While the level of quality prevails from club to club, every Chicago Equinox has a different vibe that caters to the neighborhood it serves. Opened in January 2003, the Lincoln Park version of this New York-implant feels younger and funkier when compared to its chi-chi Gold Coast and Highland Park counterparts.
The emphasis at Equinox is not your typical "mass sign-up," a welcome relief from the sign 'em up and forget about 'em strategy of other health clubs. Its method is to give people a membership they want to use daily. One of the ways Equinox does this is by designing a pleasant interior that you want to spend significant time in. Equinox is big on look and feel, so interior design incorporates expensive Italian materials, from the floor tiles to the plaster walls. Arched, exposed-brick ceilings give the New York-chic club a true edgy, Lincoln Park cool. Skylights keep the club from inducing claustrophobia. Many members don't know this, but the soundtrack you work out to plays a major role in your performance. Research and studies have influenced how the music is pre programmed here; music changes style and volume based on the time of day.
Chicagoans have traditionally been drawn to multi-recreational facilities, says Michael Laitman, regional manager for Equinox. They want places where their kids can play, and adults can play pick-up basketball, join volleyball leagues and win racquetball tournaments. Equinox is a club along a slightly different vein. The emphasis here is on building the muscle and endurance to be able to do these recreational activities, and to have almost as much fun getting prepared for these sports by using state of the art equipment, cutting-edge classes, expert instructors and a pleasant environment.
Equipment: Each cardio machine comes with a Cardio Theater, where you can plug in your head phones and tune into the overhead televisions, or listen to the music stations that run continuously with play lists put together by management with clientele personality in mind. The low ceilings on the top floor can't accommodate televisions, so each cardio machine on this level has its own flat screen TV. The pro shop offers fitness fashions based on the members: young, tight-fitting and trendy.
Personal Training: Personal trainers know their stuff here. Trainers follow a three-cycle system where members are constantly revaluated and their goals are adjusted to keep them challenged. Trainers don't focus on repeating the same weight circuits over and over again -- how boring. Instead, they keep things interesting with toys like balance boards, pedal bells, elastic bands, plyometrics and anything new that comes down the pipe. Workouts are customized for members' individual goals, like being able to lift up a baby or dribble a basketball better. Summer months see personal training programs and some group classes move outdoors; it is right off the park, after all.
Classes: Classes change quarterly. The yoga studio is warmer, darker and quieter than the main cardio studio, like a good yoga studio should be. The Spinning studio overlooks the park.
Membership: While there are periodic initiation fee promotions, the dues are standard. There's a minimum 12-month commitment; after that you can quit at anytime. If you pay all 12 months in full up front, it costs less. A monthly payment plan is also available. There's a limit to how many members can join (2,000), ensuring there are no waits for machines and equipment, a perk worth paying for.
Centerstage Reviewer: Lauren Ziel