At the end of November, my husband and I packed up our life in San Francisco, shipped our things to the east coast and began a new adventure living “on the road” full time with a traveling musical.
I Iove traveling for so many reasons, but mostly, I love the opportunities it presents to eat things and then find ways to work them off.
Staying healthy while on the road isn’t always the easiest, especially in cities where the closest thing to a grocery store is a gas station. I’m excited to find the best of the best in our next several months on tour.
I’ll be sharing my findings as a monthly feature on The Warm Up, everything from great ClassPass offerings to alternative workouts, including active outdoor spaces to explore (in cities where ClassPass has yet to take hold!) and where to find the best healthy eats wherever we go.
It’s kind of perfect that the first stop on our adventure is Chicago, which is a fit foodie’s paradise, even in the dead of winter…
Where to work out
Chicago is a fit city: one look at the runners huffing and puffing along the RiverWalk in sub-zero temperatures proves it.
ClassPass is huge in Chicago. I discovered with glee that this city is a mecca for HIIT enthusiasts. High intensity interval training is offered at gyms, dedicated studios and even at yoga and barre establishments. As someone with a soft-spot for Insanity-inspired workouts, tabatas and combination run-row-strength classes, this was fabulously exciting news.
Here’s what I loved most:
Studio Three opened just a few weeks before we arrived in Chicago, so I felt extra lucky to be able to share in the excitement of a new studio opening and finding its groove! Their three levels are dedicated to three different workouts: the basement contains the HIIT studio (treadmills, resistance training and rowing) and offers great 60-minute full-body workouts.
The main floor is the spin studio, where they house dozens of incredible Peloton bikes – the only in-person outside of NYC! I am tremendously competitive and get an incredible workout on these smart bikes, which show your score and stats throughout the class. Take Jeanine’s class on Tuesday and Thursday mornings – she is awesome! Upstairs, Studio Three has a beautifully zen yoga studio, the site of restorative and power flow classes all day.
TBC’s locations all have spacious studios with just-perfect lighting. While barre classes aren’t usually my favorite, I was thrilled to discover that this studio offers a variety of well-rounded, non-tucking classes, including Brawl (cardio-kickboxing) and a HIIT class, which was surprisingly tough! Both use the same kinds of props as a barre class – resistance bands, discs, light hand weights – and follow a timed circuit. Great burn, great full-body workout.
I am obsessed with CrossFit-style bootcamps and have been sorely missing Brick’s signature BX workouts since we left New York City in 2014. Thankfully, they’re newly established in Chicago and the spacious (orange!) gym offers everything a CrossFitter could possibly want: ample equipment, human-powder TrueForm treadmills, knowledgeable trainers and thoroughly exhausting WODs. If you dig burpees and box jumps, check them out; plus, the view from the treads is wonderfully distracting!
Everyday is a new day at Sweat, where you’ll find Tuesday Total Body Tabata, Wednesday Butt/Legs, and Friday Cardio/ Core. From running to rowing to strength circuits using boxes, barbells and medicine balls, these classes are definitely intense and a great workout. I visited as many times as I could during our time in the city and always left feeling supremely exhausted in the best way. Upstairs you’ll find a paleo-friendly kitchen and organic grocer to refuel afterwards! Check them out.
Like Barry’s Bootcamp, but with a totally different energy, Shred415 offers varied treadmill-meets-resistance training classes in a sleek space. It was very encouraging. I loved the inclusion of cardio intervals in the resistance portion, as well, which keep my heart veritably exploding for the hour. This studio is awesome if you’re looking to build endurance.
This studio is something else! If you’ve ever done aerial yoga, you’ve seen the hammocks that are the hallmark of their classes. Maneuvering these circus-inspired contraptions requires coordination and ample upper-body strength, and while I thought I was signed up for a gentle yoga class, I quickly discovered that Air Level II is actually a HIIT-inspired conditioning class, and truly full-body, including the tiny muscles in your hands. Get motivated by watching the more advanced students do some neat aerial tricks.
Perhaps my favorite spot I visited in Chicago, ENRGI also hosts HIIT-inspired workouts (surprise!) incorporating treadmills, AeroDyne bikes, TRX, SkiErg, medicine balls, skipping ropes, stair runs, barbells, rope climbs, pull-ups, tire flips… you get the picture. It’s an incredibly varied workout that flies by because it’s so much fun. If you’ve ever been to As One on the Upper West Side in NYC, it has a very similar feel. One of the classes I attended was with a girlfriend on New Years Day: the space was packed, check out the photo below. This place is a must-visit!
I was thrilled to find this staple for heated classes on the ClassPass roster in Chicago (a great trick if you just can’t get warm when it’s -30 outside). From bootcamps to hot vinyasa flow to power fusion and even sculpting classes and HIIT, there is something for everyone at one of their 14 locations in the city.
More treadmills! More strength! More HIIT! Chicago is so awesome. I loved John’s morning classes, which were made up of two 15-minute treadmill runs and two 15-minute strength circuits using bodyweight exercises, kettlebells, dumbbells and pull-up bars. Those intense runs were rough. The classes were well-structured and well-taught: I definitely felt the hundreds of lateral lunges the next day, more so than usual!
Where to eat
Chicago has a little bit of everything a foodie could want, including a wide range of healthy options, from fast casual to gastropub. Here are some highlights:
This takeout counter style spot has incredible smoothies (all named after Chicago landmarks) and a diverse menu featuring salads, quinoa bowls, chilis and curries. I particularly appreciated that portions here feel really reasonable, as though someone has intentionally crafted a “just enough” size bowl of food to leave you feeling satisfied but not uncomfortable. Paleo, gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian-friendly.
I am obsessed with this chain of restaurants. They provide specialized menus (vegan, gluten-free, ‘everything’) so there’s little question as to whether something fits your dietary preferences. Their organic, sustainable meals are really well-crafted – I think I had the Thai Curry with Tofu upwards of twelve times – and their specials change every few weeks.
Inventive Asian fusion – I can’t say enough about their Crispy Brussels Sprouts Salad and Velvet Greens! If you like sushi or really anything with powerful umami flavor, check this spot out. Just make a reservation. It’s always packed.
You can’t go wrong with Mediterranean food, and this place is legit. Tucked away in the middle of Old Town, it’s definitely no frills, but what it’s lacking in decor and ambiance, it makes up for in authentic Israeli flavor. If you love hummus – which I think you should – you have to go here.
Vegetarian tapas! Just look at the menu for this place and you’ll start salivating. From hot curries and bi bim bap to collard maki and chilled golden beets, the shareable plates at this West Division spot are everything you could hope for if you’re always the person scavenging the menu for *something* you can eat.
Other ways to be active
Even in the winter, Chicago is famously walkable – just bundle up. There are tons of accessible outdoor spaces to walk and run, and bike rentals available along the water for when the weather starts to climb back up towards 32 degrees again.
Take a stroll along the RiverWalk, an open one-mile pedestrian waterfront location on the south bank of the Chicago River between Lake Shore Drive and Franklin Street.
Millennium Park is also a beautiful space for a walk or a run. During the winter, it hosts an outdoor skating rink. This is also where you’ll find the Cloud Gate (or ‘The Bean’).
Try this plan while you’re in Chicago:
7:30 a.m.: Start your day with a BX class at Brick CrossFit.
9 a.m.: Stop into the Protein Bar at Randolph and Michigan for some breakfast. The Pier-Nut Butter and Jelly Smoothie (hold the agave, extra blueberries, vegan protein!) is amazing.
9:30 a.m.: Enjoy your smoothie while you meander through Millennium Park. Visit the Bean. Take some photos.
11 a.m.: Venture a little west to see the theatre district, then walk north on Michigan Avenue up through the Magnificent Mile.
12:30 p.m.: Stop in at a LYFE Kitchen for lunch. Seriously. The curry. You must.
2 p.m.: Continue North along the water and visit the Lincoln Park Zoo.
[At some point in here, take a nap.]
6 p.m.: Head to Old Town. It’s charming! Take in the sights and the cool outdoor art, then head to Old Jerusalem for a quick dinner.
7 p.m.: Arrive at Second City for some incredible improv comedy (where they also have hummus and the best sweet potato fries. You have earned both.)