I could write a novel about the Academy of Lions. It is a place that impressed the heck out of me. They have a lot going on yet I never felt overwhelmed in this environment and if you visit their website, you’ll see what I mean. They have CrossFit, a general store, the Academy of Lions Foundation, minimal running shoes and coaching, a blog & podcast and more. In the words of an anonymous member: “This place is more than a gym, it is a community.” I couldn’t have said it better. The people responsible for this community are partners Dhani Oks, Soha Bastani (“The Sister”) and Sohail Bastani (“The Brother”).
I met Dhani a few months ago and we spoke about me coming in to check out the whole place and to participate in a class. Fast-forward to one of their free CrossFit classes on Sundays and I got to visit the Academy of Lions with my partner in crime, my husband. As soon as we walked in the front door we were greeted by Soha, who was busy at work behind the counter at their General Store + Cafe area.
Keep in mind that this is our first, I repeat, our first attempt at CrossFit. We didn’t know if we were going to walk or crawl out of this place. Now, for those of you who have never done CrossFit before, it’s best if I use the Academy of Lions’ definition of CrossFit to explain a bit. On their website, they have written:
“CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning program developed to enhance an individual’s competency at all physical tasks. Our clients are trained as athletes and are coached to perform successfully at multiple, diverse, and randomized physical challenges. CrossFit can be done by anyone of any skill, age or background.”
After talking to Soha for a bit, we walked inside the CrossFit class area and met our instructor, Richmond. Even before we began our warm-up Richmond asked each one of us if we had any injuries he should know about. One by one, we began to share our stories of what was injured and how we did it. He mentioned this was important to make sure you are accommodating and modifying the workout to suit you better. My rickety knee was happy to hear this. He gave me some options to use during the warm-up and workout.
We started the warm-up by jumping rope, followed by their “Joint Mobility” list posted on the wall. I felt stretched, ready and a bit out of breath. For the workout, or WOD (workout of the day) as the regulars like to call it, we needed to complete a minute of each exercise. Richmond wanted to add a little competition, so he mentioned we would each keep tally of how many reps we completed and at the end we would compare. “Oh noooo!”, I heard my husband say out loud. He then went on to explain how competitive I am. I turned to him and said, “Real push-ups and burpees, no easy stuff!” He knew it was on.
I did the “burpees” with push-ups, moved on to their “wall balls” — they’re squats using a 12-lb ball that you throw towards the wall as high as you can. I was running out of breath during our “box jumps”, which are hard plyometric jumps, and was happy to end this with a “kettle bell swing”. Thank goodness for a minute break after that. Richmond walked around, corrected my form, encouraged and instructed us when to start our next set. I managed to finish three rounds and according to my tally I completed 250 reps. If I do the math, that means I did 21 reps per exercise. Not too shabby for a first timer! I left the Academy of Lions with a victory smile on my face, some coconut water from the cafe to hydrate my tired body and a THIS SHIRT IS FOR PERU from one of their community projects. Not only did I do something good for my body, but I felt like I was a part of their community. If you’re interested in their classes or to learn more information about them, visit their website and sign up for a Sunday workout. You’ll be happy you did.
Academy of Lions
Dhani Oks (Partner, Director of Programming)
Soha Bastani (Partner, Member Coordinator, General Store Manager)
Sohail Bastani (Partner, Director)
64 Ossington Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M6J 2Y7
416-538-4967 (general voice-mail)
Written by Millie (Castaneda) Soriano
Millie Soriano (formerly Millie Castaneda) is a teacher by day and a health & fitness writer by night. As a writer, she visits locations and events, blogs at her site, and writes articles about healthy lifestyles in and around the city here at Spotlight Toronto. Her passion for maintaining balance in her life drives her curiosity to try all things new. This includes new gyms, bootcamps, 5K, 10K and half-marathon races, CN Tower climbs, you name it!