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Toronto fitness studio changes name to promote inclusivity and community

The athletic community and run crew formerly known as Tribe Fitness has rebranded with the name Kardia

Photo by: Jess Baumung

Toronto’s Tribe Fitness has officially changed its name to Kardia. The name change comes after studio founder Heather Gardner and her team discovered that the use of the word “tribe” offended and hurt Indigenous peoples. When this came to light in June, they announced that a name change would be made in due time. After a couple of months to survey their community and land on a title, the studio team revealed their new name: Kardia. 

The Kardia team hides their new name ahead of the big reveal. Photo: Jess Baumung

Founding the studio 

When Gardner moved to Toronto in 2010, she left behind a tight-knit running group in Hamilton. She didn’t know anyone in the Toronto running community, so she started training on her own. She eventually got connected with Lululemon, and she ultimately became a run ambassador for the company in 2011. She was in charge of organized runs in the city, and she says that when she left Lululemon in 2013, she didn’t want to stop the runs. 

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“That was how I started what then was Tribe,” she says. “I sent out a tweet and said, ‘Hey, meet me on the corner, let’s go for a run.'” Gardner made this a regular thing, and soon enough it “took on a life of its own” and grew to a large group run every week. After her success with the running group, she added a weekend yoga event in 2014.

Kardia founder Heather Gardner speaks at the Kardia name reveal. Photo: Jess Baumung

“I created an event on Facebook and by the third week, 160 people showed up,” she says. “It was way more than we anticipated.” Six years later, and she’s still organizing runs and yoga classes, although now she’s based out of a studio in Downtown Toronto. The sessions and runs are still free, but Kardia also offers paid instruction and training. 

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When Gardner was trying to find a name for her running and yoga groups, she says she was looking to create a community. “I wanted people to really feel like they belonged,” she says. “The aspect of community is what resonated with me in the word ‘tribe.’” Unbeknownst to Gardner at the time, not everyone associated the same sense of community with “tribe” as she did, but instead found the word hurtful. “As soon I heard that, I knew we had to make the change.” 

Name change 

Gardner says the studio’s new name is still inspired by that sense of community she hopes to instil in her patrons. She and her team announced their intentions to change the studio name, and they asked their followers for suggestions. They ended up with about 100 different possible names and narrowed the list down to 10. 

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“A lot of people suggested words like ‘community’ and ‘unity,'” she says. This was exactly what Gardner was looking for, but she says these common words wouldn’t work for business. They decided on the unique name Kardia, which Gardner says has two meanings. “Not only does it relate to the physical actions of the heart, like ‘cardio,’ which takes us back to our roots in running, but also the emotional part, like love.” 

Gardner and the newly-rebranded team held a name reveal on Wednesday night outside their studio. They took the 50 or so people present for a socially-distanced run before the reveal, and upon returning, they introduced the world to Kardia. 

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