O2 Wellness’s co-founders, Santana Anderson and Joe Daniel, honed their vision for a luxury HRM workout centre through extensive international research — and countless hours in the gym.
Anderson was a professional bodybuilder for many years. As he travelled the world, he experienced different workout facilities. For a long time, a lot of the cutting-edge services he saw during his travels weren’t available in Halifax.
He first brushed shoulders with Daniel — a veteran personal trainer — at an HRM gym where Daniel served as fitness manager.“We started talking about the local gym industry,” recounts Anderson. “We thought the high-end offerings were falling short.”
Daniel said they truly felt like they could do it better. “We decided that now would be the perfect time.”
O2 Wellness opened its 24-hour facilities in Sunnyside Mall in spring 2018. Its minimalist interior —sparkling, spotless and sleek, accented with natural stone surfaces — is just one facet of its visionary approach to luxury gym culture, which Anderson and Daniel acknowledge is still something of a local novelty.
Members range from students to retirees, and to accommodate everyone, O2 Wellness offers underground parking access and daily classes from 6:15 a.m. onwards. “There’s just no facility in the city that’s comparable,” says Anderson, who describes O2 Wellness as a “boutique-style gym.”
O2 Wellness’ workout spaces are outfitted with top-tier equipment and technologies, sourced by Anderson and Daniel from among the industry’s most highly regarded brands: Hoist Fitness Systems’ ROC-IT Selectorized products, Precor cardio machines, plate-loaded Precor Discovery Series custom lifting platforms, and Rogue bumper plates and Monster Racks.
“We picked each piece of equipment to be the best in its genre,” Daniel explains. That extends to the equipment’s technological appeal; many O2 Wellness machines feature smartphone compatibility and entertainment options.
The crowning glory of O2 Wellness’ equipment collection is the Precor Queenax. “The Queenax is a functional movement apparatus. It’s like a jungle gym for grownups,” says Daniel.
As far as they know, they have the only Queenax system east of Montreal right now. O2 Wellness members can complete Queenax workouts solo, with a trainer’s assistance, or within an organized group class setting.
The level of care Anderson and Daniel have applied to choosing O2 Wellness’ equipment is also reflected in their selections for the gym’s staff roster. “Most of our coaches are university-educated, with years of experience,” says Anderson. “It’s a team-friendly environment.”
Since many O2 Wellness members collaborate closely with a trainer, the gym’s founders have made a mission of seeking out professionals whose skillsets combine knowledge, passion and positivity. “We’re proud of our team,” Daniel says. “They use their education and experience to ensure their clients hit every single one of their goals.”
Daniel and Anderson agree the staff’s motivational strategies are key to the success of the gym — not to mention its guests. “We focus on the ‘why.’ Why are you here? What’s your number one goal? By starting there, we can cater our facility toward clients’ needs. We want to be able to help them focus.”
Staff at the family-friendly facility also provide childcare morning and evening, weekdays and weekends, free of charge.
Multiple O2 Wellness staff members (head coach Michelle Long among them) have a thorough grounding in nutrition, and Anderson and Daniel are acutely aware of nutrition’s role in fitness. By offering the “Meals 2 Go” meal service through the gym, they provide O2 Wellness members with effortless access to flavourful, nutritionally flawless entrees. Each Meal 2 Go contains 100 grams apiece of starch, vegetables and protein.
“Our Meals 2 Go are 100 per cent customizable. Clients pick their protein, veggie and starch, and the dish is built exactly the way they want it,” says Daniel. His favourite of the Meals 2 Go entrees is the Cajun shrimp. Anderson says he prefers “the braised beef with quinoa and broccoli.”
O2 Wellness members can also stave off hunger and maximize their energy and stamina levels at the onsite smoothie bar. The bar’s most popular concoctions reportedly include the Chunky Monkey (banana, natural peanut butter and O2 Natural Whey chocolate protein) and It’s A Date (almond butter, banana, dates and O2 Natural Whey vanilla protein) smoothies.
O2 Natural Whey protein is also available through O2 Wellness’ “pro shop,” which carries workout apparel from O2 Wellness and Montreal-based Lolë. Lolë was selected as one of O2 Wellness’ house lines thanks to the company’s well-rounded appeal, notes Anderson. “It’s a very high-quality, fashionable product.”
Despite O2 Wellness’ relatively recent debut, Anderson and Daniel already hope to grow the brand. They are looking at potentially expanding the Sunnyside Mall facility, as well the possibility of additional HRM locations. That confidence is far from misplaced, given the enthusiastic response O2 Wellness has received to date.
“Once someone tries the gym, they tend to stay,” says Anderson. “We offer everything. You just have to come in the door.”
Sidebar: Classes at O2 Wellness
O2 Wellnessoffers tons of classes — about 50 classes per week. Classes are offered between 6:15 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., and include the following options:
Fusion classes also feature on the schedule, including an enticing barre/Pilates class, which combines the challenge of Pilates with the lithe, balletic elegance of barre. “Barre is great for ex-dancers. The wording and cueing are very similar,” says Daniel.
Primal Strength, meanwhile, is an innovative workout focused around fitness fundamentals. “It consists of primal movements — squats, lunges, pushes, pulls, bends and twists — in a controlled classroom setting.”
Class sizes are generally capped at around 20 attendees, but equipment-centred Queenax classes are limited to 12 spots. “Smaller class sizes allow us to provide participants with one-on-one focus.”
By Rebecca Spinner Photos Bruce Jollimore
1595 Bedford Highway, Suite 210
(On the mezzanine level)
O2 Wellness mission statement: O2 Wellness is a full-service fitness centre in Bedford, Nova Scotia, designed to train each member for success with fresh-stocked meal services and exercise that will invigorate the mind, body and spirit. O2 Wellness is served by passionate employees who live fitness every day, to produce results and accomplish your personal wellness goals!