Inside Tribe Fitness HQ, Where Runners Go to Roll, Spin and Flow

Heather Gardner, founder of Tribe Fitness in Toronto

Today, Toronto runners looking to meet like-minded soles have plenty of choice, but back in 2013, the city’s crew scene was just budding. That’s when Heather Gardner, a health and physical education (HPE) teacher/consultant by day, decided to send out an open invitation on Twitter, hoping in part to find some pace mates for her own training. “I just threw a tweet out, saying, Hey, want to run with me? Meet at this corner. And people showed up,” says Gardner, founder of Tribe Fitness, now one of Toronto’s most well-known running crews.

Heather Gardner, founder of Tribe Fitness
Heather Gardner, founder of Tribe Fitness

Six people came out for that inaugural run, but word spread fast. “About two weeks in, one day my phone was just dinging, non-stop. I had 79 tweets—people telling people [about Tribe], people replying. It was wild,” says Gardner, who credits her group’s sense of inclusiveness—all paces welcome—for the immediate enthusiasm.

Even in those early days, Gardner envisioned opening a permanent space for her fitness community. And this November, she did just that, launching a studio for Tribe Fitness right by the waterfront (10 Lower Spadina, Toronto). The new Tribe Fitness HQ will offer “what endurance athletes need: a holistic approach to fitness,” Gardner says.

That means beyond the free group runs (10k on Saturday mornings, and 5k on Wednesday evenings), you can sign up for runner-friendly spinning and yoga. One of Gardner’s signature classes is the Roll Out, a full hour of stretching and rolling to loosen the notoriously inflexible muscles and tight fascia (a.k.a. the “Saran wrap” around those muscles) we all get from constant pavement pounding. Consider it insurance against running injuries.

The indoor cycling at Tribe Fitness is more serious than the “party on a bike” vibe you might find at other spinning studios. “What we’re doing is what a real rider would be doing in their training, like hills and sprints, and we use monitors to track our watts and distance,” explains Gardner. Riders wear New Balance NBCycle shoes (included when you book a Tribe class), an indoor cycling shoe designed to feel like a sneaker. The CycleCore class is a favourite: a 45-minute “performance ride,” followed by 15 minutes of core work on the mat in the yoga studio (expect planks).

Gardner’s thoughtfulness shows in every aspect of her studio. The washrooms, showers and change stalls are all gender non-specific, for instance. The yoga instructors won’t assume you’re cool with being touched; instead, there are consent cards for hands-on assists and adjustments (just flip to “yes” or “no”). “It’s meant to be not only a physically safe space for fitness,” says Gardner, “but also an emotionally safe space.” And like Tribe’s group runs, everyone’s welcome.

Tribe Fitness, 10 Lower Spadina, Suite 100, Toronto, 647.729.5008, 60-minute workout (except Cycle 45 and Cycle 90); $23 for one class.

This month, get 15 percent off Tribe’s single, 5-, 10- and 20-class packages when you sign up using the code FLEETSTREETMAG (expires January 31, 2018).