Keeping FIT abroad series: Downtown Chicago

Share via:

A few weeks ago we had some family visiting with us and decided to spend  a night in downtown Chicago to show them around.  We booked a room in the Westin Chicago River North hotel, which is right on the river and a 5-min walk from the Michigan Mile.  I’ve always loved staying at this hotel, because of the upper room corner rooms facing the river…the view is gorgeous.  Although we didn’t quite land the prime view, we could still partially see the river and besides, we were going to be there for the one night.  Anyhow, the next big question is where will I get my workout in? 

I know there’s a great L.A. Fitness gym right above my favorite Chicago coffee house -Intelligentsia- very close to Millennium Park.  However, these big chain gyms have made it very difficult for one to drop-in from out of town, claiming that the gym fills up too much and then the locals complain about it.  Yet, they still sell the drop-in for twice the amount as they did before.  Wouldn’t they rather not sell any at all if the locals’ comfort was the concern?  I try to avoid hotels’ gym facilities because more often than not there’s not enough equipment there to motivate me to go.  I usually find a gym or several nearby that have a large selection of equipment and a smaller feel to them.  That was until I went to check out the gym at the Westin River North.  This gym is pleasantly equipped with a decent selection of equipment.  While you’ll find the usual suspects like treadmills, free weights, muscle targeting machines and ellipticals, you’ll also find additional equipment that isn’t always found in hotel gyms: kettlebells, box jumps, spin bikes, slam balls a rower and a stair  master.  As a personal side note, a rower is usually the first thing I look for in a gym.  If it doesn’t have a rower, it’s likely I won’t be coming back.  So why is this extra equipment so important?

Have you ever arrived at your local gym and found that all the treadmills are taken when you planned to do cardio on that day, or the squat racks are all being used and of course the huge guys have got all the benches reserved for hours when you wanted to focus on strength work on that day?  It’s discouraging!  And I’ve found that motivation is key when it comes to being fit.  While for some Energizer bunnies it’s easy to keep motivated and focused, others -like me- need the circumstances to be right in order to workout.  So when you arrive at a gym with more options, it creates the right circumstances and allows you to do your planned workout, but also allows for variation so you don’t get bored with the same workouts over and over.  This gym lends itself to a number of different workout types, without being repetitive, even if you’re there for a number of days.

Some of the workout type you can try here:

  • cardio/endurance
  • high-intensity interval training (HIIT)
  • weightlifting/strength
  • calisthenics

The one thing missing in my opinion is a proper squat stand.  Squatting is the single-most fundamental movement of them all.  If there’s a movement you should be doing more than anything else is squatting, and yet, I can’t remember a hotel gym that had equipment to squat with some weight on.  But keeping this on a positive note, I do like what the equipment they’ve added and intend to come back on my next visit to downtown Chicago.

Furthermore, the gym and its bathrooms and locker rooms are immaculate and well stocked with towels and fruits for guests to enjoy.  So next time you’re in Chicago and want to get a few workouts in without paying an additional drop-in fee at a private gym, try the Chicago River North’s, and you’ll find yourself with some extra equipment to burn some and build some, all in the name of fitness.

Here are some photos of the facilities:


The Workout

Warm-up, not for time:

2 rounds of

20 situps

2:00 spin bike

Workout, not for time:

Triset x 3

10 medicine-ball rotational throws per side

45-second side plank per side

20 flat bench lying leg raise

Triset x 3

1-min weighted plank

20 russian twists per side

10 hanging leg raises

Triset x 3

15 decline crunches

10 landmines per side

10 ab rollouts on knees


35-min elliptical trainer

2 thoughts on “Keeping FIT abroad series: Downtown Chicago

    1. Hi Brandon! Sorry for my delay in getting back to you. Thanks for checking in – I liked the content over on your end as well. I’m sure at some point we’ll see each other in some gym far far away. 🙂

Give me your thoughts