After many years of relative inactivity, I recently decided that I want to start regularly exercising and getting in some kind of shape. Having made the decision to become my best self, I began looking into gym memberships and classes I might enjoy. As it turns out these things cost money, something that I do not have. Ruffled but undeterred, I continued my search for workouts around Montreal, now focusing only on things I could actually afford (read: free). I ended up finding quite a few free activities, and so The Week of Free Workouts was born! My goals were to be more active and have fun doing it, so while some of the workouts were definitely high intensity, others were just enjoyable new ways to get moving. Since I’m new to the whole “doing exercise” thing, one hour spent moving around rather than on Netflix is a good hour in my books.
I did my best to find activities that could be done regularly rather than one-time events or limited offers, but I did still end up doing two free trials. One of my concerns when I began were the equipment costs of what are technically free events, but require certain equipment to participate. For example, ice skating at Lac Aux Castors is free if, like me, you own a (very old) pair of skates. If you do not, skate rentals will cost you $9 for two hours, which is decidedly un-free. To address the varying degrees of free-ness of the activities on this list, I have divided it into the following categories:
1) The Freest of the Free: These are the activities that are 100%, no strings attached free. They require no signing up or special equipment, you can just show up and jump in.
2) Free Trials: The free trials I did require you to sign up online and schedule your trial, and are of course limited time offers, however are still completely free.
3) Free*: These activities require spending money at some point in time, usually to either invest in or rent equipment, however they do not charge admission or have hidden fees.
The Free* category is therefore specific to my interests and the equipment I already happened to own, and unfortunately free for me does not necessarily mean free for you. That being said, all I did was look around my apartment to see what equipment I did already have, then look for places where I could use them that did not charge admission fees. And there you have it folks, enjoy your free workouts!
The Freest of the Free
Kizomba Lessons at Espaces des Arts
Every Wednesday at 8:30pm in Espaces des Arts, Dr. Kizomba leads a free kizomba class with his uniquely charming and infectious energy. The lessons are put on by Kizomba Canada, an African dance academy based in Montreal. Kizomba is a very sensual dance, but Dr. Kizomba’s devious banter ensures that everyone is too busy laughing to overthink the whole “dancing while pressed chest-to-chest with a series of strangers” aspect of the lessons. Many attendees I spoke to had been dancing kizomba for years, many several months, and there were also a handful of newcomers like me (I know this because Dr. Kizomba made all the first-timers raise their hands, then had everyone applaud us: fair warning). I thought it might be uncomfortable to show up alone, however I have since discovered that a very good ice-breaking technique is to hold the person you have just met rather tightly against your torso (the proper kizomba stance), and then muddle through a series of elaborate dance steps together. The kizomba lesson was a fun, free workout that I would highly recommend trying out – as long as you’re comfortable grinding hips with 20+ members of the opposite sex during the one-hour class. After the lesson, the room transforms into the Kitaba social (also free!), and you can stick around to practice your moves and watch Dr. Kizomba work his magic.
Check it out here: http://www.kizombacanada.ca/
Yoga Neige at Parc Lafontaine and Parc Laurier
For four years now POP Spirit has been leading free snow yoga lessons for Montrealers during the winter season. This season’s classes took place on weekends at 10:30am, at Parc Lafontaine on Saturday and Parc Laurier on Sunday. I’ll be honest with you, I showed up to snow yoga ten minutes late and with a dirty towel instead of a yoga mat. Nonetheless, starting my day with a free yoga lesson in the fresh snow was wonderful, and I decided about halfway into the class that I wanted to attend the lesson being held the next day at Parc Laurier, too. By the end of the class, when I had to lie down and meditate on my soaking wet, semi-frozen bath towel for far too long, I was reconsidering my earlier ambition. All the same, the final lesson of the season is tomorrow, March 18th, and I highly recommend attending. I should also note that the lesson was entirely in French, so if you do not speak French just make sure to set up behind someone who looks like they know what they’re doing.
Check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1488874034552869/
Super Fun Walking Adventure Day
This day I had intended to do a free trial at Anytime Fitness, because they prominently advertise on their website that they offer a FREE 7-day trial. Upon calling the gym I learned that this is an ABSOLUTE FUCKING HOAX, and that to claim your 7-day free trial you have to make a $20 deposit, and after the 7-day period that $20 will go towards a membership of your choice. Okay, so not an absolute fucking hoax, but still. Hoax level: medium. In lieu of spending $20 at Anytime Fitness, I decided to go on an adventure. By which I mean, a very long walk in a randomly selected direction so that I could explore a new area of Montreal. How fun! And MUCH cheaper than $20. In fact, I found 10 cents on the sidewalk whilst on my walk, which I felt was the universe’s way of telling me that I had made the right choice. I ended up meandering in the general direction of Westmount, strolling through some mansion-lined streets, then heading back to my tiny, tiny apartment. My Super Fun Adventure Walk ended up being approximately 2.5 hours. It was a great way to discover new parts of Montreal and was also extremely hecking free. Unlike the 7-day “free” trial membership at Anytime Fitness.
Free Trial Class at Spin Énergie
Signing up for a free trial at Spin Énergie was very easy, I made an account on their website (no credit card information required) and the first class I signed up for was automatically free. I selected a class with an instructor named Hugo, because I saw that the two other classes he was leading that week were already full. Obviously Hugo was in high demand, and I figured there must be a good reason for that. I figured correctly.
On the day of my trial class, Spin Énergie called me a few hours beforehand to confirm my spot and ask me to come in 15 minutes early so that they could show me around. The facilities are decorated in soothing teals and whites, there is a lounge area with bean bag chairs and magazines, and there are even showers and towels provided in the change rooms. I have since come to the conclusion that this adorably decorated, soothing interior is strategically designed to lull the uninitiated into a false sense of security.
As class drew nearer, my fellow spinners began filing into the room at the back of the building, and I followed their lead. As soon as I entered the room I was overwhelmed by the music, which seemed to be coming from everywhere all at once and had to have been at maximum volume. However, what was most disconcerting was that no one was acting as if anything was amiss. Many attendees even continued to converse, all the while pretending it was normal that they were now screaming at each other rather than talking. Baffled but trying to blend in, lest the spinners smell weakness and turn on me, I found my bike (#31) and settled in.
Then, I saw Hugo. He floated through the crowd, dispensing pleasantries and beatific smiles unto his followers while wearing a cut-off shirt that showcased his ridiculously muscular arms. The popularity of his classes was instantly demystified. Hugo strode to the front of the room and turned on the three light boxes that surrounded his spin podium. Everyone settled into their seats, Hugo scrolled through his phone and selected a song, turned the volume up EVEN HIGHER, then turned off all the lights, mounted his bike and began the lesson. As it sunk in that I was about to pedal on a stationary bike for one hour in a room illuminated only by three faint light boxes, and literally vibrating because of the volume of the music being played, I felt a bout of hysteria coming on and only narrowly avoided laughing out loud. But at this point there was nothing to do except throw myself in.
As previously noted, the music was deafening – I understood maybe every third word Hugo yelled at us in rotating English, French, and Spanish. I am at least 50% sure he occasionally yelled in Spanish. As the room’s only source of illumination came from the three extremely inefficient box lights (whose true purpose seemed to be to cast a majestic glow upon Hugo), I could also barely make out what the people in front of me were doing, so the spin class involved a lot of guesswork. However, one particularly memorable move came towards the end of the class, when Hugo led us through several arm exercises, one of which consisted of pedalling away while stretching our arms forward towards Hugo as if in worship. Sweaty, zombie-like worship.
Despite having later described this experience as “harrowing” to multiple colleagues, it was also an undeniably intense and yes, fun, workout. The class flew by, and by the end I was absolutely covered in sweat. I believe that I have since developed a kind of Stockholm syndrome, and have occasionally found myself browsing Spin Énergie’s website and considering actually paying for a class. Anything to feel that sweet, sweet spin again.
Sign up here: https://www.spinenergie.com/en/
5-Day Free Trial at Mansfield Club Athlétique
After being burned by Anytime Fitness I was hesitant to look into other gym trials, suspicious that many would have similar hidden fees. Enter Mansfield Club Athlétique. I submitted my name, email, and phone number on their website and lo and behold, the very next day I received a text from a Mansfield representative, and was able to schedule a “club tour” with him for later that week. I arrived on the appointed day with some workout clothes packed, fully expecting that this would be my one chance to get in and test out the gym. But once more, Mansfield came through. After a brief tour of the very impressive facilities, my wonderful guide informed me that he was going to set me up with a FREE 5-day trial! He also invited me to get a workout in after the tour (6-day trial!!).
At MCA, a 5-day trial does not only mean access to their massive gym with the usual equipment and machines, but also access to the many classes that they offer, including yoga, spin, ballet barre, kickboxing, zumba, and more. So far I am one day into the trial and have attended a ballet barre class (which was difficult but very rewarding) and worked out in the gym. There is also a rock-climbing wall that I have been eyeing, but have not gotten around to yet.
The trouble with free trials is that they often do their job very well, which is to get you hooked. I am worried that I am falling in love with Mansfield Club Athlétique, and unfortunately access to the massive complex and its many varied classes does come at a rather steep price: $47 bi-weekly, with a $275 sign up fee (though only $50 for students) to be exact. Having embarked on The Week of Free Workouts precisely because I do not have money, this is far too expensive a love affair for me to be having right now. That being said, I am extremely excited about the yoga class I will be attending there tomorrow.
Sign up here: http://clubmansfield.ca/live-the-mansfield-experience/
Ice Skating at Lac Aux Castors
*Free admission to the rink, and therefore 100% free if you own your own skates. If you do not, skate rentals are $9 for 2 hours. The end of skating season is fast approaching, so make sure you check the conditions of the rink here first.
Lane Swim at the YMCA
*Free admission for residents of Montreal at specific times. This means that the first time you go you have to bring proof of residency in the form of a Quebec drivers license or a hydro or Internet bill with your name and address on it, after which you will be set up with a card that gives you access to the pool. Bathing caps are also mandatory, and if you do not own one they usually cost between $8-$20. They also make you look silly.
Salsa Lesson at Club 649
When researching free workouts around Montreal, the nightly dance lessons at Club 649 are often among the top results. While the dance lessons themselves may be free, there is a mandatory, cash only $7 coat check/entrance fee. On Monday they offer beginner salsa lessons, the club opens at 9pm and the lessons begin at 10pm. They also offer several other classes throughout the week.