Summer workouts can be a real challenge—especially when you're stuck inside a windowless gym while everyone else is out frolicking on the beach. While logging in a sweat session after a crazy day at work is not as appealing as say, al fresco happy hour, the results you'll see from being dedicated to a calorie-torching session are enough to squash your most intense cocktail cravings.
But, if that’s still not enough to motivate you, we suggest you give up the gym all together and take your workouts outdoors. To help you save your energy for class, we've done our due diligence to find eight programs that are both challenging and fun at the same time. In fact, you may wonder where the time went when you’re finished. From sailing on Lake Michigan to beach-side boot camp to free fitness in Millennium Park, there’s something for everyone. So, what are you waiting for? You’ve got nothing to lose but a few inches.
Photo: Courtesy of Lincoln Park Boat Club
Lincoln Park Boat Club
While the rowing machine at the gym loses its luster after about ten minutes, you can go an hour on the Chicago River without ever becoming bored. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you’ll hone your technique and boating lingo (Hint: A smoothie isn’t a frosty beverage) in Sculling I and II. All levels are nine classes each, with prices ranging from $165 to $245. Lincoln Park Boat Club, 2341 North Cannon Drive, 312-715-7220.
Photo: Courtesy of Dave Olson
Looking for the ultimate core workout? Swap your yoga mat for a kayak paddle and put yourself to the test. Along with strengthening your middle and chiseling out abs of steel, kayaking also works your back, shoulders, biceps, and triceps. And, because it’s not as easy as you might think, Kayak Chicago offers everything from beginner classes in a pool to an introduction to sea kayaking—thrill-seeker vacation, here you come. Individual two-hour classes range from $65 to $85, while more intensive three- and four-week classes start at $225. Kayak Chicago, multiple locations, 312-852-9258.
Photo: Courtesy of Windy City Boot Camp
Windy City Adventure Boot Camp for Women
Between work, family, and friends, squeezing in exercise can be difficult, so maximizing your workouts is key. Well, we can’t think of a better way to kill two birds with one stone than a 5 a.m. head-to-toe boot camp. The non-intimidating, all-women (and all fitness levels) program meets for an hour five days a week—June 22 is the next start date—with classes changing daily to keep you consistently challenged and focused. Each month-long boot camp costs $299, an average of just $14.95 per class. Windy City Boot Camp, multiple locations, 312-519-6651.
Sun and Moon Beach Yoga
They say it’s all in a name, and this seasonal yoga business is no exception. The classes at Sun and Moon meet at North Avenue Beach at sunrise, late-morning, and sunset Monday through Friday, and at 9 a.m. on the weekend. Between the crashing waves, soft sand, and the stunning skyline, it’s a pretty amazing way to start or end your day if you ask us. Only Vinyasa Flow style classes are available for now, but the owners plan on expanding their offerings as business grows. BYO mat, or rent one for just two bucks. Single classes cost $15, but class packs of 5, 10, and 20 (as well as a season pass) are available at a slight discount. Sun and Moon Beach Yoga, 1600 North Lake Shore Drive, 773-669-6422.
Photo: Courtesy of SUP Yoga
Chicago S.U.P. Yoga
SUP stands for “Standing Up Yoga,” and trust us when we say that you’re going to want to get your fill of this seasonal alternative to a traditional studio practice. Instead of a mat, you’ll execute poses while floating in the water on a paddle board. Since you’ll be forced to balance, your core—and 85 percent of the muscles in your body—will be challenged on a deeper level. Classes last 90 minutes and take place Sundays at 9:30 a.m. and noon, as well as Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. The cost for a single class runs $50 (includes all equipment), or you can purchase packs of two ($80) or four ($150). Bring your own board and you’ll save $20 per session. Chicago SUP Yoga, 4400 North Lake Shore Drive.
Photo: Courtesy of Lincoln Park Zoo
Yoga at Lincoln Park Zoo
The Nature Boardwalk in Lincoln Park is a beautiful little respite that gradually leads you to the heart of the Zoo. The pavilion on site serves as a spot where yogis (and their toddlers!) can take a class while taking in the surroundings at the same time. Adult classes take place on Wednesday evenings at 6:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m., and Sundays at 9 and 10:30 a.m. The parent/toddler class—complete with animal poses, storybook reading, and nature exploration—is every Thursday at 10 a.m. The drop-in rate is $20, but there are also discounts available for package purchases and zoo members. Yoga at Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 North Clark Street, 312-742-2000.
Photo: Courtesy of the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs
Millennium Park Classes
It doesn’t get much better than working out in Millennium Park—especially when you can take yoga, pilates, and Zumba classes free of charge from June 6 to September 5. The full schedule will be announced soon, but the festivities start at 7 a.m., so why not plan on making an entire morning of it? Millennium Park, 201 East Randolph Street, 312-742-1168, http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/millennium_park.html
With just one boat and a phone booth for an office, Bill Gladstone’s Sailing Inc. got a small start back in 1986. Since then, the business has changed names and morphed into one of the most reputable schools and rental/charter facilities in the city. According to Rose Freeman (a.k.a. the director of fun), there’s a lot of girl power on staff, and it’s an all hands on deck attitude when it comes to educating enthusiastic skippers in the making. The class offerings are extremely comprehensive, ranging from basic sailing 101 to advanced sailing 202 to racing techniques and everything else in between. All offerings and pricing information are available on the Chicago Sailing website. We’ll see you on the water, dear reader. Chicago Sailing, 3550 North Recreation Drive, 773-871-7245, http://www.chicagosailing.com/