August 19, 2013

World Class Fitness Destination: Toronto!

So sure, this is not a comprehensive list of all the exercise and activity options while visiting Toronto. For example: the whole question of winter. I have no idea what the hell Canadians do about that. Does shivering count as cardio?

In fact, this is just a crapload of inexpertly taken camera-phone photos as we continued to enjoy our Toronto house-swap adventure. But I did at least have fitness in mind as I snapped a few of them. And I've organized them by Healthy Activity Theme. So potential Toronto visitors who are concerned about over-consumption of tempting treats like poutine and canine testicles may find some reassurance that you can make up for dietary sins with lots of exercise.

So, ready for our Toronto tour?

Toronto Gyms and Health Clubs

They have lots of gyms here, and if you are actually searching for one I suppose you could check this round-up of fitness centers in Toronto. But guess what? It happened there was a workout room FREE downstairs in the very building we are staying in.  We are all about free.

Ready for some murky camera-phone selfies to prove that I actually worked out?

However, the tragic downside to our handy condo workout room:

Yep, it's a securely locked thermostat. And I don't care what 21 degrees centigrade means in real life, it is too f--cking hot in there.

Parks and Islands

Three are lots of green spaces, trails, gardens, and bodies of water in Toronto for those who like to walk, run, kayak, bike, rollerskate, pogostick, or otherwise ambulate in the outdoors.

And some of the parks featured these interesting installations:

Which I first thought might be related to hydration. But when no water was forthcoming, I realized they were modern art sculptures!

The wry reinvention of concepts such as  "thirst" and "convenience," and the playful way expectations were subverted, yet in a different sense, fully confirmed: these were far more refreshing that any cliched "drink of water on a hot day" could ever be!

Or, um, not. Gotta confess, post-modern art is always a little confusing to me.

Ugly picture of a pretty location, but basically: if you go out to The Beaches area you can jump in the water or stroll the boardwalks or do paddle-board yoga or sail or fly kites or use one of the approximately 7,876 volleyball courts there. There also appears to be a high dive for people more adventurous than we are.

Or, if you are concerned that you are shrinking or growing inappropriately...

You can go to a special park created just to help you find out. Canadians think of everything!

(The Lobster may have turned suddenly Lilliputian, but I am almost 170 somethings tall! Which sounds like a really big number! I'm thinking my ignorance of the metric system is not necessarily a bad thing).

But aside from measuring ourselves and going for runs in nearby parks and working out in the sweaty gym, our main exercise was Sightseeing and eating obscene portions of frozen yogurt and drinking beer. Which brings us to the next part of our tour:

The Hell with Cars! 

Do Your Sightseeing on Foot or by Bicycle And Use Public Transportation!

So yeah, true confessions: we did indeed do the "hop on, hop off" tourist 3 day dorkathon thing to get oriented when we first arrived. But even those days we mostly hopped off and walked our asses all over town because tour buses are really freakin' slow.  We thought about renting bikes, which in my mind counts as exercise. We were momentarily tempted by the bike trails and a few streets with nice wide bike lanes. But there were too many other urban streets with no bike lanes that looked scary so we ended up staying in our comfort zone--which is hoofing it and using subways and streetcars as necessary. (The Toronto subway system is very convenient and much like the familiar San Francisco system so it was easy-peasy to navigate).

However, the natives were a brave and active bunch who embraced urban cycling with style!

And they seemed to have a hell of a good time doing it.

However, like any North American community, Toronto did have a few citizens who seemed strangely sedentary despite all the temptations to be active.  Sadly, none of these folks moved a muscle the entire time we observed them.

But given the unusually low ratio of cars to pedestrians and bikes: most Toronto folks seemed to be refreshingly free of auto-addiction.

However, help me out here Canadians: what's up with the pedestrian timidity?

Most Canadians we observed were either too polite or too chicken to jay-walk--even when there were huge gaps in traffic and there was no inconvenience to, or threat from, oncoming traffic. Is jay-walking punishable by death in Canada? If so, perhaps we should cut it the hell out.

Neighborhoods and Sights

So where is it fun to go and what should you see when you decide to walk your ass off in Toronto?

We got the impression you can go pretty much anywhere!  Canadians: are we being naive? Did we just get lucky?

No matter where we wandered we found an interesting blend of old and new architecture, great food, public art, and greenery. The city is diverse, multicultural, and vibrant. Yet it seems curiously safe and clean and friendly!

In all our wandering, this is about as creepy as it ever got:

So yeah, you may have to go elsewhere for a "Top Toronto Sights" sort of list, as we are mostly about walking around neighborhoods and we are liking pretty much everywhere we go.

This is a paragraph you can ignore if you are never going to Toronto, but for those who are considering it: we've enjoyed strolling around the Annex (where our house-swap place is), Yorkville, Cabbagetown, Roncesvalles, Leslieville, The Beaches,  (aka The Beach), the Harbourfront, the Distillery District, Old Town, Whatever You Call Basic Downtown Where People Go to Work and wander the Mall, Little Italy, Little Portugal, Chinatown, Kensington Market, Queen Street West, Ossington, Church and Wellesley...

And we still have more to see! (The islands, several museums we have our eyes on, the Canadian National Exhibition, etc.)

Anyway, a few random pictures of some destinations your feet and a strategic subway token or two can take you:

(And no, we didn't go up to the top of the tower and even if we had there was no f--cking way we were doing anything called the Edge Walk).

Note: I could not take a picture in Leslieville without a stroller in it.

Oh, and how to know you've found a hipster 'hood?

Well, one hint... while looking at this oddly familiar display at a shop full of cute collectibles I was trying to remember what retro art movement these exemplified:

Yep. Turned out to be carefully curated vintage... Paint by Numbers. Gotta love those clever hipsters.

(Warning: The whole related question of Healthy Eating in while Traveling in Toronto?  Coming soon, to a tedious health blog near you! And those of you who are brave enough to venture over to the Cranky Fitness Facebook Page may have noticed: random trip photos, like some virulent virus, are starting to multiply over there as well, though who knows how long that will continue. )

Thanks for indulging me! How do you guys stay fit when you travel? And how was everyone's weekend?


  1. I ADORE YOU TWO!!! and await yer return to the Bay...

  2. [technical note: clicking on a photo got me a black page with a Small Red Dot in the middle and a row of thumbnails at the bottom.]
    I want more commentary. For example, does the sign with the perambulator mean that the shop sells strollers, or that it's stroller-friendly, or what?
    When I travel, depending on the reason, I walk a lot. Walking being my favorite form of exercise, it is naturally what I do when traveling. Of course, there was the conference in Chicago when I emerged from inside the hotel for all of three hours in two days, the meetings were that fascinating and that time-consuming. But I walked miles of hotel corridors. And even when I go to the beach, when I naturally also swim a lot, I walk on land, too.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  3. You've made TO sound interesting and enticing. Good job.

  4. Loved your assessment of the post-utilitarian art installation concept pieces! Not sure if the artist is English or this is a global underground movement in the art scene, but we have some almost identical sculptures in the public parks here... Usually quite close to the "outdoor fitness equipment" themed humour pieces.

    Doubt I'll ever make it to Toronto, but it looks like an awesome place. Keep the pics coming!

    1. Thanks Lucky Duck, and I suspect your're right about your hunch about the global underground movement. They seem to be spreading from parks to restrooms, particularly in the states, with art pieces that look like toilets but won't flush and faucet-like sculptures that don't dispense water.

  5. I gave a lecture at an International meeting in Toronto! I really liked that city! Besides being where all the money is, lol, they seemed to have more banks than Dublin had pubs, it was one of the cleanest cities I've ever seen!

  6. Best review of the city EVER!

    Glad you're enjoying TO so much!

  7. I have never been anywhere in Canada but now I think I need to find a way to make it happen!!!
    Love all the pictures.
    I like to explore places on foot - never tried pogo sticking through a park but now I sort of want to - I wonder how long I could pogo?
    And I'm so happy you shared your FB page so I could Like it and now see more pictures!!!

  8. I love seeing Toronto through your eyes and fun commentary. We native Quebecers will jaywalk without a thought but Ontarians are ridiculously hesitant to do so. My ex was from Mississauga (where I'm living until my place sells) and I'm from Montreal. He lived in Montreal when we met. On our first date, we were in the heart of downtown at 2 am. There was not a car in sight. The light was red. I walked across and turned back to see him still waiting on the corner for the light to change to green. It took a long time to break him of the habit. In fact, it was a lot sooner before he was putting the toilet seat back down. ;)

  9. It's nice to see my home through a tourists eyes. Where I see endless construction and large quantities of gum on sidewalks and potholes in streets in need of more trees, you see something completely different.

    1. Isn't that funny Cindy how different things start to look when they are more familiar? I'm sure if I were here longer I'd misplace the rose colored glasses, but the city did seem SO clean and well-maintained. Even the ubiquitous construction seemed, from a tourist eyes, like a sign of growth and continuously improving infrastructure etc. The tour bus people explained much of it as preparation for the Pan Am games in the hopes of getting a future Olympics, but they could be totally making that up.

  10. Did Cabbagetown smell? And that Big Bike - was it being towed by a tractor or a truck? Did they really have to pedal in order to make it move?

    Best recap/review of a city/province/whatever those Canadians call it EVER!

    1. No stink in Cabbagetown Shelley, and the big red thing was people powered! (Though did come with a two-police car escort and a lot of noise).

    2. Interesting that the big bike was people powered, as they all look like they're having too much fun to be making it really move. Of course, now I want to join in and ride one!!!

  11. Any city that maps out "Discovery Walks" is a place i have to visit someday!

  12. Your most excellent travelogue makes me want dual citizenship!!! Loved those pics and have to note that one sort of looks like a gigantic arachnid from outer space - but, in a good, not too terribly creepy way.
    What fun to travel virtually with you, two :) ! Anon

  13. Glad you had a good time in Toronto, you certainly picked the right time of year for it! And yes, waiting for lights is a strange but widespread Ontarian character trait (mea culpa.


    1. Thanks Barb! I just hope the Ontarians are not TOO aggravated by impatient out of town jaywalkers, at least the sort who are careful not to do it when any cars are on the way. It must seem terribly rude of us!

  14. Love the pics of the big city! Glad you are having a wonderful time.

    When we travel we like to walk around and use transit if possible. We usually enjoy a hotel with a pool and gym, and of course, we love to hike!

    Have a great time at the CNE!

    1. Thanks Kimberley (for everything!!), and we did indeed enjoy the CNE!

  15. I'm Canadian and never been to Toronto!!! (Except a short stopover in a train bound for further)

    Looks like you had a great time!

  16. I've lived in Canada all my life and have never been offered dog testicles. WHere are you guys eating? :P

    Hope you guys went in the art gallery. There's some amazing permanent exhibits in there. Toronto is a fun city to visit. The transit is fantastic for getting's the right time of year to be there. Nice and sunny without ridiculous humidity.
    PS - metric is the bomb...:)

    1. Yep Geosomin, Went to AGO and ROM, awesomeness! Especially the Genesis exhibit at the ROM. Mind-blowing photography and I almost missed it because from the title I thought it would be all Biblical. Instead it was stunning landscapes, exotic indigenous tribes, animals, etc. Huge hi-res photos, just amazing. And the architecture at the AGO with all that wood inside, wowza!

  17. LOVE your recap!! How fun is all that!!!! Lucky you for all this wonderful travel fun!!!

    We have a timeshare from way back when so we always have a kitchen & we also stay active PLUS I run in the morn a few times & bring my bands in case there is not gym.. :)

  18. Looking at those pictures, it seems you're having a lot of fun over there! I live in Canada, but sadly I still have yet to visit Toronto. It's on my list of things to do though!

  19. I already wanted to go to Toronto SO BAD! I'm thinking we might travel to Canada for our vacation next year. When my husband and I travel, we love seeing everything we can on foot. We walk our tails off, which then gives us the permission we need for things like wine and gelato!

    1. Canada is a great travel destination OtF and we loved Toronto! Hope you get the chance next year. So many other great cities and national parks too. Plus, the people are so damn nice.

  20. Cool post. Going next year so this helps! Looks fun. Cheers..

  21. Good stuff! Love your descriptions. I've been to Toronto a few times (in the previous decade) and thought it was a lovely city. Really wouldn't mind going back to see more of it.

    Also, "somethings" is now my favorite unit of measurement. Thank you. :-D

  22. Love that you're having a blast in Toronto!

    As as a token Canadian, yes, shivering does count as cardio... just not in Toronto. It doesn't get cold enough. Northern Canada? Even Montreal (and in my opinion Ottawa) yes! But then areas like here really embrace the winter sports - skating, skiing, snowshoeing (I know, I was shocked too... ppl do that!?)

    Enjoy your time in Toronto!!

  23. Wow. Thanks for that. I'm going next year and was looking around for idea so thanks! have bookmarked this, will try these places for sure. Thanks!

  24. Love Canada, love Toronto (Pasta with Brie, yum!). Somehow, "seeing" Toronto again through your eyes, made me want to go back. So glad you had a wonderful time and really appreciated your sharing the experience and the photos.
    When we travel we always walk and walk. We really enjoy museums so even when the pace is slower, we're still on our feet.

  25. You're making me want to take a trip up to Toronto soon! We haven't been there recently aside from making the trek from Buffalo for a concert and turning right back around the same night. Isn't that design school on stilts on McCaul Street wild? We usually park just off Queen on McCaul (in the parking garage of one of the many gyms!) and it appeared out of nowhere a few years ago. We were a bit startled.

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  27. I am not John Dupuis. I'm his spouse! Anyway, nice to hear you're enjoying my home town. As someone who lived in Montreal for 26 years, I learnt to jaywalk and still do so now that I'm back in TO.

    It's really interesting to see how others perceive the city where one lives. Having just come back from Paris, I would move there in a second, leaving behind the boredom of North America (with perhaps the exception of Montreal, NYC and SF). Problem is, I'm not independently rich. Sigh.

  28. Yay, new comments from some of my favorite Cranketeers, thank you guys! And sorry I've been blogslacking again, we just got back last night so I'm being particularly crappy about replying individually even as I'm enjoying all the contributions.

    And welcome NewMe who is not John Dupuis! Thanks so much for stopping by. And yeah... Paris... sigh. Haven't been there since I was too young to fully appreciate its virtues and would love to go back. I am guessing you are a Wise Brained person? If so, apologies to you and any others who may have wandered here via the awesomeness that is Rick Hanson and discovered a week old vacation post full of crummy photos. Will try to get something real up as soon as I can figure out where I put my rather UnWise brain. Seem to have lost it while unpacking!

  29. This is a little late but still funny.
    An article on Torontonians love for Jaywalking and the fines they pay for doing it.

  30. Thank you for that! I think it's hilarious they see themselves as big brave jaywalkers. I noticed the paper even had to define "jaywalking". But the aggressive fines does at least explain the hesitancy!

  31. As a native Torontonian I can assure you I jaywalk quite a lot. (In fact, I was *made* to run across a street about 10 minutes after I completed my first half marathon in the middle of downtown to get to our car....that was fun)

    However, I'm not sure if this is unique to Toronto or not, but I find a seemingly large number of people jaywalking get hit by streetcars or buses here. It seems large to me. Maybe it's just as much of a problem elsewhere and we scare easier.

    Sounds like you had a fun time in TO though!

    1. I'm surprised about the high number of accidents given how careful people seemed to be there! But I wouldn't be surprised if some of those had to do with eyes being on cell phones rather than traffic. Or maybe the lack of islands for boarding and getting off the streetcars?

      And yep we had a GREAT time in Toronto!



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