The boutique boxing studio craze has landed firmly in Toronto and we’re swooning over the newest place to get in on the sweaty action: BOLO (aka BodyLoveInc).
Occupying a prominent space at the corner of Richmond and Peter until February, Knix x BOLO House is part workout studio, part shopping experience. Caleigh Rykiss, a former competitive fighter, TV producer, and personal trainer is the founder of BOLO, which offers personal training as well as bootcamp and boxing classes. Their classes promote “strength inside and out and encourage a healthy and loving body image.”
Even in this temporary location, Rykiss has created a unique space complete with a comfy couch and pink chairs in the lounge area, inspiring quotes on a light board, and a basket in the washroom with essential items and scented candles burning. There is kombucha and Station Cold Brew on tap, and the bar table at the back of the gym is a great place to catch up after class.
Upstairs in Knix x BOLO House is Knixwear, a Toronto-based intimates brand that promotes empowering women to love their bodies and feel good about who they are. Founder Joanna Griffiths wanted to create functional intimate products for women and has built a body-positive brand that embraces women of all shapes and sizes. We love their bras and tank tops for working out and for athleisure.
We attended two classes at the Knix x BOLO House: a Bootcamps for Change event led by Kelsey Rose, and a boxing class with Rykiss. When we arrived, we had some time to chat with Rykiss. Her energy is contagious. As she personally wrapped our hands for class, she spoke to us about how she worked her way towards opening up her own gym and how her past experience in production and writing allows her to approach her gym with a different perspective. She appreciates the little touches and also knows what’s important as a client in a gym.
Our class started with a warm up where we learned the “one-two punch” and the jab and cross we would use throughout the class. Our warmup circuit consisted of: squats, jumping lunges, planks and lots of punching. We then moved into a circuit for the main event. Each station in the circuit had two movements that we performed twice, first for 45 seconds and then again for 30 seconds.
With our gloves on, we moved through the stations. From plank to pushup and plank dips, to punching the bag while standing on a bosu and then sitting on the bosu punching down, each station had us boxing but also using our legs and stabilizing muscles. In between each station we had enough time to wipe our sweat and grab a drink of water before moving on to the next station.
At the end of the circuit we gathered as a group for a core workout and then a stretch. Our class was soundtracked by DJ Rollexi and she played beats that got us pumped up throughout the workout.
We had a chance to catch up with Caleigh to learn a bit more about her new endeavor, the struggles involved in opening your own studio, and the future of BOLO.
Well TO Do: What made you decide to take the leap and start your own studio? And please tell us more about what the name BodyLove means to you.
Caleigh Rykiss: The idea to open a fitness/social hybrid facility came about like most business ideas: I felt like my needs as a professional and as a consumer were not being met with the current gyms out there. Instead of complaining and compromising, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Basically BOLO is my dream gym: one that meets all my needs as a student, as an instructor, and as an all around hustler who is always on the go.
The name BodyLove came to me when I first started flushing out the idea of opening a business. From a literal perspective, my personal brand, mandate, and most of my content in the media revolves around encouraging people to love themselves, feel good in their skin, and be kind to their bodies. So, BodyLove seems like an obvious choice. From a less literal space, I want every element of the BOLO business – the gym, the social lounge/café and the beauty bar – to be utilized because we love ourselves and not because we want to change ourselves, conform, or deplete ourselves in any way.
I want all my students to come into a workout because they love their bodies and want to challenge and strengthen it. I want all the café customers to nourish themselves because they want to fuel their bodies to function optimally, and I want people to pamper themselves also because they feel they deserve it and want to feel like their best and most confident selves. Everything you do at BOLO should be motivated by the love and appreciation of our bodies.
WTD: What was the biggest struggle in opening the studio? The easiest part to maneuver?
CR: There are many struggles – M-A-N-Y – but it’s well worth it. I come from a media background and don’t have a lot of business experience so it’s been a steep learning curve. Money is such an uncomfortable and uncharted territory for me; asking for it, managing it, all of it is weird. But I’m getting better at that side of things.
I’m also learning about hiring and managing people. Trying to find a team that is as excited about BOLO as I am and trusting them to respect, represent, and be loyal to the brand is a tall order, but the response has been amazing so far. The easiest part is working with my husband, James, my business partner, who is my biggest supporter and helping make my dreams come true. #CHEESYAF
WTD: We love Knixwear and were so excited to hear that they are involved in the project. How did this come to be and what do you envision with the partnership?
CR: Joanna [Griffiths], the founder and CEO of Knix is a longtime friend of mine. Over the summer she recruited me to help her get back to making her health and fitness a priority and during our sessions we discovered that we had compatible plans: she wanted to open her first front-facing retail space for the holidays and we wanted to have a cool space where people could give a preview of what’s to come when the permanent BOLO space opens in the new year, right across the street from where the pop-up is located.
Our brand messages and mandates are incredibly compatible, and it just felt like such a natural and fortuitous fit. We came up with the Knix X BOLO pop-up and within two weeks were up and running. I have learned so much from watching Joanna in action, running a successful business, always pushing the boundaries of what is expected, trusting her gut and making quick decisions. #GIRLBOSS goals to the MAX!
WTD: What will the class offerings be like going forward? We hope there’s a lot of sweaty boxing involved!
CR: Of course boxing is a huge part of the BOLO fitness curriculum because of my fighting background and passion. But, another issue that I wanted to target with BOLO is this need these days to belong to 10 different gyms to get a well-rounded, balanced fitness regimen. I want people to feel like they can be a member at BOLO and get almost everything they need: high impact, low impact cardio, strength, and everything in between.
In the permanent space we will have two classrooms: one regular temperature room to host all the high impact classes like boxing, bootcamp, TRX/BOSU, etc. The other will be a hot room that will host slower, low impact classes like yoga, of course, but also pilates, barre, shadow boxing etc. I’m so excited about the cool creative classes we’re going to bring to Toronto. I’m all about mixing it up and keeping the workouts fresh and creative to keep the mind and body guessing.
WTD: We’ve noticed that boutique boxing studios are a major trend in NYC and the trend seems to be picking up steam in Toronto. Why do you think so many people are gravitating to boxing classes?
CR: Boxing is one of the most empowering, badass, confidence building and stress relieving workouts around. It’s also one of the best sweats you can get, so I’m not surprised that it’s gaining popularity. The way BOLO is different is that even though we’re focused on giving the best workout, we also want people to leave feeling like they learned something. So, technique is always a top priority, which is a perspective and a focus that not a lot of boxing studios share.
WTD: There are so many incredible talented fitness trainers in the city – how do you plan on choosing who to be involved in your studio?
CR: There are SO many incredible trainers in the city and this is an overwhelming task. I think the most important thing is that their values and the BOLO values are compatible. We need people who are passionate about fitness for the RIGHT reasons, LOVE people, LOVE themselves (or strive to…no one is perfect), are about inclusion, empowerment and diversity, and are excited about pushing the limits of fitness as we know it.
WTD: We’re so interested in the ‘after class’ aspect of the studio, where people can hang out afterwards and enjoy a coffee. What made this such an important part of your vision?
CR: We are all busy, dynamic and complex people and more than ever we value efficiency and convenience but don’t want to sacrifice quality. Often times we just need a quiet and cute place to open our laptops to send some emails after a workout, before our next appointment, or a place to quickly catch up with a friend.
I was finding that I needed to go to multiple places to check all the boxes on my to-do list. At BOLO I want people to come early and grab a coffee before class, instead of having to find the closest Starbucks. I want girls to stay in their sweaty clothes for a drink after an evening class, instead of feeling pressure to ‘clean up’ and go elsewhere. I want a place where I can hang out, workout, and get my sh*t done, without compromise. I feel others want that as well.
WTD: What’s exciting you most about the Toronto wellness scene?
CR: The wellness industry in general is an exciting space to be in. I don’t think anyone could have predicted how massive of a priority fitness and health would be in our lives. In Toronto I feel like there’s a community mindset that is growing. There are so many events now bringing us like-minded people together. Now we have a space where we can chill, challenge, and congregate all in one place.
The Knix x BOLO House pop-up is open until February with lots of classes on their schedule, free classes complements of Knixwear, and an evening panel series. Once the pop up closes, BOLO will move to their permanent location across the street.
All photos by Elaine Fancy