Active Travel: Chicago

Friday, October 20, 2017

When travelling, I love to use my free time to prioritise fitness and try new things.  I spent a lot of time researching different fitness trends in Chicago that were not commonly seen in the United Kingdom.  Unfortunately, I didn't have time to try them all.  Here is what I suggest you do next time you visit The Windy City.

AIR® class in River North

This studio offers beginner/foundation to advanced aerial exercise classes, such as Flow and Core.  The fabric, called a hammock, hangs from the ceiling and can be twisted together for additional strength or extended to fully suspend your entire body.  Don't worry, it really is strong enough to support you while laying horizontal a few feet off of the ground.  Alexis taught my class and was very good at explaining which ways we were to flip our bodies up and around in the fabric.  The two other women in the class had been to the studio before and were much more confident with their ability, while I had never done anything like this.  (I did a cocoon class at Gymbox once but that was just for relaxation).  Within the first few minutes of class, I was already hanging upside-down during the warm up.  It was such a strange sensation to feel the pressure of the hammock on my lower back as the blood started to rush to my head.  It took me some time to learn to trust the hammock and relax into each movement.  Alexis, a former dancer, taught us a few  separate sequences to build a one minute routine, which we tried at the end of our 50 minute class (click here to watch a video of Alexis demonstrating).  Unfortunately, my lack of upper body strength hindered my ability to do several of the moves.  I was sweating profusely throughout the class, had to take a few breaks, and definitely felt the session in my arms the next day.  Classes can hold up to 22 people at the River North location.  The studio has recently launched Floor Lab too, which is a barre-inspired workout session that covers plyometrics, planks, and push ups.

My most advanced move


Lovely mermaids before we plunged in the pool

Learning to float
What woman didn't dream of being a mermaid when she was a little girl (or even now)?  Splash was one of my favourite movies growing up. I used to swim like Madison in all my friends' pools. When I saw I could do this as an adult with a real tail, I knew I had to try it.  AquaMermaid Chicago offers classes on Sunday mornings at UIC Sports and Fitness Center.   The classes can also be arranged for birthday or bachelorette parties.  I roped two of my good friends, Lisa and Pattie, to try it out with me at the Hilton Chicago pool.  All I can say is that I was smiling from ear to ear from the moment the tails were pulled out of the bag.  Our swim instructor, Cora, was very friendly and patient as she taught us how to float with the tails on, swim from one end of the pool to the other, and how to do a somersault.  She also tried to teach us how to do a dolphin circle (not sure if that is exactly what is was called.  We had to do a backwards somersault while keeping our legs straight) towards the end of our session. But by this point, we were getting tired and water kept going up our noses.  A few moves were challenging for us to do because we only had one lane of the lap pool available to move about.  We made it work though, as you can see from the photos.  We all got a few foot cramps from the monofin so make sure you eat a banana earlier in the day and take the time to warm up before the class. Overall, this was an absolute blast!

Explore the 606
Unfortunately, I didn't make it to The 606 but I absolutely love the idea of it.  It is an abandoned railway line that now provide 2.7 miles of trails for walkers, runners, and cyclists.  Along the way there are art installations and green space.  You can have a look at all the maps here.

Divvy, Chicago's version of Boris Bikes
OK, yes you can rent bikes in London, but I didn't realize Chicago offered this too until my last few days.  I would have much rather ridden a bike around town that taking the subway.  You can see things from a pace riding through neighbourhoods rather than from the train line.  Prices start at about $10/day (or $99 for the year), where a one way ticket on the L train is $2.25 and a one day L pass is $10.  In Oak Park, the suburb where I was staying, I saw several commuting cyclist and numerous cycle lanes. The only downside to the bike rentals is there isn't a helmet included, but you could probably rent one of those too from a local bike shop.  If you are confident on a bike and up for exploration, I highly recommend trying these out.

There were many more things I wanted to try, like a kayak architecture tour and indoor surfing class, but I just ran out of time.  If you have a suggestion on other active travel for Chicago, please leave a comment below.

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