 pounds in about 4 months and probably scared the crap out of my family and friends.
In my adult life I finally discovered individual pursuits like yoga, running, and strength training, where I realized I could exercise and only be accountable to myself. I could set goals and it was 100% up to me to meet or beat them. What a revelation. Now, that's not to say any of these forms of exercise came particularly easily to me, but they were the right fit for my headspace and offered enough variety to keep me interested.
I don't know about you, but for me when it comes to fitness, keeping interested means I'll keep at it. And that's all the harder here in Ottawa once the temperature drops. A little while back I was walking home from the Hintonburg LCBO (cough cough) when I noticed a sign on the sidewalk outside the former Studio Café on Somerset West. It read: IRON NORTH FITNESS: PEDAL. RUN. LIFT. STRETCH.
I'd been looking for a way to keep active during the colder months (because I'm not a fan of running in the ice and snow), and this place looked like it fit the bill perfectly. Plus it was only about a 5-minute walk from my house. And it looked pretty. So I contacted Iron North to ask if I could come by for a tour, and they graciously welcomed me in. Here's a photo tour for you!
Over the past few weeks I've tried Iron North's yoga, strength training, and spinning classes, and I have to say how impressed I've been each and every time. Here's why:
Small class sizes: most classes I've been in have had a total of 4-5 people, so this was more like semi-private personal training than the massive group classes I'd been to at other gyms. Iron North caps their classes at a maximum of about 8 or 9 people to ensure each individual receives personal attention. That means no cheating (they'll make you work!) and less chance of injury.
High quality teaching: whether I was in yoga, bootcamp, or spinning, the instructors learned our names immediately, then personally encouraged and corrected/adjusted us throughout the class. I really felt like they cared how I was doing and they immediately made me feel part of the group. They also gave clear, easy to understand cues so I never felt lost or unsure about what to do next. Also: their yoga ain't your typical gym yoga. Expect an authentic class with breathwork and plenty of focus on proper alignment.
Beautiful, modern environment: this ain't your average gym. Iron North has maximized every square inch to create a space that's functional, efficient, and sleek. The entire space is gender neutral with pops of yellow and stylized deer busts, and the bathrooms are easily the nicest bathrooms I've ever seen in a gym. Actually, they're nicer than many hotels I've stayed in too.
Lots of variety: Iron North offers over 50 classes per week, ranging from power yoga, to bootcamp, to spinning, to strength training, and more. I love that I have so many options with just one membership: I don't need a yoga pass, a gym membership, and a bootcamp class in three different places. They also offer personal training, so this really is everything under one roof.
Over all, I think the reason I love Iron North so much is because they created a space I genuinely want to spend time in, with teachers and other clients I genuinely want to spend time with. Since it's a small gym folks actually stop to say hi to each other, even if they're total strangers. You find yourself encouraging the guy or gal next to you in class, and they do the same for you. It's kind of awesome. So who are the people behind Iron North? Let me introduce you!
MEET JENNA & SAM:
That's Sam on the left and Jenna on the right, and they're the two badass women who created Iron North Fitness. I sat down with them to get the whole story what drew them to fitness in the first place, and why they decided to open a gym of their own.
AMYIN613: When did you develop a passion for fitness? Was it always something you were interested in?
JENNA: I was never really interested in the science or study of health and fitness growing up because I was fit by being active and was a natural athlete. Since about the age of 4, I was active in every possible team and individual sport, but it wasn't until my first year of university that I began exploring health and fitness as a science and a profession. I unfortunately succumbed to the dreaded "freshman 15" and piled on 20+ pounds of weight in less than 2 months in my first year. I was devastated at my choices and resolved to do something about it through a hefty lifestyle change. After about a year of clean eating and an introduction to yoga, spinning and strength training, I slowly lost over 40 pounds and had my eyes opened to an whole new industry and world I had never thought about before. I started running again and began sharing my journey and my experience with those looking to make the same changes in their lives. I realized that I loved inspiring change and wanted to find a way to continue to do it and make a living at the same time. In 2007, I started on the path of attaining the certifications necessary to coach and train others to hit their own health and fitness goals, and it's been a never-ending journey since.
AMYIN613: So since fitness has been part of your lives for so long, what was it that spurred you to open your own gym?
SAM: Jenna and I met over coffee (what now feels like years ago) to discuss our individual hopes and dreams and to catch up. We'd known each other since middle school but hadn't really talked since, so we had a lot of catching up to do! I told her I'd always wanted to have a yoga or fitness studio and she shared similar dreams of one day opening a cycling or endurance coaching studio. Days later, we spoke again on the phone and decided it made sense for us to join forces. Our coaching and fitness values matched up and our experience and expertise complimented one another too. We joined forces in June 2014 and by March 2015 we signed our lease for what is now Iron North Fitness.
In a nutshell, we wanted to open a place that combined all the activities we love and do (cycling, running, strength training, and yoga). We wanted a space where class sizes are smaller and offered our members the opportunity to have the group atmosphere but with more opportunity for one-on-one coaching and hands-on with some pretty great instructors. We wanted our members to try something different from they might be used to and improve their fitness and performance by complimenting their usual routine with something else. We wanted a space to call our own that our children could visit and be proud of and our members felt that they could call a home away from home.
AMYIN613: Who’s the typical Iron North client, if there is one? Or do you attract a wide range of people?
JENNA: The Iron North athlete loves to eat my baking, because I bring it in all the time. Seriously though, we find our athletes are so varied and it's wonderful. We have members that are total beginners, we have moms-to-be, and even professional triathletes... there is really no physical description of who walks through our doors. However, we've found that everyone on our roster of members is pretty amazing. We feel so incredibly blessed to attract such interesting, diverse, and genuinely cool people. We find our athletes are all very kind, open minded and appreciate the smaller group classes and community atmosphere of our space.
AMYIN613: I have to agree; on each of my visits to Iron North everyone's been so friendly and welcoming. So why Hintonburg? What made you choose this awesome little hood?
JENNA: We choose Hintonburg for a couple reasons. Namely, it's at the crossroads of so many great cycling and running routes. Because we feature endurance programs and are releasing run programs this winter and outdoor group rides next spring, our studio location gives us quick access to some of the best routes and spots to ride and run in the city. Next, Hintonburg and Wellington West are just fun places to be. The community is still developing and the neighbourhood attracts a lot of people who love to shop, eat, and work out locally. The community is so passionate about the businesses within it, and it was exactly the right fit for our space and the vibe we wanted to create. Plus Suzy Q is about 100 metres from our front door... so that was a no-brainer. (editor's note: I love these ladies)
Alright folks, I've got a sweet giveaway for you! Up for grabs is a 5-class pass for Iron North Fitness, valued at $80. Here's what to do:
1. Like Iron North Fitness on Facebook.
2. Like Amy in 613 on Facebook.
3. Post a comment below telling me which of their classes you want to try.
That's it! Get your entries in by 12:00 noon on Friday November 6, 2015, and I'll announce the lucky winner on Friday afternoon. Then maybe you can kick off your weekend with a class! But that's not all...
SPECIAL DISCOUNT FOR AMYIN613 READERS
For those of you who don't win on Friday, I've got a special discount for ya! Drop by Iron North and mention promo code "AMYSWEATS" or say you read about them on Amy in 613 and they'll hook you up:
You'll get 15% off any class pass, monthly membership, you name it. If you decide to go whole hog and sign up for a monthly auto-renewing membership, you'll get 15% off your first month. Please note: this deal doesn't apply to students and seniors, because they already enjoy special rates at Iron North.
See you at the gym!