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Chicago's Best Non-Gym Workouts

By Staff in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 9, 2013 5:40PM

Losing weight and getting in shape is among the most popular New Year's resolutions people make and one of the first resolutions broken. This is one reason why we don't make New Year's resolutions.

Many of us here at Chicagoist also aren't fans of gyms and not for the reasons one may expect. The repetitive nature of treadmills, stairmasters, stationary bikes and weights seems so... boring. We want to get outside and in touch with the wind on our cheeks as the wicking layers pull the sweat from our skin and we keep warm while the scenery changes from neighborhood to neighborhood. We can't have that experience tethered to gym equipment.

Below our some of our favorite workouts in Chicago that don't require a gym, dues, membership fees or a credit check. Maybe one of them will help you keep that New Year's resolution.

With over 1.7 miles of walkway and a soft running track, Henry C. Palmisano Nature Park will get you breaking out in a sweat in no time. The view isn't bad, either.Chuck Sudo/Chicagoist

Whether in the city or the suburbs, there are plenty of hiking options available for Chicagoans. Henry C. Palmisano Nature Park, better known as “Mount Bridgeport,” was built on the site of one of Chicago’s oldest limestone quarries and contains 1.7 miles of walkways, including catwalks, near the fish-stocked retention pond on the northwest corner of the preserve and a quarter-mile running track surrounding a soccer field at its southwest corner. The concrete walkways intersect the 30-foot high hill at the center of the preserve to give walkers and runners some added incline. —Chuck Sudo
Henry C. Palmisano Nature Park 2700 S. Halsted St.

A view of downtown from Northerly Island. (Photo credit: Steve Kunstler)

If you like to jog or even just take a long rambling walk, Northerly Island is a super spot. It’s easily accessible from the #146 bus, yet it's almost never crowded; it's that unique place in Chicago where you can feel a part of the city but also outside of it. You're a stone's throw from McCormick Place, there's a spectacular view of both the Loop and the lakefront, and yet it almost feels like wilderness. The paved pathways make a very pleasant circuit. —Rob Christopher
Northerly Island 1521 S. Linn White Dr.

The Palos Forest Preserves are also a favorite for hikers like friend of Chicagoist Michelle Uting, who cited the Orange Trail west of Wolf Road as her favorite. “At 5.6 miles, (with a combination of connectors, for either longer or shorter trips), this trail offers the most consistently challenging topography to maximize aerobic workout,” said Uting. —Chuck Sudo
Palos Forest Preserve, 95th Street and Wolf Road, Willow Springs

Photo credit: Stehen Chung

I went through a short-lived Bikram phase, so I can recommend Bikram Hot Yoga in Andersonville, which has extremely encouraging instructors and introduced me to the beauty of coconut water. —Amy Cavanaugh
Bikram Hot Yoga Chicago 5715 N. Clark Street, 773-907-0291

Moshka Yoga Chicago has one of the widest range of yoga classes and deepest roster of instructors in Chicago, three locations near public transportation and classes for all skill levels.—Chuck Sudo
Moshka Yoga Chicago (700 N. Carpenter St., 312-942-9642; 2528 W. Armitage Ave., 773-235-9642; and 3334 N. Clark St., 773-975-9642)


Though it's been a while, I've taken ballet classes at ARCC. The name may stand for Art Reaching Children of Chicago, but they have beginner and intermediate adult classes and I like that the small classes aren't intimidating. They also offer hip-hop and Zumba classes for adults. —Michelle Meywes
Art Reaching Children of Chicago (2220 N. Elston Ave., 773-384-2722)

Climb the Stairwells of Skyscrapers

Events like Hustle up the Hancock or Sky Rise Chicago held in, Willis Tower, where participants climb the stairwells of the skyscrapers, are guaranteed to get the heart rate running. —Paul Leddy

Join the "Aon Step Up For Kids" on Sunday, Jan. 27. Climb 80 floors to the top of the Aon Center to raise money to help critically ill children at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. —Samantha Abernethy

Honorable Mention

Ice Skating at Chicago Park District Rinks: Although the weather hasn't been cooperating of late, the six outdoor ice skating rinks and the indoor McFetridge Sports Center are wonderful alternatives to skating at Millennium Park, get you into the far reaching neighborhoods and, most important, get your heart rate up. See the full list of rinks here.

Swimming at Chicago Park District Pools: The Park District's outdoor pools are as strong a sign of summer in Chicago as any. The indoor pools, while lacking the scenery afforded the outdoor pools, at least give swimmers a chance to keep their bodies toned in the cold months.