It all started with Olivia Newton-John. The year was 1982, and the prim Aussie singer was suddenly bopping around a gym with oily bodybuilders in a music video, singing about getting physical and hearing one’s body talk. After that it seemed there was an explosion of fitness fashion, 20-minute workouts and expensive health clubs that boasted contracts more binding than a pre-nup.
Thankfully, most of us have hung up the fluorescent thongs and leg warmers (please, god), but many health clubs still require a blood oath and death certificate in order to break their terms. Jim Solomon and Hone Fitness are on a mission to change that.
“There are a lot more changes in people’s lives now,” Solomon says. “We move more, we change jobs more frequently and our lives and careers are built around quick and easy. Hone’s model is to offer low cost monthly fees with no contracts. You can leave anytime you want with just 30 days notice.”
When Solomon says low cost, he’s not kidding. Just 10 bucks a month gets you access to nearly a hundred cardio machines, along with another 90 weight machines. Add in a healthy selection of free weights and a separate training room, and you’re getting your total flex-on for the price of a Big Mac combo meal with a chocolate shake and cookies (don’t judge me).
There are differences in amenities, of course. While Hone Fitness boasts nearly 1,800 square metres devoted to exercise, it’s trimmed costs by eschewing extras like classes, sauna, Jacuzzi and free towels. For an additional $10 a month, though, there are free guest passes and complimentary tanning. There’s also a killer juice bar and access to personal trainers.
“There is for sure a solid market for those who want extras like a pool or steam room,” Solomon points out. “But this is a no-frills approach for people who want to come in, work out and get on with their lives.”
It’s a concept Solomon’s been honing for years, after stints managing a Crunch in New York City and Extreme Fitness here in Toronto. Finding this prime location — a former gym just minutes from both the Bloor and Wellesley subway stations — was the perfect opportunity for his “sharpen your body, fatten your wallet” philosophy.
Patrons of the old Yonge Street Fitness, the previous tenant at this corner of Yonge and Isabella, will be happy to know Solomon has retained the space’s distinctive, exposed brick walls and tall windows. Hone’s extensive renovations have opened up the layout further, removing interior walls and flooding the huge room with natural light. It’s fresh and updated, with the second floor housing the cardio and stretch areas, while the third floor is all about weights and training. All the machines are from Matrix, Solomon’s first choice for hard-wearing equipment.
“I think it’s the best made product in North America,” he says. “We focus entirely on the workout here, so we need to make sure we offer the best.”