In 1976, educator, musician, and kinesiologist Robin Wes longed for a children's gym that prioritized personal growth over competition. Unveiled at a time when physical-education classes pushed students to focus almost exclusively on winning, Robin's program was swiftly adopted and is now used in more than 300 Little Gyms worldwide. Robin still pens original music to accompany lessons, which engage whippersnappers aged 4 months to 12 years with gymnastics, dance, karate, and parent and child activities.
Each of The Little Gym's classes introduces simple movements that sharpen motor skills and set brains whirring, allowing kids to progress at their own pace until they can finally build a computer out of macaroni and glitter. Staff members strive to build a base for lifelong social skills and self-assurance with each exercise, including activities rooted purely in fun, such as summer camps or birthday parties, which helped The Little Gym to earn title of #1 Birthday Chain in Parents Magazine.
"Our brain is designed to realize what we wish, without any minor errors," says Dahn Yoga founder Ilchi Lee. "If you want success, it will create success. If you want happiness or health, it will create them. Anything is possible, as long as negative thoughts and emotions don't interfere."
To make this challenging, yet hopeful, philosophy accessible to all, Lee combined the Eastern concept of chi energy with his own brain-management system, developing a distinctive program that unlocks inner peace and sweeps up brain clutter caused by the daily stress of always having to find Waldo. This focus, shared by Body & Brain Holistic Yoga and The Life Yoga, forms the basis of the studio's classes and consultations. Warm-up yoga maneuvers awaken muscles before 30–40 minutes of breathing, stretching, core practice, and meditation—including a signature brain-wave vibration technique that aims to calibrate mental and physical energies. Cooldown exercises ease the body back into quotidian functionality before a 10-minute teatime invites socialization among participants while bolstering pinkie endurance.
USA Karate Federation Hall of Fame honoree and four-time Panamerican Karate champion John Fonseca teams up with three-time world karate champion Elisa Au Fonseca and a cadre of talented instructors to lead their charges through martial-arts and fitness classes that strengthen minds and bodies. Though the martial-arts program mainly focuses on shotokan and shito-ryu karate, the sensei also offers aikido, judo, Gracie jujitsu, muay thai kickboxing, and wing tsun classes. Bushy-tailed neophytes start at the beginning, learning the basics of their chosen form, whereas advanced students delve into such mind-focused arenas as chi energy training and personally apologizing to every punching bag they have ever hurt.
Instructors also lead fitness-centered sessions that build muscle and burn calories. Cardio-kick classes merge elements of martial-arts, boxing, and aerobics to form an ever-changing cardiovascular workout infused with heart-pumping kicks and punches. Boot-camps delve athletes even deeper into whole-body fitness by challenging them to nonstop military-style drills for a full 45 minutes, or approximately the time it takes to jump rope through an entire episode of Magnum, P.I..
Trainer-to-professional-athlete David Englund enlists a certified staff to sculpt healthy bodies through group classes that encompass all elements of fitness. Bump boxing gloves and Mickey Mouse gloves with experts in muay thai, its sessions helmed by instructors who earned their dukes in the Land of Smiles. Swift jabs and kicks fly while pupils hone powerful punches and cardio pumps to triumph over opponents. In kids' boxing and martial-arts courses, experienced teachers shepherd students aged 8–13 to the peak of fitness within a fun, collaborative atmosphere. Englund himself reigns over Pilates sessions, which fortify abdominal powerhouses to facilitate future exercise and old-timey loads of laundry.
The award-winning instructors and international champions at Krav Maga Illinois impart their discipline's techniques and secrets to novices and experienced students alike. First developed by Imi Lichtenfeld for Israeli defense forces and based on natural responses, krav maga has since swept the fitness and self-defense worlds as an effective, challenging martial art with one rule - get home safe. The Krav Maga Illinois schedule offers more than 50 classes a week for kids aged 8 to 12, adults aged 13 and up, and kids who disguise themselves as adults beneath long trench coats. In addition, Chicagoland police teach classes intended specifically for members of law enforcement and the military. Though the studio specializes in the self-defense technique, other classes include boxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, strength and conditioning, and Kali.