This review of Kardia Athletica is part of our Class Action, FLEETSTREET’s workout review series. We get sweaty to give you the low-down on what these fitness programs are really like.
The brand — Kardia Athletica
Kardia Athletica is located downtown Toronto, right on the waterfront, and its vibes are based on keeping its community engaged at every touchpoint. In person. On social. And online. Everything that owner and founder Heather Gardner does is to keep her clients coming back. That’s why her menu of classes are probably the most creative I’ve seen both in person and online.
Gardner’s fitness brand has had a few iterations, originally as Run, Soul, Cycle, leading running, yoga and spinning events. Then she made a home base with a Toronto studio called Tribe Fitness, bringing those three movement modalities to a space she could call her own, while still doing events around the city, too. When the pandemic hit, her workouts moved outdoors and eventually inside, with smaller classes growing as restrictions lifted over the past couple of years. And, like many gyms small and large, classes also appeared online and on social channels. If you know Heather, she doesn’t do anything with low effort, so she created a library of 215 workouts (at the time of writing this review).
Another change for the studio? The name. Gardner released the following statement in June 2020: “We have learned a better understanding of the history tied to the ‘tribe,‘ and we will create a new identity for our community that continues our efforts of inclusion without the hurtful association for Indigenous peoples.” She rebranded as Kardia Athletica in September 2020.
Gardner’s business model may look like it’s about changing and the ability to “pivot,” but really it’s about building upon what works for her business and her clients. There are still the outdoor events (some are free!), structured classes around running, yoga and spinning (and more, including HIIT, weights and puppies and rosé), and an online library of workout videos that continue to grow.
The Workout – Kardia Athletica On The Go
When you go to kardiaathletica.com, you immediately have two options: Book in-studio or start streaming. Once you make your online subscription payment, you are immediately served two welcome videos, outlining how to use the videos and gauge your fitness levels, and another for indoor cycling bike setup. The streaming all takes place in your browser. No app to download.
The workout videos are categorized in ways that you may expect, such as yoga, strength, cycling, running and more. But there are also some very niche workouts I’m surprised to find, including family friendly workouts, artists series (themes from TSwift to Disney to Super Bowl), foam rolling for particular body parts, meditation categories and even seasonal workouts, too (Mother’s Day standing yoga anyone?), and physically inclusive workouts like chair yoga.
We Tried It
The pandemic had me doing all kinds of workouts, including Peloton, Instagram lives for Pilates and barre and very searchable YouTube videos. I found YouTube to be the most fun and customizable, as I could do Zoom workouts at lunch with my mom (like standing Pilates or seated yoga are more her thing), or ones specific to my shoulder injury. And Kardia Athletica On The Go is a blend of the things I loved about working out at home. It has a useful dashboard (like a streaming-first fitness brand), high-energy instruction (you‘d expect from a social media influencer) and the ability to find super-specific workouts (putting a pause on my YouTube use).
I’ve known Gardner for years and have written about her studio before. She’s fun, creative and one of the most positive and thoughtful trainers around. And that’s also reflected in her array of videos.
While I was tempted to do her costume workouts (she’s a doppelgänger for Ariel in the Halloween workout), I did try her Disney’s Dudes Studio Series. The “15 Min Standing Yoga Flow” was just what I needed. Because of my shoulder issue, I loved how it was both challenging and didn’t include any dog positions (down, up and otherwise). Plus, Disney music is played in the background, which is a nice distraction to having to do any kind of exercise. Because of my shoulder stuff, my back and neck are over compensating and the “10 Minute Neck and Back Rollout” was the immediate relief I needed. You bet I’ve bookmarked this.
The filming style looks profesh but not overly styled, and the sound quality is pretty good, too (although a few times I had to lean on the instructor’s visual cues when the music and her voice were monophonic.)
I usually find these super niche workouts on YouTube (days when I can’t put weights on my shoulders but need an ab workout or when I just need a break from work but can’t get away from my desk).
My favourites, though, have to be the Kardia Quickies (interestingly not spelled Kardia Kwickies), which are 10-minute workouts I stacked for a range of workout styles and tbh my energy levels. It’s an impressive range of classes for a small boutique like Kardia Athletica. If you like shopping locally, then you will enjoy supporting this business.
My tips for using On The Go would be to use the bookmark tool in your browser to keep track of your favourite workouts (I didn’t see an obvious way to do that within the service itself). I also suggest using the search function over the browse one if you’re wanting a specific type of workout – as said above, there are over 200 videos — as that’s the fastest way to find what you need.
Photo courtesy of @kardiaathletica
The pandemic has made us all invest in home-gyms. And while we start heading back to in-studio and in-gym classes and sessions, it is still nice to mix things up with quick workouts at home, like with Kardia Athletica. This streaming fitness service is great for those who heart a variety of classes and fitness types, are able to gauge the intensity level they need, are self-motivators, want to support a small business in Canada and enjoy a laugh from their instructor. Loving Disney and female pop power houses isn’t necessary, as you can simply avoid those artist series workouts.
Kardia Athletica On The Go, kardiaathletica.com. 215+ workout videos; $398.41 a year or $35.84 a month; new client free trial promotions available.