Every neighborhood in the city has a gym where you can go do cardio, lift weights and maybe get one-on-one training. These are the kinds of places you go because they are conveniently nearby.
Destination gyms are different because they offer something special. They’re the ones you don’t mind hopping on the El or booking an Uber car to get to. Whatever that something special is — a comfortable atmosphere, an awesome CrossFit program, a luxurious pool that is never crowded — it’s something worth going out of your way for.
Here are 25 destination gyms and fitness studios in Chicago. We have broken them down into broad groups so you can find one that offers something that would be important to you more easily.
David Barton Gym (River North)
Have you seen those billboards that say “Look Better Naked?” This is that gym. The facilities are top-notch, all of the equipment is state-of-the-art, and you definitely leave the gym with a swagger every time you work out.
East Bank Club
The East Bank Club is much more than just a gym. It offers dining, two rooftop pools, a spa and a business center in addition to some of the city’s best workout facilities.
Equinox Gold Coast
The 30,000-square-foot Equinox gym on Michigan Ave. has a pool, a spa, four fitness studios and the boldest marketing campaigns of any gym on this list.
Fitness Formula Clubs’ Union Station Gym
FFC’s Union Station fitness center is huge, occupying 85,000 square feet of space in the former Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Here, you will find pretty much anything you could imagine in a fitness center: A pool, two basketball courts, a huge cardio room, league volleyball courts, a spa, and some extraordinary customer service.
AIR, founded by local former corporate attorney Shama Patel, is opening its third Chicago location in Streeterville, with other national locations in LA and Charlotte. AIR’s program incorporate yoga and pilates with suspended silk hammocks, so clients get fit while doing acrobatic aerial maneuvers.
Chaturanga Holistic Fitness
“Chaturanga” means “having four limbs” in Sanskrit, and this refers to the Hyde Park fitness center’s four areas of focus: yoga, pilates, meditation and dance. The studio itself is designed to be an oasis so members can focus on whatever it is that they would like to improve, physically or otherwise.
Core Fitness Chicago
Core Fitness has created an integrated program of training techniques, soft tissue therapies, nutrition, detoxification programs and traditional Chinese medicine to help clients achieve life-long, sustainable fitness goals.
Enrgi’s focus is group fitness, with more than 100 classes available. In addition to providing a supportive community, some of the goal-oriented classes (the 500 Calorie Workout; the Arms, Back and Chest workout) are a great way to get fit in a hurry.
Working out at Hard Pressed is just like working out at an NCAA strength training facility; that’s likely because the trainers here are NCAA strength trainers. Their half-hour, high-intensity programs are designed to get you athlete-level ripped.
The Harmony Mind Body and Fitness studio in Lincoln Park takes a holistic approach to wellness so that clients “feel taller, leaner, stronger, but most remarkably, more able to take on the world when you finish a session.”
This Edgewater gym puts an extra emphasis on open communication and treating everyone — staff and clients included — respectfully. The result is a welcoming, non-intimidating environment. One Yelp reviewer said the supportive atmosphere at KNL was the reason she works out in the first place.
Kru Strength + Fitness
Kru identifies first and foremost as a community. Trainers work with clients to help them put together a fitness or strength program, they offer weekly one-on-one training and they don’t lock customers into contracts, which is always a big plus.
MaZi Dance Fitness Centre
MaZi has two locations, at the Damen Blue Line six-way intersection and near State and Polk in the South Loop, where clients can sculpt their bodies or work on their cardio through a variety of dance classes. The owner, MaZi, is herself a former ballerina who has performed with ballet companies in the US and Europe.
Pure Wellness is an unpretentious boutique studio that offers small-class-size programs in yoga and general fitness, including pilates and high-intensity interval training. Prices are very reasonable, too, starting at $13 per class.
Revolution Physical Therapy and Weight Loss
Revolution actually veers more toward being a medical facility, with physiologists, PTs and nutritionists on hand to help clients. The ideal end result is the same, though: Fitness and wellness through exercise, nutrition and motivation.
Riverwest Fitness Studio
RWFS calls itself “Chicago’s best-kept secret,” with its boutique programs that integrate pilates, massage, Gyrotronic and even boxing.
RowFit combines indoor rowing with CrossFit training for an intense training experience. The gym’s owner, Nell Shuttleworth, was originally introduced to CrossFit while training for an Ironman triathlon in 2009, and that experience reminded her of what it was like to train as part of a team. This inspired her to open a gym that would offer clients a similar sense of community while working out.
Windy City CrossFit
Opened in 2007, this was Chicago’s original CrossFit training facility. “We have enough Kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells, bumper plates, jump boxes, medicine balls, rowers, gymnastics rings, parallettes and pull-up bars to effectively train up to 20-plus athletes at a time,” the gym’s founders say, “and we do so every day.”
Chicago Reader Picks
Bloom Yoga Studio
Just off the Rockwell Brown Line stop, Bloom was voted by the Chicago Reader as 2014’s best yoga studio in the city.
Another Reader 2014 Best Of pick, Mind.Art.Core in Ravenswood is a STOTT Pilates studio that eschews the idea of levels and instead focuses on each client’s personal experience and expectations.
Just For Women
The Barre Code
The Barre Code has developed an intense, three-part program that emphasizes cardio, strength training and restoration. It’s been quite successful, too, having grown from a basement space in River North in 2010 to a budding national franchise.
Studio Fit, near the Armitage Brown Line/Purple Line stop in Lincoln Park, emphasizes exercise as a natural component of life and tries to encourage that in a friendly, non-intimidating environment.
New and Noteworthy
Chicago Primal Gym
Chicago Primal founder Sean Griffin left a corporate finance job in California to reconnect with his roots in the Midwest. His gym teaches clients to be strong, healthy and happy through a program that emphasizes quality movement, healthy food and a sustainable lifestyle.
Reach Beyond Fitness
The year-old Reach Beyond Fitness bases its training around the Spartan obstacle course race. Other programs available include boxing, a bootcamp, and a pilates/boxing hybrid called Piloxing.
Zen Yoga Garage
Garage is an apt term here because this Bucktown studio used to be a Jiffy Lube. Besides just the location, what makes Zen Yoga Garage unique is its focus on super-intense workouts (twisting, jumping, headstands) followed by relaxation, and perhaps even a massage.