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THE BEST OUTDOOR WORKOUT SPOTS IN CHICAGO

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RACHAEL NASS

JUL 14, 2020

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IMAGE VIA MOUNT PROSPECT BIKE CLUB

When it comes to working out, our city is a playground.

No matter what you like to do for exercise, there is somewhere in the city where you can do it al fresco. From Jackson Park to Evanston, take your workout outdoors at one of these awesomely active spots.

Anyone who lives in Chicago knows Lake Michigan is the absolute best (no spitting salt water nor a tide that will drag you far from your beach chair). But what about all the ways it offers up some of the best workouts? Besides the obvious (like open water swimming), there are tons of ways to break a sweat in, on, or by the lake. Rent a kayak or paddleboard from places like Kayak Chicago or Chicago SUP at locations all along the coastline from Navy Pier to Montrose. Want to feel the wind in your hair? Head up to Evanston for sailing lessons at Northwestern Sailing Center. For you landlubbers out there, avoid the surf altogether and sign up for one of the many boot camps held right on the beach. Want even more of a challenge? Get your Om on and put your core strength to the test with standup paddleboard yoga. Then head on over to Castaways for a piña colada, of course.

Have you always wanted to play on the railroad tracks? Now is your chance (without the obvious danger). The 606, an elevated rail-turned-trail, is the perfect place to get in a workout when you’re tired of the gym. While you won’t be able to flatten a penny, you will be able to walk, run, or bike on 2.7 scenic miles of freshly paved pathways amid beautiful greenery. And since the 606 is accessible at 13 access points around Humboldt Park, Wicker Park, and Logan Square, there’s always a coffee shop, bar, or restaurant nearby where you can cool down.

If when given the chance to pick one superpower, you’d choose flying, look no further than the Trapeze School New York. While NOT in New York—rather right here in Belmont Harbor—TSNY is the most unique way to get a solid ab workout. Don’t worry about having prior experience as an acrobat; the outdoor flying trapeze classes welcome all skill levels. TSNY also offers indoor classes so you can continue your newfound obsession all year long.

Is distance the name of your game? If so, nowhere is better for the long-distance biker, runner, or rollerblader than Lakefront Trail, which covers 18 miles (flat, Midwestern ones) along the coast of Lake Michigan. The unobstructed views of the lake and city make for especially Instagram-worthy views at sunrise or sunset. Plus, if you get tired, you can simply pull off and lounge on the beach until you’re ready to get going again.

Lakes aren’t your thing? The Chicago River is there for ya. While often overshadowed by its larger cousin to the east, the Chicago River certainly holds its own when it comes to opportunities to break a sweat. Want to really impress an active out-of-towner? Take an architectural kayak tour or do a City Lights night paddle. Or be your own guide by renting a kayak and paddling around among the gorgeous skyscrapers, bridges, and historic buildings at your own pace. If you prefer to stay off of the water, run or walk along the Riverwalk, which follows the gentle bends of the river on its south bank.

While this technically could be considered part of Lake Michigan, North Avenue Beach is such a treasure trove of sand and watersports that it deserves to make the list all on its own. Love beach volleyball? Then you’ll feel right at home here, since North Ave. has over 50 volleyball courts that are first-come, first… served (pun intended). Fitt tip: Get there early; the courts fill up by noon. Or, guarantee some play time by joining one of the social leagues that compete all throughout the summer. If volleyball isn’t your thing, no worries! Paddleboards and kayaks can be rented at the boat-shaped beach house. Oh, it’s your rest day? Well, burgers, tropical cocktails, and sometimes even live music are all available there as well.

Yes, the wide-open Great Lawn is always a superb place to get in a few pushups or crunches, but you can catch free (yes, you read that right!) workout classes there all summer long. From 7 to 11am on Saturday, do strength training, yoga, Pilates, or Zumba taught by renowned instructors all before brunch. Yoga is also offered early on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, so you can start the work day feeling extra zen.

An exercise oasis right in the Loop, Maggie Daley Park offers something for all ages throughout the entire year. If you want to take your workouts vertical, scale the 19,000-square foot climbing wall from May through October. During the winter, switch gears and visit the ice skating ribbon, which is twice the length of a standard ice rink. The park also features six brand-spankin’ new tennis courts that are free to the public, as well as an inexpensive 18-hole putt-putt course that is perfect for those days you want to take it easy.

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