A Brief Guide to Outdoor Fitness in Chicago

Gyms? Who needs ‘em.

June 26, 2020 10:53 am
running in chicago
After this workout, the Windy City will become the Winded City.
Robert Ruggiero / Unsplash

That lockdown breadmaking finally starting to get to you? Warm weather putting you in the mood to unshelter in place? No matter your motivations, it’s time to work out … outside. 

With the longest day of the year just behind us, it’s officially summer, and while summertime Chi hits very different this year, it’s still our birthright as Chicagoans to enjoy the city’s best (only tolerable?) season. 

Today we move into Phase 4 of the state’s five-phase reopening plan. It’s wild to imagine after 14 weeks of various states of shut-in, but barbershops, spas, gyms and even movie theaters are allowed to open with capacity limits. So you can head back to the gym, but should you? One epidemiologist says no. 

The healthiest thing you can do right now is exercise outside. For a full set of guidelines on how to do that responsibly, check out our recent interview with Harvard Professor of Epidemiology Dr. I-Min Lee. The top takeaways: sanitize early and often, wear a mask and double your social distance to 12 feet.

Once you’re armed with how to work out in a pandemic, here are some recommendations on what to do. Maybe you’ve already been hitting the pavement outside and need something new, maybe you’re still working your way through our at home maneuvers; either way, put down the makeshift weights, step out of your DIY home gym and try out one of these options.

1. The standard outdoor workouts

Triathletes have been onto it for years: swim, bike and run. All three are solo, outdoor workouts that will get you in shape and with minimal effort, keep you socially distanced. Find a park or stretch of road and get going. For the extroverts that are wilting away without social connection, outdoor sports offerings continue to expand and now include kayaking, golf and tennis. While basketball courts are opening, the only responsible way to hoop is with your pod, or shooting solo. Finally an opportunity to get those free throws perfected. 

2. Gyms offering outdoor group fitness classes

Get outside: In our current phase, gyms have the ability to teach outdoor group classes … with lots of safety precautions. School may be out, but class is officially in session. Check with your favorite group fitness studios to get signed up, but expect slots to fill up quickly as group class sizes are significantly decreased to maintain proper social distancing. 

Keep moving inside: If you find yourself getting squeezed, branch out or try a new virtual class — it’s a perfect way to support a Black-owned business. We love an intersectional moment, and supporting small businesses, Black businesses and personal health strikes that elusive win-win-win. 

Some options:

  • 13th Flow (Chicago): In-person and online one-on-one training
  • 360 Mind Body Fitness (Chicago): Virtual and outdoor group fitness classes
  • Bodi Shak (Chicago): Group fitness and one-on-one training
  • FREMVMT (Chicago): Group fitness studio is closed but private small group classes are available
  • EB & Flow (Chicago): Virtual yoga classes via audio and video recordings
  • BOOMBOX Boxing Club (Washington D.C.): Virtual boxing classes
  • Effect Fitness (Atlanta): Video recordings

3. Personal Trainers 

Get outside: Dr. Lee says one-on-one outdoor training is the perfect way to meet your fitness goals while maintaining distance. “If you have the funds, now is a great time to get a personal trainer,” she says. “[They can] train people outside, sanitize your equipment and then you can easily maintain that six feet distance.” 

Keep moving inside: If you can’t afford your own personal trainer, a fitness app that offers many trainers and live workouts (like Centr or Peloton) will be more economical. For a local version, check out the Live Right app.

Created by ISSA-certified personal trainer and former All-American track and field champion Rickey Applewhite, Live Right is “a mental health app that aims to build the mind through coaching and build the body through fitness and nutrition.” Launched two months ago, the app offers six workouts per week, meal plans for easy at home cooking and Licensed Professional Counselors offering tips on anxiety, depression and managing your emotional health during COVID-19.

“Being shut in is a traumatic experience. Exercise is a way for us to receive therapy,” says Applewhite. The Live Right App is $5.99 per month for the standard membership and $99 per month for a membership that includes one-on-one connection with trainers and nutritionists.

To help get you inspired for an outdoor, bodyweight session, Applewhite created a full body workout for our readers. A typical online workout with a few sets, this is not.

“The key to this plan is all the major areas are being attacked,” says Applewhite. “These exercises are compound movements, so you’re doing multiple things, causing dynamic stability in your core so you’re working out more muscles.” Somehow not joking, he says, “add time, or speed things up if it starts to get easy.” 

Have a timer or clock handy because this is a timed workout. Applewhite says keep your movements slow and intentional for best results. 

Warm Up

Complete each exercise once for 30 seconds each:

  1. Knee Tuck Lateral Steps: Alternate legs and take a small lateral step after knee tuck
  2. Butt Kicks: Make sure that your arms are moving as well.
  3. Jump Rope: Use a traditional jump rope if you have one, or an imaginary jump rope if you don’t.
  4. Alternating Forward Lunge Torso Twists: This should be a slow movement. Keep weight shifted towards the front leg. Turn towards the side in which the leg is up.

Leg Circuit

Complete each exercise three times for 40 seconds each set:

  1. 90 Degree Squats: Make sure that you keep your body weight in the middle to the back of your feet.
  2. Alternating Reverse Lunge to Forward Kick: Alternate your legs. The key is to go slower during this movement and speed the kick.
  3. Airplane Romanian Deadlifts: Hip hinge while the shoulder blades are retracted.
  4. Lateral Hurdle Fast Steps: Stay on your toes. Five quick steps to the right, then to the left.
  5. Deep Squats to Heel Tap: Chest up, and touch the back of your heel.

Ab Circuit

Complete each exercise three times for 40 seconds each set:

  • High Planks: Squeeze your glutes together, and crunch the earth with your hands and toes.
  • Russian Twists: Chest up and use a slow rotation
  • High Plank Knee to Elbow: Squeeze your obliques as you bring your legs to your knee
  • Bear Plank Twists: Hands under your shoulders and knees just off of the ground. Turn your mid-section slightly.

Resistance Circuit

Complete each exercise three times for 40 seconds each set:

  • Rotation Push-Ups: Hands directly under your shoulders. When rotating, shift hands to the sky.
  • Renegade Row to Extension: Make sure your midsection doesn’t turn once you lift your arm up. Then, engage in tricep extensions. Alternate arms
  • Dumbbell Kneeling Shoulder Press
  • Incline Chest Press: Chest Up, and keep the dumbbells aligned with your ears.
  • Superman to Airplane: Lie on your stomach. Chest and quads off of the ground. Place your hands to an airplane position, and then to the superman position. 
  • Floor Dips: Feet and hands are on the ground. Keep your chest up, and engage in controlled slow tricep dips.

Cool Down

Complete each exercise once for 30 seconds each:

  • Alternating Lying Lumber Leg Cross Over
  • Happy Baby: Grab your feet.
  • Corpse Position: Sink into the ground and relax.

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