Trapeze School New York’s classes might be the only workout that works your emotions as much as your muscles. First you feel excitement as you arrive for class at Belmont Harbor on a beautiful summer morning. Then, terror upon being told to climb a narrow ladder to the top of a 23-foot platform. Euphoria sets in when you reach the top and take in the view of Lake Michigan dotted with sailboats—followed by panic when you foolishly look down. But all that fades when it comes time to act. There isn’t time to process your feelings when you’re focused on grabbing a 10-pound trapeze bar with both hands and taking the leap off the platform. Only when you’re soaring through the air do you experience an adrenaline rush that, if you’re like me, will make you want to run back up the ladder and leap again. I discovered all this during my first class on a recent June morning. The structure of the class was simple: three instructors started with some basic safety guidelines before teaching three moves—a knee hang, a backflip dismount, and a catch. In a class of 10 students, each person gets to fly six times, trying out each move twice. The final move, the catch, was the most complicated. It builds off the basic knee hang: let your hands go from the bar, arch your back as gracefully as possible, form “catch hands” (which resemble mittened hands), and reach for the “catcher” on the other trapeze. This last make-or-break moment was my undoing. I was supposed to maintain my catch hands, let the catcher grab my wrists, and unhook my legs from the bar. But instead, I tried to grab my catcher’s wrists; the moment passed, and I missed the catch. I was reassured, though, by my supportive instructors and the sound of my classmates shouting, “You can do it!” I even heard cheers from curious passersby who had no idea a trapeze class met regularly just steps from the Lakefront Trail. Between turns, I shook off my mistakes the way the instructors recommended: with jumping jacks, sit-ups, pushups, and shoulder stretches. Staying loose is essential, since trapeze jumps demand a lot of arm, leg, and core strength. Over time the jumps can also improve body awareness, endurance, and flexibility, as subsequent sessions build on the skills you learn in the first class. Try it if: You’re looking for a full-body workout and a chance to finally live out dreams of being a circus performer. TSNY recommends the class for ages 6 and older. Don’t go if: You have an absolutely paralyzing fear of heights. Beware of: The bar. It’s 10 pounds and will bruise your legs. Invite a friend who: Is as fearless as you are, or can stay on the ground to photograph and record your stunts. Or, take the class solo. Everyone tends to form an instant bond. Come prepared with: Stretched-out muscles and a fully charged camera or camera phone. Wear: Socks and form-fitting pants; a harness will keep your shirt from flying up, but you still may want to wear something that will stay in place. Intensity level: High. It’s physically and emotionally draining, and you will be sore and bruised. Photo and video: Andrew Nawrocki, GrouponRead More
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Coach Chauncey announced that time was up. I was 35 minutes into class and still 1,900 meters away from my rowing goal. But given that I'd already powered through 3,100 meters on the rowing machine, I didn't feel too disappointed. These are some of the perks of RowFit Chicago boot camp—you get to set your own pace and choose your own workout. Well, not entirely. No matter what, you’ll be rowing until your arms burn and your shoulders ache. RowFit is held at a traditional CrossFit studio, but takes a unique approach to the popular craze by integrating a heavy rowing component into CrossFit’s traditional functional movements. The extra burst of cardio keeps the heart rate up between strength moves for a more effective workout. Given this intense combination, I was a bit nervous as I tiptoed into the studio to meet with Chauncey before taking the all-levels RowFit boot-camp class. But Chauncey was welcoming and gave me a quick one-on-one rundown of the class’s choose-your-own-adventure format (most new students are shown the moves at the start of class). In addition to 5,000 meters on the rowing machine (which, if rowing on the Chicago River, would get you from Navy Pier to about the southern edge of Goose Island), we’d have to incorporate burpees, pushups, kettlebell swings, jumping squats, and box steps. However, for each exercise, there was an alternative move (she never said it outright, but I got the impression I was always choosing the “easier” option), and we could complete them in whatever order we wished. A whiteboard laid out each move and how many reps were expected of us—75 kettlebell swings, 50 box steps (or jumps), 20 burpees (with an optional pull-up afterward, which I quickly opted out of), and so on. Chauncey demonstrated the moves for me—as well as the simpler, modified versions any time my eyes widened in alarm—and gave me a quick tutorial on the rowing machine. Once my classmates arrived, a group warm-up jog to the end of the block melted my nerves, and I was excited to start moving. After a few more warm-ups, we each grabbed a small whiteboard to mark off reps as we completed them. I claimed a spot on the floor with my teensy green kettlebell. I could already feel the adrenaline beginning to flow as I strapped my sneakers into a rowing machine. Chauncey gave us a 10-second warning, and we were off. We had only 35 minutes to dash through as much of the workout as we could. I started with a slow, steady 500 meters on the rowing machine. Too slow. “Get your hands away from your chest faster,” was Chauncey’s constant call to me (and some of my classmates). She swept throughout the room as we worked, pointing out poor alignment here and there (mainly to me, as I was the only first-timer), but mostly offered affirmations. When class was over, I tried to peek at my classmates’ whiteboards to see how I compared. I’d gotten through all of my box steps and pushups, almost all of my kettlebell swings and jumping squats, and more than 60% of my rowing meters. The number of burpees (perhaps my least favorite exercise ever) had barely been touched. But I still felt pretty accomplished walking out of that studio. And like I needed to ice everything immediately. Try it if: You’re stuck in a strength-training rut at the gym Don’t go if: You don’t play well with others—you’ll need to share equipment if the class is full Beware of: Going too hard in the first 10 minutes and burning out Invite a friend who: Will cheer you through your fifth set of jumping squats Come prepared with: A water bottle and a towel Wear: Comfy, breathable clothing—it heats up in the gym Intensity level: Take the next day off from working out and catch up on Homeland instead Photo: © Timothy Burkhart, GrouponRead More
Keeping up a workout routine is hard enough without factoring babysitting schedules into the mix. These five Chicagoland gyms each boast top-notch childcare, simplifying the fitness equation for busy moms and dads.A Gym with a Side of Spa: EquinoxThree Chicagoland locations of this media-adored uber gym boast onsite childcare, but that’s only one of many upscale amenities. Besides expansive floors full of high-end equipment, the gym hosts carefully workshopped classes that feature fitness standbys (Pilates, yoga, martial arts, and cycling) alongside cutting-edge TRX, water aerobics, and mind-body classes. With the kids safely at play for up to two hours, you’re also free to extend your me time to include a steam-room session or a luxurious massage, facial, or laser treatment at the oasis-like spa.Childcare is available at the Gold Coast, Lincoln Park, and Highland Park locations for kids aged 3 months and older. Rates start at $10 per session for members; there are special rates for two or more children.A Suburban Family Gym: Wheaton Sport CenterWheaton Sport Center is a windfall for busy parents. In addition to providing members with up to two hours of childcare for workouts, the staff also allows up up to two additional hours that same day (provided there’s at least a four-hour break between the two sessions). This gives parents time to sweat it out in a hot-yoga session or tennis lesson, run a few errands, and return later for a few laps around the indoor pool or even a haircut at the onsite salon and spa. All the while, kids have a ball engaging in seasonal activities, hanging out in the game lounge, or romping around the outdoor playground. A sizable, safety-trained staff allows for multiple play spaces separated by age group, and a healthy roster of youth athletic programs ensures kids feel fully included at this family-friendly gym.Childcare is available for kids aged 3 months to 13 years. Unlimited childcare is included in most family membership plans.A Gym that Keeps Kids Active: Cheetah GymCheetah Gym’s Edgewater location hosts its own unique Kids Gym, open seven days a week. Inside, foam floors cushion colorful mini treadmills and exercise bikes, and bright mats and a climbing wall encourage even more active play. A toy-packed TV and reading room offers still more amusement options for kids during their two-hour stays. Although little ones have their own separate area, they don’t escape parents’ watchful eyes: video monitors allow moms and dads to monitor their children’s playtime via any of the gym’s cardio machines, or on select TVs scattered throughout the facility.Childcare is available for newborns up to age 11. Unlimited childcare starts at $20 for members; discounts are available for multiple children.An Out-of-the-Box Gym: i.d. GymThe goal of the i.d. kids program, which includes after-school programs as well as weekday childcare, is to make kids fall in love with fitness. But the same can be said of the Lincoln Park gym’s adult programs, which include creative group classes such as the Caveman Workout—in which students swing sledgehammers and heavy ropes—and Fly Yoga, a circus-like approach to the ancient art form. While parents get in touch with their inner acrobat (or just stick to a more familiar Vinyasa class), kids can spend up to two hours trying out toys or playing games with the engaging staff. Be sure to ask about i.d.’s kid-focused basketball and sports-training programs.Childcare is available for kids aged 3 to 13. Rates start at $5 per session for members.A Gym with a Neighborhood Feel: Chicago Athletic ClubsThe CAC Kids Clubs are as varied as the four gyms that house them. All grant members up to two hours of childcare during designated hours, but many host special activities—such as Lincoln Square’s toddler-friendly PlaySchool, Lincoln Park’s youth ballet program, and West Loop’s Lil’ Kickers soccer program. All four locations regularly host movie nights, and most curate complimentary kids’ classes in art, drama, gymnastics, and even Spanish. It’s not only kids who seem to have endless options—depending on their club of choice, parents can pursue such athletic activities as bouldering, indoor swimming, full-court basketball, and up to 100 group fitness classes.Childcare is available at the Lincoln Square, Lincoln Park, West Loop, and Evanston locations for kids aged 8 weeks to 12 years (1–8 years at the Lincoln Square location). Rates start at $12–$16 per session; monthly passes are available.If you can't bare to part with your offspring, try one of these five "mommy and me" fitness classes in Chicago.Read More
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