Ask An Expert: Michael Wollpert of Equinox Fitness

Fitness Pro Weighs in on Where to Dine, Shop & Play in the Windy City

Michael Wollpert at Trainology Fitness
Photo courtesy of Ian Kresnak

Contrary to popular belief, many Chicagoans are obsessed with fitness as much as their counterparts in Los Angeles and Miami. The proof? The number of boutique gyms around town rivals the city's hottest restaurants and cocktail lounges. And with tasty, edible temptations everywhere, you'll be under even more pressure to stay fit during your visit to the Windy City.

That's why we got in touch with Michael Wollpert, one of the most sought-after and respected fitness professionals in Chicago. A master spin instructor at Equinox Chicago, the Windy City native has been featured on "Live With Kelly and Michael" as well as in Fitness, Self and Chicago magazines. In addition to training clients and teaching group fitness classes on a daily basis, Wollpert is an avid marathon runner, triathlete, long-distance cyclist and expedition adventure racer.

Thankfully it's not all sweat all the time for this gym guru. He also makes a point of having fun outside of the studio, and he offers tips on how to balance a healthy lifestyle with a few indulgences.

Do you have any tips on how to stay on top of your fitness goals when you're on vacation or a business trip? Plan everything before you go. Check out the fitness (programs) in hotels or boutique fitness studios in the area. Pack food to take with you or research stores to help stay within your preferred diet structure. 

What are some of the biggest fitness mistakes people make when they're traveling? "I'm on vacation" means all bets are off and I can eat whatever I want. This is a mistake. Perhaps have an attitude of I can enjoy one or two restaurants or experiences with the rest of the trip, eating clean and hitting fitness for fun as well.

What are some of your favorite healthy dining spots in Chicago? Freshii and Mixed Greens are great for many meals with diet restrictions and options.

Any favorite menu items you highly recommend? Why? Both you can build your own salad, wrap or shake. One great place I just discovered near my studio is Food Life; I love the whole menu.
Beyond the obvious shopping destinations like Lululemon, etc., do you have any cool locally owned store favorites where people may shop for athletic wear? The boutique fitness related sport specific shops have many options and lines of clothing. Fleet Feet, Running Away to name a couple. It is also a huge trend to check out the major boutique retail for originality.

What are some of your favorite outdoor activities in Chicago and where do you go to partake in them? Just a few of my favorites include: renting a paddle board, taking a river tour, ice skating, rock climbing, running on the lakefront path, and even organized runs and bike rides.
What does a first-time visitor to Chicago need to know about working out in the city? The internet is your best friend. See what the locals are raving about and go check it out. Google your way to fitness rankings. Searching certain hashtags on Twitter can help you discover what is hot and what is not.

Additional Boutique Gyms In Chicago

ENRGi Fitness. True to its name, ENRGi Fitness specializes in high-energy, high-impact group classes. The descriptions alone tempt you to want to drop in for a session instead of heading out to the usual booty-shaking bars. Chisel fo’ Shizzel may sound like an intro to Snoop Dogg, but it’s actually hardcore strength training that’s choreographed to contemporary beats. Students use free weights until muscles fatigue in this 30- or 45-minute class. The Spartan Workout pays homage to the strenuous workout routines actors from “300” endured to get that enviable, chiseled look. It’s only 30 minutes--so you know it’s insanely intense--and is 300 repetitions of resistance and plyometric exercises. ENRGi also offers cardio bootcamp classes, barre, rowing and yoga classes.

Flywheel Gold Coast/Flywheel Old Town/FlyBarre. Spin enthusiasts will find so many cool perks at the stylish Gold Coast and Old Town gyms, including the privilege of reserving a bike in advance. Flywheel offers stadium seating so that no student’s view of the instructor is obstructed. Contemporary music cranks in to energize students and the room flickers to dim so that students may concentrate on their rides. The 45- and 60-minute classes include light weight training as students continue to spin on their bikes. That’s pretty much unheard of. FlyBarre, a revolutionary form of body sculpting blending the best of yoga, dance, circuit training, Pilates and strength building, is only offered at the Old Town location.

Moksha Yoga Center. The River West venue is the flagship location for what’s considered the Midwest’s premier yoga studio. Teachers instruct in traditional methods, particularly ashtanga, hatha, Mysore and tantric. World-renown yoga teachers visit Moksha to instruct and learn, and you’ll also find the occasional celebrity practitioner slip quietly in class such as Russell Simmons and Sting. Moksha also holds regular meditation classes, workshops and teacher training.

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