DNA Fitness: Where the Cool Kids Train

If you were strolling down Notre Dame – maybe heading to Grinder for a cocktail or two – you may just miss this sweet new spot. It’s DNA Fitness‘ new location (1708 Notre Dame Ouest), possibly Montreal’s coolest secret fitness locale. And what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in character. 

Even once you step inside DNA’s Studio Santé, you may not realize you’re standing in a full-blown gym where the likes of Chef Chuck Hughes and 92.5 The Beat’s Sarah Bartok come to shred with some of Montreal’s most elite trainers. With its converted loft-like feel and industrial-rustic décor, DNA breaks the mold of sweat-shop looking gyms with its chicer, more inviting space. We’re talking exposed ceiling beams, reclaimed wood, hand-made cubbies, antique countertops and original wall treatments.

“When we took over the space, it was an antique shop, so we wanted to maintain some of that vibe,” says DNA CEO and trainer Danny Ugaldez (the ‘D’ in DNA). “Every single detail in this gym has a story.” A wall with green-painted wood panelling was a welcome surprise during construction; the gym’s main counter and the kitchen workstation are both antiques hand-picked by Danny and co-owner Alex Thifault (the ‘A’). Alex also salvaged some banquettes from Garde Manger‘s renovations, which he repurposed for (insanely comfortable) office seating. Sharing a wall (and landlord) with Grinder also made it easy to grab some leftover materials from the Notre Dame hot spot, enabling an office made of reclaimed barn wood, as well as oversized bolts and industrial windows throughout. Even the astroturf originally belonged to the Olympic Stadium, used only once for an Alouettes game earlier this year. 

At the front of the space is the health kitchen, where chef Alison Eastham (with her bewitching New Zealand accent) boxes up freshly made meals in perfectly measured portions. A competitive body builder and health food aficionado, Alison is serious about the dishes coming out of the DNA kitchen, measuring out the carbs and protein for each and every meal. The menu, which changes daily, is made up of meals you imagine could only be prepared by Jennifer Aniston’s private health chef. Think coconut and almond crusted chicken with honey citrus rice and broccoli, tuna salad with avocado and Greek yogurt dressing, chicken and apple Waldorf salad, lemon-ginger chicken with julienned vegetable salad and sweet potato rosti. (Ridiculous, right?) Aside from the main courses, DNA offers up a counter brimming with healthy snacks, which are all made on site. Some of our favourites are the pecan and dark chocolate protein bars, the sweet potato raisin muffins and the almond bars (Chuck Hughes’ go-to). Then there are the freshly pressed juices, served in nifty little mason jars, and most recently, homemade health popsicles. “A lot of people associate healthy food with bad taste or no taste,” says Danny. “We’re trying to break that.” 


Then, of course, there’s the fitness. From state-of-the art machines to cross-fit equipment, to an outdoor terrace for summertime yoga, DNA packs serious punch into its small space. (“We can give you a hardcore workout in the space of a chair,” jokes Danny.) DNA is a personal training gym, which gives it more boutique feel and super-personalized experience. Before a client begins a training regime, they’re given a thorough fitness evaluation that includes strength tests, weight and body fat measurements, and even before and after pictures. “Clients love watching their progress. It’s a great motivating factor in their training,” Danny explains.

Another way DNA seeks to deliver a personalized experience is by pairing each client with the trainer that best fits his or her needs. “Everyone doesn’t have the same fitness goals, or want to look the same. Our philosophy at DNA is to help our clients accomplish their personal fitness goal, whatever it is.” Each trainer at DNA has at least five years of personal training experience as well as a specialty. From certified kinesiologists to a former football coach, DNA trainers are passionate about making every workout fresh so that you never get bored. “We don’t want our clients to see the hour go by. At the end, you’re exhausted, and you can’t walk the next day, but you had fun training.”  

#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)

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