Best of CityPlace

Meet your ‘Tribe’ — a CityPlace fitness ‘family’ — with a brick & mortar space in the works

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You’ve likely seen flocks of them running on CityPlace streets, or downward-dogging in Canoe Landing Park.

We’re not talking about those sneaky red-winged blackbirds.

We’re talking about Tribe, the fitness community founded and run by Heather Gardner, a force of nature.

She started Tribe in 2013 when she moved to CityPlace from Hamilton.

“I stepped back. I was new and had no connections to anyone,” Heather explained.

“But that didn’t last very long.”

When she arrived, she stepped back and realized a fitness community was badly needed in the neighbourhood.

She explains that she wanted to bring people together.

“There are so many people here in CityPlace, and everyone’s trying to do their own thing, I wanted to acknowledge how we lived and wanted to connect people.”

So along came November 2013.

Wait, November? What can be done in Toronto in November, other than hibernate?

“Obviously we couldn’t do yoga in the park,” Heather laughed, adding that they do yoga now, but in the summer months at Canoe Landing!

So she started a running group, which has grown into a running-yoga-rollout group.

“Runners are starting to venture to the yoga classes,” Heather explained. “I’m seeing cross-over, I’m seeing our runners who wouldn’t have paid attention to yoga see the benefits.”

And that’s not the only growth happening.

Physical space is in the works, coming this fall to Queen’s Quay, immediately west of Spadina.

The space is about 2700 square feet, Heather explained. She plans to have two rooms. One room will be for indoor cycling, and the larger room will be dedicated to yoga and movement.

“I want to offer a place where people could come and get quality scientific-driven fitness in one membership,” Heather said.

The space will be as inclusive as Tribe is. The space will be gender neutral, with no male or female specific areas. Instead, there will be individual showers, change rooms, and washrooms.

“It is in alignment with us being inclusive, accessible to all — everyone,” Heather said.

Heather plans on offering a variety of 5, and 10 class passes and the exact rates are being worked on.

As for the types of classes, they don’t sound boring with one class made up of dual modality — half an hour of core training and half an hour of yoga.

The space is scheduled to open in early fall.

In the meantime, the fitness continues.

When asked what the most popular fitness activity is, Heather says it depends on the season.

“Yoga in the Park is huge, obviously,” Heather explained, noting that at times they had 100 people in attendance.

Roll-out gets double digit numbers in the middle of race season. And the Wednesday 5K run got 60 people two weeks ago — the biggest showing they’ve had.

How does one person run this all? Well, yes, Heather is in charge, but she explains that she has help from a variety of leaders in the community.

Tribe runners who wanted to give back become “run mentors,” who run (pun intended) events such as Wednesday night 5K runs, Saturday 10K run and brunch and 10-week learn to run (offered twice a year, next session coming up at the end of July).

“We have certified yoga instructors too,” Heather explained. “People in the community are excited about what we do, and we provide.”

The community hasn’t hurt either.

“CityPlace residents have been incredibly supportive,” Heather said. “When people are looking for a run group or are seeking yoga suggestions on the CityPlace Facebook page, people suggest us without even me having to reply!”

“It makes me feel gratitude. It makes me feel that other people are supportive and are aware.”

And those people have truly become a tribe.

One runner brought a date to a yoga class to improve his running and his love life.

He’s getting married to that date.

That’s one of three Tribe weddings this year.

And apparently, you don’t have to get married to become family.

“It’s a community of people who want to be with you and care about you,” Heather said. “A lot of people call it their run family.”

Aside from those weddings, here’s the Tribe calendar:
* Wednesday 5K runs, all year long
* Sunday 10K runs with brunch, all year long
* Yoga at Canoe Landing Park, weekly, kicking off in July
* Learn to run 10-week, once a week, late July
* Fitness space opening early fall, Queen’s Quay and Spadina

Heather’s five tips for new runners
1. Find a plan
2. Set realistic goals
3. Get a new pair of running shoes – old shoes will often lead to injuries, and then the body is already challenged and uncomfortable
4. Find a run group for motivation and accountability – or a friend to join you
5. Don’t give up – the body takes time to adjust

Diana Pereira

Diana Pereira is a journalist, a university journalism teacher, a world traveller, a fair-weather kayaker, and a frequent bruncher. She's working on her mermaid status, travelling to as many countries as she can that include a body of water and when she's home in Toronto, you can find her in a kayak on Lake Ontario.