Get Outside! A guide to outdoor fitness spaces in Chicago
  • March 15, 2016
  • asweatlife_An Open Letter to the First-Time Runner I Saw Today

    Although Spring hasn’t fully arrived, the few warm and sunny days we’ve had so far have me thinking about getting outside. While I’m always a fan of a run or bike ride on the Lakeshore Path, there are so many other opportunities to get outside in Chicago hidden in your backyard.

    Training for a run on a track is a great way to practice speed drills or train with intervals. On a gorgeous day, instead of a long run, I sometimes like to create my own workouts that mimic my favorite Shred415 class. I’ll head to a track, and complete a set distance, then stop and do a set of body weight exercises in either an AMRAP-style, a tabata, or just a set number of reps. Need ideas? Try running 400 M (one lap on most tracks), then completing one round of Jeana’s 30-minute workout (that’s 25 squats, 25 push-ups, 25 burpees, 25 leg lifts, and 25 skaters). Repeat for 5 rounds of running and then completing the body-weight exercises.

    If you want to do more than just run, there are also a number of fitness courses around Chicago. Most of these offer pull-up bars. Even if you can’t do a pull-up, these are great tools for other exercises, like leg lifts or even a dead hang. You might also find an incline bench (great for sit ups, or you can bring dumbbells with you for bench pressing or rowing) or other elements that help you step up your outdoor workouts from just a body weight workout.

    As someone who loves working out with my friends, I’m always down for any opportunity to sweat together. Although my hand-eye coordination is weak to say the least, I love that there are so many basketball, tennis courts and baseball diamonds available for free or at low-cost through the Chicago Parks District. One of my favorite date nights is heading over to a baseball diamond with a picnic and a whiffle ball set. Whether you’re just playing for fun or getting serious about winning, take full advantage of Chicago’s fields is a great way to get moving while having fun.

    Finally, swimming is my very favorite summer activity, and I can’t wait until it’s warm enough to lie by the pool. Since I’m in that lull in life between my friends’ parents having pools and my friends having pools, I’m always on the hunt for pools I can use without paying for a night at a hotel. Lucky for us, Chicago has tons of public pools. Most open around Memorial Day and close around Labor Day, and are typically free but might charge a small membership fee. Make sure to check the Parks Website before you head out.


    Ready to get outside? We’ve put together a map (based on data from the city of Chicago) to help you find a track, outdoor fitness course, baseball diamond, tennis court, basketball court, or outdoor pool close to you. If you’re looking for something specific (like a tennis court) you can check or uncheck boxes to show just the type of park you’re looking for. Again, while most of these are free, it’s always good to check with the Chicago Parks District to make sure courts or fields at that location don’t need to be reserved before you head out. What are you waiting for? Get out and enjoy the weather!

    (If you use our map and find that something isn’t quite right, or you know of a free court or track we might have missed, please let us know! We’d love to fix it!)

    About Dani Kruger

    As a proud New Englander at heart, Dani loves the outdoors and anything maple-flavored. After graduating from the University of Michigan and living for a brief time in DC, she moved to Chicago where she developed a passion for fitness and biking. Dani's competitive nature is no secret, whether she's trying to do yoga at all of the state capitol buildings (19 so far!) or seeing how far she can push herself in group fitness classes. By day, she nerds out behind the computer as a researcher and data analyst for a health care consulting firm, where she works to ensure all individuals have timely access to high quality health care services.

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