Best of Chicago 2011: Sports & Recreation

Great places for running, yoga, cardio boxing, and more

Fly Yoga at I.D. GymNEW YOGA FLY YOGA AT I.D. GYM Resembling some form of Cirque du Soleil training, fly yoga requires you to twist your legs in lengths of silk attached—securely—to the ceiling and dangle upside down. Handless handstands are now possible, as are sling-assisted versions of yoga’s greatest hits—downward dog, warrior pose, sun salutation—allowing for a deeper stretch and a more satisfying burn. Even the end-of-workout relaxation is better: You are cocooned in the hammock, drifting above the floor while submerged in deep blue fabric. 2727 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-477-8400, id-gym.com

BIRDING—CITY MONTROSE POINT BIRD SANCTUARY During the fall and spring migration seasons, songbirds congregate at this 15-acre promontory, which attracts more than 300 species, including warblers, thrushes, sparrows, purple martins, woodpeckers, catbirds, and mourning doves. (The best times to visit are April, May, and August through October.) The Magic Hedge, often a nickname for the sanctuary itself, is actually a 150-yard stretch of shrubs and trees specifically chosen to lure migratory fliers.

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BIRDING—SUBURBS ILLINOIS BEACH STATE PARK Stretching for six and a half miles mostly along the Zion lakefront, Illinois Beach State Park is a popular destination because birds of prey descend on the area in the fall: A formal hawk watch takes place in the North Unit from September to November. But the diverse landscape— dunes, marshes, forests, prairies, and beaches—also provides excellent year-round spotting: breeding species in summer, ducks and owls in winter, and migratory birds, such as sparrows, blackbirds, warblers, and shore birds, in the spring and fall.

CARDIO BOXING JAB FITNESS TRAINING In the no-frills atmosphere of his Naperville gym, Joe Cassano offers “the toughest 30-minute workout you’ll ever have.” Cassano, a former amateur boxer, trains individuals who want to shape up with his custom-tailored plans, based on a fighter’s regimen. “I’ve never been a big fan of classes,” he says. “Boxers don’t take classes.” His cardio cross-training circuit includes heavy-bag punching, rope jumping, and weightlifting, and his clients range in age from 8 to 68. This isn’t a guys-only kind of place; a third of Cassano’s clients are women. At Jab, everybody is a physical fitness contender. 10S279 Schoger Dr., Naperville; 630-978-2522

SUBURBAN RUN ILLINOIS PRAIRIE PATH For soul-recharging natural scenery unlike anything in the city, head 25 miles west to the wooded preserves and open expanses of the Illinois Prairie Path. A former right of way for an electric railroad, the 62-mile IPP winds through three western counties on crushed limestone trails with occasional bathrooms and fountains. For a short evening jog, head north on the Elgin Branch and straight through the center of dramatic Lincoln Marsh. For a longer morning workout, take the Aurora Branch south and connect to Herrick Lake Forest Preserve for loop variations and tremendous wildlife, including pied-billed grebes, deer, and herons. ipp.org

NEW WORKOUT PIYO AT THE INDIGO STUDIO PiYo, which arrived in March, is an intense fusion of Pilates and yoga meant to increase strength and balance through slight move modifications. And difficult core strengthening moves—such as quickly springing to plank pose after a gauntlet of exercises on all fours—have easier variations for the less fit. The full-body, hourlong class (Mondays at 5:45 p.m.) is much harder than it looks. “It’s a continuous movement of the body,” attests Indigo’s manager, Alicia Hartman. “I only got through 30 minutes.” 213 W. Institute Pl.; 312-612-9642, theindigostudio.com

 

Photograph: Lisa Predko

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