Thursday, February 6, 2014

Academy of Lions

Academy of Lions

Before leaving Toronto, I wanted to visit Academy of Lions.  While researching gyms in the Toronto area, I read a lot of really great reviews of Academy of Lions.  They are also home to weightlifting world champion and record holder, Alex Varbanov.  With a lot things going for the gym, I decided to go out of my way a bit and make this visit happen.

Unlike most CrossFit gyms I visit, I dropped in last Monday for a session with Alex and the weightlifting team.  My plan was to do what Greg had programmed for me and I got the OK.  However, when I arrived and shared my workout with one of the coaches, he quickly dismissed what I had planned.  About to leave, he somehow convinced me to stay by over-emphasizing how valuable the team workout would be with Alex, a weightlifting world champion.

The weightlifting team class starts exactly at 5:30 and ends exactly at 7:30pm.  The class was on a Bulgarian cycle, so this is what we did: 
  • Warm Up: on your own
  • Snatch HS, then 2x2 backoffs
  • Clean & Jerk HS, then 2x2 backoffs
  • Front Squat HS, then 2x3 backoffs
Some things I really liked here:
  • CrossFit + Weightlifting + Coffee, kind of all in one.  In fact, when you arrive at 64 Ossington Ave, you have to walk through the coffee and apparel shop before seeing any signs of a gym.  
  • Home to Alex Varbanov and his school of weightlifting.  Alex is a 10-time world record holder and a Olympic medalist.  Alex solely coaches all the weightlifting-related classes.  There's something about getting coached by a Bulgarian.  I couldn't understand about half of what he said but somehow I still took his advice and moved well.
  • Variety of equipment for the variety of programs they offer: CrossFit, weightlifting, Nike running, etc.
  • Old-school style looking gym.  A lot of equipment are home-made.
  • Very friendly members.  I really enjoyed working out with the weightlifting team.  It was nice to be surrounded by a supportive group of people away from home.
  • Two floors, and three separate areas for classes.  This enables Academy of Lions to schedule different kinds of classes at the same time without having them interfere with each other. 
  • Long Open Gym hours.  3 hours every Monday, Friday and Sunday.
  • Comprehensive schedule.  They're pretty much open all day, everyday.
  • $20 drop in fee, or $25 for a shirt, or $55 to workout with the weightlifting team.  For any additional visits, they'll charge you whatever your home gym charges for a drop in package

Some things that could use improvement:
  • Change plates in kilograms and fractional plates in pounds.  The smallest increment one can do is 2.5 kilos from the 2.5# plates.  It also sucked to have to work with kilo and pound plates on the same bar.
  • The gym itself is quite dirty, but the coffee shop and bathrooms are the total opposite.

Some pictures:
2. Outside in cold, snowy Toronto

3. First step in...

4. it's a coffee and inov8's shop, and also apparel.

5. back

6. and also rings.  this is literally the first half of the space.  that doorway leads to the CF area...

7. the gym, downstairs space.

8. platforms and pull up bars down the sides.

9. more

10. view of floor 1 and alex coaching from floor 2.

11. head straight through the garage doors, and there's the weightlifting team training area

13. love this chalk board!

14. plates.

15. locker room & bathrooms upstairs

16. 2nd area upstairs.

17. check the rings out.

18. Alex and I after my 85kg front squat PR!

Overall, Academy of Lions was probably the most bizarre CrossFit gym I visited to date.  They are very proud, protective, and protective of their valuable asset.  My interactions with most of the coaches were not the greatest, except for Alex.  I learned a lot from him and it was pretty cool to workout with the team with the guidance from a world champion.  I had a good lifting day: came close to my PRs on the snatch and clean and jerk, and PRed my front squat by 4kg.  I guess I really can't complain!

Nearby Gyms: CrossFit Metric | CrossFit Leviathan