We recently had the opportunity to sit down with the dynamic Heather Gardner, of Tribe Fitness. We can’t wait to #JointheTribe.
Well To Do: Please introduce yourself to the Well To Do readers.
Tribe Fitness: Hi! I’m Heather Gardner, a marathon runner, cycling coach, yoga instructor, triathlete, physical education consultant, and founder of Tribe, a Toronto fitness community. I love all things heart pumping, and enjoy using my passion to create dynamic, engaging and inclusive fitness environments where participants and communities can thrive!
WTD: Can you share the story of how you came up with the idea for Tribe Fitness and how you took your dream and shaped it into a reality?
TF: I started Tribe Fitness in 2013. I had been working with a really great fitness brand for three years and my term as an ambassador had come to an end. I wanted to continue to give back to and build community, and running was the most accessible thing for us to do. We hosted our first free Tribe community run that November and in our first year we lead 153 free run and yoga workouts in downtown Toronto.
Tribe is all about building community and connecting people and we do it through fitness. Social media was our tool to spread the word (find us @Tribe_Fitness). I remember after our 2nd or 3rd run I had over 73 Twitter alerts from people who had attended, sharing and inviting others to come the next week’s run. We’ve always been about connecting and supporting people and that night confirmed it.
WTD: We love seeing your social media posts as everyone seems to be a part of a close-knit community. Why is having the support of a tribe so essential?
TF: Being able to work out with others is motivating and fun. Not only are we working together to reach our goals, we’re supporting each other along the way, and building relationships. A tribe is also essential for accountability. Knowing that people are there waiting for you, hoping to see you, and looking forward to sharing an experience with you motivates you to show up and guarantees fun along the way.
WTD: In addition to managing Tribe Fitness and leading fitness classes in Toronto, you are also a dedicated and superstar athlete. How did you first become involved in fitness and wellness?
TF: I grew up in a very active family, participating in individual sports as a kid, as well as team sports in high school, and throughout University. I took group fitness classes with my mum growing up, and at 16 got my first fitness certification. Group fitness has always been my “me time”. Fitness makes me feel good, it always has. Being able to challenge myself physically, while following along to fun movements, great music, and finish feeling strong and living healthy – what’s not to love?
While I taught fitness classes in the evening, I taught grade 6 during the day. Then, after years in the classroom I moved into a consulting role with my school board. It was a desk job, sitting behind a computer all day long and it eventually lead to me moving to Toronto. Soon after, I hired a personal trainer at the gym I taught at. This trainer is now a dear family friend. On the first day of our training she asked me to share a goal and I declared it – to race the 2010 NYC marathon with my sister, and we did it. We also had some other wild adventures, including 2 half Iron Man races, and the inaugural Run Disney Dopey Challenge – four consecutive days of races including a 5km, 10km, half marathon, and full marathon. 2017 will be my tenth marathon and I’m heading back to New York for it.
WTD: Tribe has teamed up with Canada Running Series to offer a Learn to Run program, which started on January 31. Can you share more details about this series and who can benefit from it?
TF: This is the fifth session of our Learn to Run program with Canada Running Series, with this training plan concluding with the optional goal race of the Race Roster Spring Run Off in High Park. If you can walk for 60 minutes continuously, and have the commitment and dedication to 3 runs a week for 10 weeks, then this program is for you.
It is a walk/run program which means we start off for the first couple of weeks walking for a majority of the workout with short intervals of running in between, but as you make your way over the 10 weeks those intervals flip and soon enough you’ll find yourself running 8km non-stop! As with all of our workouts, this is an extremely supportive group and everyone is welcome. If you’re someone who is new to running, or someone looking to make a return, this workout is for you! Registration is closed but please come out and join us for our runs!
WTD: Tribe Fitness offers classes and events ranging from running to yoga, and more. How do you find each different type of fitness complementary to the next?
TF: We really offer a holistic approach to fitness and while it’s not important for our members to come to every workout, we certainly have some who only run, and others who only practice yoga. They know they have options, and free ones, at that. I love yoga and the mindfulness connected to the stretching, strengthening, and breath. Runners not only need this physical practice to stay injury free, but also need the mental practice to help them on race day or to simply overcome the head games of a “bad” race. Our community offers that along with connection and camaraderie.
WTD: What do you love most about the people who make up Tribe? How does it feel to be part of so many people’s health and wellness journey?
TF: The friends who come out and sweat with Tribe are so unique each with their own story, and connecting with them, dreaming with them, and goal crushing with them is what I love.
We have students and established professionals, millennials, mothers, and multi-generations of parents working out with their adult children. Connecting with these friends every workout – creating a place for everyone to be seen and heard, and made to know they matter – it means more than I ever thought it would, and I know we’re just getting started.
WTD: What’s next for Tribe Fitness?
TF: It’s always been a goal of mine to open a studio for Tribe, to have a home for our community. A place where we can come together: sweat, crush goals, and have fun supporting each other.
WTD: What’s exciting you most about the Toronto wellness scene right now?
TF: Fitness in Toronto is in an exciting phase of growth. Local professionals are building and expanding our industry, and there are so many opportunities for Torontonians to find a workout they truly love in order to live a healthy, active lifestyle. From barre, indoor surfing, boxing, and what we offer at Tribe, everyone has endless possibilities for movement and fun.
WTD: Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Thanks to Tribe Fitness for the photos!