June 1, 2007

Summer Activities In the City

BY David Bohn ("Fitness")

June has arrived and with it the warmer weather (finally!) While it certainly has rained quite a bit these last several weeks, hopefully you have found the time to get outside for the summer. The city offers a multitude of activities to help keep you lean for the warmer weather or to help you lose some of that winter padding.

If you are still having trouble motivating yourself to get out and workout, there are several boot camp programs going on throughout the city. While usually at the crack of dawn, this is a great body-weight program to get your day started and is done in groups to help with accountability. Boot camp programs not only work on strength, but also flexibility and cardio training. These camps are usually done on the beach or in parks, so at least the view is nice as you go through your 200 sit-ups and push-ups or wind sprints!

Obviously there are sports-galore out there, even for newbies. There are leagues that help beginners meet other beginners, whether it’s running, volleyball, softball, etc. But, if you’re not interested in sports and not really interested in a boot camp, there is another option through Millennium Park. This summer Lakeshore Illinois Center has partnered with the City of Chicago to host Workouts in Millennium Park. Being the fitness sponsor, Lakeshore instructors are leading fitness classes on every Saturday morning throughout the summer on the Great Lawn in Millennium Park.

Beginning on June 9th, classes begin at 8 AM with Yoga and 9 AM with Pilates (I know, early!). If you have not had a chance to try out one of the classes, the Great Lawn is an excellent venue for these workouts. Participants get to workout on the great lawn right in front of the Pritzker Pavilion, with the instructors being on a set up stage with access to the entire Lawn’s sound system. Particularly with yoga, it is a great experience to do the Sun Salutations actually facing the sun.

For those not familiar with yoga (which should be about 2 of you), it is an ancient art that focuses on breathing and poses designed to help strengthen the body as well as improve flexibility and for some to calm the mind. Yoga is excellent for strengthening the entire body, even as it works to create more space (and flexibility) within the joints and improves concentration and focus. The instructor Lani Granum is a uniquely gifted instructor, able to paint a wonderful tapestry with her instructions and cuing. This is even more pronounced when teaching in such an open, pristine environment as the Great Lawn. Further, she relishes touching the lives of potentially hundreds of new participants to yoga.

Following yoga is Pilates. Last year this class actually seemed to have more beginners than the yoga class, which may be due to the fact the Pilates became the “hot” fitness class more recently than yoga. Or, perhaps, people just don’t want to get up that extra hour early on a Saturday! Pilates is the practice of improving core strength, flexibility and posture alignment through a series of ground-based exercises. It is excellent for everyone, from athletes to dancers to beginners to working out. Pilates works to strengthen not only the rectus abdominus, but also the obliques and the back. Many people who suffer from low back pain have benefited from Pilates training. And while most people unfamiliar with the practice think of Pilates as glorified crunches, it’s actually a much more refined program, teaching individuals to recruit the appropriate muscles and to retrain the unused ones. It is this internal focus and muscular retraining that helps to reshape the body and improve muscular imbalances.

Following Pilates are dance fitness classes. These classes vary throughout the summer as they are lead by different professional dance troupes throughout the city. Workouts in Millennium Park are a great way to kick start your weekend. Doing yoga in the morning is a great way to greet the day, followed by a strength-training workout for the core and you can wrap up your workout with a cardio-based dance class! All of these classes are free to the public; just bring yourself and a mat, and sunscreen! If you did not try any classes last summer, you should try something new for once; you will get your weekend off to a great, healthy start in a beautiful atmosphere and probably make a few new friends along the way.