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  • Tom Toth

Leaside's Many Options for Free Fitness

There are a lot of reasons Leaside is considered one of the best neighbourhoods to live in in Toronto. The small-town feel, the abundance of shopping close by, the excellent schools, and one that I hold particularly dear as a trainer: the incredible variety of options to help you stay in shape without having to pay anything! Unlike many areas of Toronto and other large cities, we do not lack for green-space to walk, run or cycle through, never mind all the sports options. Here are my five favourite things to do in Leaside to stay in shape!

Walk to the Brickworks

My family loves the Evergreen Brickworks on a summer Saturday. The farmer's market is fantastic and unlike most other ones in the city, it runs all year (it moves indoors from November to April). In addition, 12 Sundays a year between May 15 and early November, the Brickworks hosts a Sunday Artisan Market. My daughters love the nature walk in the restored pond area, and seeing a massive snapping turtle basking in the Sun is a sight to behold for young nature lovers!

To get to the Brickworks, don't take the shortest route straight down the Bayview extension unless you're cycling. It is not designed for pedestrians. Instead, take Bayview to Nesbitt into Rosedale, then follow the map to Chorley Park. A new route down into the ravine was completed recently and offers excellent access. The walk from Leaside to the Brickworks is around 45 minutes using this route, although you can save yourself some time if you cut straight across Chorley Park (marked with red dots on the map).

Another option is to head to Heath Street in Bennington Heights and take the Beltline, which takes roughly the same time. Just remember that coming back home will be much more challenging (using either route), with lots of uphill walking. You might also be carrying some goodies you scored from the farmer's market, so bring a backpack if you plan to shop.

Play a Round of Disc Golf in E.T. Seton Park

Disc golf might actually be the fastest-growing sport in the world. Courses are sprouting up all over Ontario. It is a fantastic, low-impact sport similar to golf, except you toss a frisbee into a metal basket instead of a small ball into a hole. Disc golf evolved as a very welcoming, egalitarian sport, and courses are usually free. This includes Leaside's very own E.T. Seton Park course, which is tucked away behind the industrial area off Beth Nealson Drive. It's not a long walk to get to the course, but if you want to drive, the best place to park is near the Eglinton underpass at Wilket Creek.

E.T. Seton is a full 18-hole course that should take about 90 minutes to play through. Please note that if you are interested in trying disc golf, you should probably buy a frisbee specific to the sport. These are smaller and heavier than the discs you usually see tossed around in a park, and they fly much farther.

Go for a Swim at the Memorial Gardens Pool

Swimming is great exercise, especially for those with bone or joint issues such as arthritis or a recent knee- or hip replacement. It allows you to have a good cardio- and mobility workout (especially for the shoulders) without overloading sensitive tissues. The Leaside Memorial Gardens Pool offers both lane swimming and leisure swim for all ages. I take my kids for a swim on Sundays whenever we have time, and it's a great way to spend an hour or two. The pool also offers adult swimming classes, so if you think you need to bring your skill level up before joining a regular swimming program, this is the place to do so!

Play Some Tennis at the Free Public Courts

Tennis is a tough workout if played with intensity. With the free courts available around Leaside, it also has a low cost of entry. You just need a racquet and a set of balls and you're good to go! If you haven't played before, it is a good idea to team up with someone who has some experience. If you don't know anyone, watch some instructional videos on YouTube or take some lessons (the city offers them at very affordable rates). I usually take my kids to play at Leaside High School, but Bennington Heights also has a couple of excellent courts next to the elementary school off Heath Street. The Leaside Tennis Club at Trace Manes Park is also a good choice, but it has an annual fee and a long waitlist. I recommend finding a friend or acquaintance who is a member and going with them as a guest.

Cycle through Mount Pleasant Cemetary

Mount Pleasant Cemetery is a mid-town Toronto landmark, and if you live in Leaside or the surrounding area, chances are you have walked through it at some point. If you have a bike, cycling it is also a great option. You might think the cemetery is too small for a bike ride, but have no fear; it is actually much bigger than you might guess at first glance. It extends all the way from Bayview Avenue to Yonge Street. A return trip from Bayview to Yonge and back is over 4 kilometres, and with all the nooks and crannies to discover, you can make this into a 45-minute leisurely bike ride in an absolutely stunning setting in all four seasons.

Just keep in mind that the cemetery enforces speed limits for cyclists. It is for slow rides to take in the amazing environment, not for working on your aerobic threshold or setting new land speed records! Join the Leaside chapter of Morning Glory Cycling Club if that's your goal...

As always, if you have any questions about getting fit, email me at!

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