Zip Fitness's staff strives to keep intimidation from creeping in to each of the five gyms. To welcome all exercisers—even those who have never had gym memberships before—Gym Geniuses stroll through each location donning bright-red shirts that signal their availability to help guests operate the various machines and guide them in drafting fitness goals and coming up with routines for the day. They've stocked each location with strength equipment from brands such as Precor and Life Fitness, and a guided strength circuit's 30-minute full-body workout takes the guesswork out of toning physiques. Rows of cardio equipment include treadmills, ellipticals, and upright and recumbent bikes, along with rowing machines and StairMaster step mills. For stretching and ab work, bands, balls, and body bars abound, and free weights include dumbbells, barbells, and tamed school bells.
Gold memberships unlock additional perks, such as unlimited access to Hex II tanning booths and the ActivTrax online fitness and nutrition coach, which plots out workouts and offers nutrition tools tailored to each user's goals, from slimming down to having the flexibility to comb your hair with your feet.
At CrossFit Northpoint, exercisers use kettle bells and rowing machines and cheer on fellow workout buddies within a sprawling indoor facility. The trainers put an emphasis on group camaraderie to get students through the intense workout of the day, which focuses on ever-changing functional exercises. The head coach, Doctor of Chiropractic Chris Hubbard, supervises the sessions to ensure all movements are performed correctly.
Since its 1965 founding in Venice Beach, California, Gold's Gym has dotted the globe with more than 600 locations where professional athletes and exercise newbies gather under the umbrella of personal strength. Nearly 3.5 million Gold's members chart and aim for their fitness peaks, perspiring beneath the gaze of certified personal trainers or pedaling beside peers at cycling sessions. In a diverse lineup of group classes, patrons strengthen cores with Pilates, finger-paint pictures of ninjas in martial arts, and amp up heart rates along to the pulsating soundtracks of Les Mills routines. Many Gold's Gym locations stockpile futuristic amenities, such as cardio machines with individual iPod docks and televisions that help keep patrons motivated.
Lake County Family YMCA urges households toward healthier living with a supportive staff, fitness classes, and a treasure trove of gym and poolside amenities. Hearts and legs get pumping aboard ellipticals and stationary bikes while limbs and cores sprout muscle with the help of free or machine weights. Active Mature Adult classes hone balance, strength, and flexibility with a light to moderate workout that eschews the games of medicine-ball dodgeball found in more intense exercise classes. Alternately, Zumba classes motor hips into calorie-torching dance moves set to Latin music, and yoga courses pose physiques into fluid Vinyasa sequences. After sweat-inducing workouts, members can relax, letting the whirlpool's jets power wash stress from bodies or the dry-heat sauna's warmth melt pounds and tense muscles. The Vernon Hills location fosters watery fun with a children's aquatic play area and water slide, and the Waukegan complex lets joggers peer down onto the gymnasium below from an overhead running track. Both sites welcome whippersnappers into their drop-in babysitting service, where staffers entertain youngsters for up to two hours or however long it takes parents to stage one-person renditions of Logan's Run on the treadmills.
As a branch of the not-for-profit Advocate Health Care system, the Advocate Condell Centre Club has filled two 60,000-square-foot locations with fitness amenities for exercisers of all ages and ability levels, captained by professional and welcoming staff members. The club's philosophy follows the Advocate network's holistic approach, taking on a mission of all-over wellness with features for exercise, rehabilitative therapy, sports performance, and spa services. Much like a territorial wolverine, each of the facilities' elements—from a trove of resistance-training machines to a demonstration kitchen for cooking classes—occupies its own specialized area. Lake County magazine and Libertyville Patch have highlighted the club for its weight-loss systems and free training program for cancer patients, respectively.
The professional trainers at Kingdom Fitness combine diverse fitness backgrounds in football, bodybuilding, and the U.S. Army. Together, they motivate clients to exceed their physical abilities through boot camps, fitness classes, and one-on-one personal training sessions. All levels of fitness are welcome, as the team will assess current conditions and devise a fitness plan tailored to each clients’ fitness levels and goals.
Tressa Thomas has a résumé most performers would envy. She launched her career on stage with dozens of performances throughout Chicago as both a solo singer and band member. She landed a role in Robert Townsend’s film about 1960s R&B music, The Five Heartbeats, which led to a duet with the legendary Patti LaBelle on the film’s soundtrack.
This was all before Thomas turned 13.
Since then, her momentum hasn’t slowed—it’s just swerved in a few new directions. The Columbia College grad was cast in other movies (including Flatliners and Message in a Bottle), produced three independent shorts, and worked on a fourth that came just short of an Academy Award nomination. In the midst of her cinematic endeavors, she also pursued plus-sized modeling, eventually appearing in Ebony, Jet, the LA Times, and other national publications.
Given that she first started singing publicly at age three, when most children can’t yet tell the difference between music and the sound the vacuum cleaner makes, Thomas has never had an issue with confidence. But she realized that as a successful African-American, plus-sized female performer, she was a rarity. And so she decided to share her confidence with other women. She founded ThYck Troupe, a group that started modestly as a “modeling interest club” and grew into a nonprofit organization that creates performance opportunities for other plus-sized women.
Today, ThYck Troupe has gained the support of Secretary of State Jesse White and Governor Pat Quinn in its mission to enrich the Chicago arts community. In addition to mentoring young women and promoting size acceptance, the troupe produces an original web series, organizes fashion shows, and showcases performers in theatrical and musical productions. The company members represent nearly every medium of the creative arts—there are singers and dancers, poets and songwriters, models and actresses, journalists and radio personalities. With the Thyck and Fit Initiative, they broadcast a message of health as well as confidence, giving full-figured women and men the tools they need to achieve good exercise and nutrition habits at any size.