photo: courtesy of Fitplex
Let's face it: by mid-winter it's hard for some of us to know where our down coats and soft sweaters end and our own padding begins. But just because you want to emerge from the season looking (and feeling) great doesn't mean you have to chain yourself to the treadmill for the next three months—or suffer even one gratuitous minute of a Chicago winter. Check out our guide to indoor workouts that'll get your heart pumping while keeping boredom at bay.
Join the circus at Actors Gymnasium
Trade the misery of the treadmill for the grace of a trapeze at Actors Gymnasium—just don't think this old-school routine will leave you anything but sore the next morning. A beginner course in Aerial Circus Arts covers the basics in trapeze, lyra (aerial ring), silks and Spanish web (which is twice as pretty as it sounds and four times as terrifying—a soft rope with foot and hand loops is used to perform acrobatic maneuvers while being spun from the ground by a "web sitter"). Or spend more time on the ground with Circus Arts, which mixes trapeze skills with unicycling and stilt-walking. An eight-week session costs $140-$205.
Shake it at Old Town School of Folk Music
OK, so the last time you wore a tutu you were sporting pigtails with no hipster cool attached. Trust us, no one will be judging you here, as small classes meet to shake their groove thing in everything from Hawaiian hula to flamenco and breakdancing to Irish step. The slew of dance classes means there's guaranteed to be something that piques your interest, and the one-day dance workshops will let you test drive your moves before you commit to an eight-week sequence ($135-$150). Just imagine your friends' faces when you bust out your new hula moves on the dance floor.
Channel your inner Spiderman at Old Town Fitplex
Nothing says "I'm a badass" like climbing 30 feet up a rock wall, and luckily you need neither super-strength nor a super-fat bank account to indulge in this sport at Old Town Fitplex, where the indoor wall will keep you climbing straight through winter. An intro belaying lesson will set you back $35; if it's going to take more than that to get you comfy climbing walls, you can opt for the beginner sequence of six two-hour classes for $120. Either way you'll be sure to working muscles you never even knew you had in no time. Climbing at Old Town Fitplex costs $15 daily for non-members.
Break a sexy sweat at Crunch (North and Sheffield)
If Cardio Striptease still sounds like something that should be done in close proximity of the bedroom and you don't have the requisite masochism for Stiletto Strength, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the new wave of sex-inspired fitness classes popping up around town. Check out Burlesque Beat at Crunch, a vintage-inspired (read: tasteful) '40s-style dance class set to jazz music that will let you "work out your inhibitions while crafting the body of a diva." Who knows? You could be down the hall doing a striptease in no time. Classes free with membership ($65-$98 per month); $16 for one-day pass.
Paddle your heart out at Chicago Kayak
Spend the winter honing your kayak skills and you'll be ready to hit Lake Michigan at the first sign of warm weather—with mad practice and muscles to match. Wednesday night pool classes at UIC will keep you warm while teaching you basic kayaking techniques, rescues and rolling. With at least one class under your belt you can practice in the open pool for a scant $10 ($10 kayak rental available). Each two-and-a-half-hour class costs $40, with a special class on Eskimo rolling (cooling off in the water without leaving your kayak) priced at $80. Classes and open pool are also offered Sunday afternoons in Lisle.