June 1, 2005

Summer Activities

BY David Bohn ("Fitness")

June has begun with a vengeance! May had lots of rain, it was cool, then June came along, and it was time to turn up the heat! Now that the weather is great, it is time to join the rest of society to go outside and play! Chicago is fortunate to have a plethora of outdoor activities, especially during the summer months. Since we don’t take beautiful weather for granted like people in Miami or San Diego; it’s time to take advantage of the sunny weather while we have it.

One of the easiest things to do outside is to run. Running is inexpensive, you can do it by yourself and it does not require a lot of space. If you haven’t run before, start with an easy plan, such as a walk-jog technique. Jog at a comfortable pace for 3-5 minutes, then walk for a minute or so to recuperate, then go back to the jog and repeat. The worst thing people can do when they’re trying to jump-start a workout program is go too hard out of the gates. If they start too hard, there is a high potential for injury, which just sets the person back several weeks; and that’s a bad thing at the start of summer.

The most important piece of equipment in running is obviously the shoes. Make sure to get properly fitted shoes from a local running store. Giant department stores generally do not have staff dedicated to running and so may not be able to correctly fit your specific needs. Pretty shoes are one thing, large blisters are another; go for the proper fit, not necessarily the eye catching kicks. Remember on Saturday, June 24th there is the Proud to Run road race that raises money for local gay youth organizations. It is a great activity to train for and it benefits the community.

Another easy activity is bike riding or roller blading, which can also be done with friends. Obviously proper bike fit is very important when riding. Most people actually have a bike that is too small and therefore do not get enough extension in their pedal stroke. Just as with running shoes, getting a bike fitted should be done at a dedicated bike store, not a department store.

You probably won’t get much of a cardio workout along the lake from Montrose to Navy Pier because there are so many people out. However, visual stimulation can always be a helpful motivating factor! As you move further away from the main hub of the lake, either north of Hollywood or south of Navy Pier, the paths open up and more serious riding or roller blading is possible. Over the first weekend of June was the Ride for AIDS Chicago, a great cause that raises money for local HIV/AIDS organizations that help care for people with the disease.

Solo running or biking is great, but having a training partner can be even more beneficial. For pairs, you can run or bike together, which can help with motivation and to make sure you do not skip your workout by having someone else depend on you (or give you a hard time for slacking). Tennis is another great sport, it burns a lot of calories (if you’re proficient at the sport), works on lateral quickness and agility, explosive power and hand-eye coordination.

For larger groups, you have even more options available. With all of the parks running along the lake, you can get a group of people together for a game of Frisbee or Frisbee golf. You can set up pick up games of soccer, volleyball and of course softball. These are just a few of the activities available to the active person. Sports and pick-up games help keep the body limber by putting it in motion, which also helps to remove waste from the body, strengthens muscles, bones and ligaments and can improve flexibility and the cardiovascular system.

As with all outdoor activities, make sure you have appropriate clothing and equipment for the specific activity at hand; spandex and thongs aren’t the wisest of choices. Furthermore, as the heat and humidity have already climbed, and will continue to climb, make sure to consume plenty of fluids and use adequate sunscreen; the leather look is so out! So lace up the shoes, put on the sunscreen and enjoy a great start to the summer. Before you know it, it will be cold and brown and grey and blah, so don’t waste time indoors.