Ask Torontoist: When Streets Aren't Fit for Jogging
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Ask Torontoist: When Streets Aren’t Fit for Jogging

Ask Torontoist features questions posed by you, and answered by our elite team of specially trained investigative experts (also known as our staff). Send your questions to [email protected].
Reader Karen Whaley asks:
It’s cold outside and I miss outdoor jogging, but I don’t want to pay for a gym membership to use a treadmill or indoor track. Back in my suburban hometown, I know that seniors would engage in morning “mall walking,” i.e. power-walking laps around a mall before stores opened. Are there any downtown malls that allow mall walking, and do they welcome joggers? Alternatively, do you know of any large indoor spaces that would allow this?

Torontoist answers:
In a perfect world, summer would last year-round, we’d have the metabolism of a hummingbird, and we really would have a nickel for every time “blank” happened. But until the clouds part and that wonderful world becomes a reality, we’re going to have to find a way to stay fit while battling blistering elements—and on the cheap, too.
Luckily, Toronto Public Health has a solution in the form of Walk Into Health, a program to teach Torontonians that every journey should start with a single step—be it on a track, up a stair, or in a mall. There are options aplenty for walkers, but if you’re a jogger, it might be more of an uphill climb.
The Walk Into Health website provides a list of malls in the GTA that either have established mall-walking groups or allow walkers to use the space on their own [PDF]. According to Jackie Leroux, a health promotion consultant for the Physical Activity Program and Chronic Disease Prevention at Toronto Public Health, the current list is for programs available in 2010. She hopes to have an updated list for 2011 by the beginning of May, and notes that though all of them are walker-friendly, each mall has its own specific policies for joggers and whether those with a need for speed will mesh with their safety and general decorum regulations. She recommends that runners contact the mall administration directly to check.
Only a couple of malls on the current Walk Into Health list are in the downtown area, and they’re either in the west or east ends of the city. The Galleria Shopping Centre (1245 Dupont Street) has a free walking group organized by the Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood and Community Health Centre that meets every Thursday, 8:45 a.m. to 10 a.m., from October to May. However, the group, named Walk Fit 55+, serves the area’s seniors and is tailored to their range of ability, which likely won’t include jogging.

Wouldn’t these guys be more comfortable inside a mall? Photo by jerowee from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

Another downtown spot is Gerrard Square (1000 Gerrard Street East), which has no organized group but opens its doors to walkers at 7 a.m. Monday to Saturday and at 10 a.m. on Sunday.
And it’s not on the list, but The Atrium on Bay (595 Bay Street), welcomes walkers in the mornings, though joggers will be stopped by security for safety reasons, among other concerns.
“We’re also a professional facility, I don’t think our businesses would appreciate seeing people running around in the early hours of the morning. But it’s mostly a liability issue,” says Erin O’Hearn, the administrative assistant for the management office at The Atrium on Bay.
Sixteen other malls around the GTA are walker-friendly, from Cedarbrae Mall in Scarborough (3495 Lawrence Avenue East), the Jane Finch Mall (1839 Finch Avenue West), and Cloverdale Mall (250 The East Mall). Fees for the groups that require registration range from about $5 to $10 a year, but some include a free water bottle and T-shirt!
But malls aren’t the only option for cheap indoor exercise—Leroux also recommended using the PATH map [PDF] to turn the world’s largest underground shopping complex into your personal cardio track, if you don’t mind a 27-kilometre hurdle course of briefcases and strollers.
A jogger’s best bet probably lies with Toronto Parks, Forestry & Recreation, which runs some walking programs in community centres across the city, using the facility’s gym or even a running track, Leroux says. Most of these programs are free, except for three that have yearly fees: $15 (New Toronto Seniors Centre), $17 (Don Montgomery CRC), and $66 (Domenico DiLuca CC).
Two of these locations are central. The John Innes Community Centre (150 Sherbourne Street) has a free running track open on Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., Friday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Another choice is the Trinity CRC (155 Crawford Street) at Trinity Bellwoods, which offers a free running track from 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Monday to Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
The listings can also be found in the Toronto Parks, Forestry & Recreation FUN guide, but like the mall list, it will be updated for 2011 by early May.
But if after all this you still find yourself without an area that meets your ambulation needs, Leroux says Toronto Public Health can help with that too. As long as you have a location, they can provide the resources and training to start a walking or jogging group at your work, volunteer placement, neighbourhood, or your local doughnut shop (that’s our idea).
By now, you’ve probably been sedentary for about five minutes as you read this—which means it’s high time to get moving!
Illustration by Sasha Plotnikova/Torontoist.