Summertime in Chicago offers countless ways to get fit. Volleyball nets fill the beaches, joggers pound up and down the lake shore and cyclists criss-cross the city. But lately, days are getting shorter, temperatures are dropping and heading outside to exercise is becoming more challenging.
Sue Talbert, personal trainer at Galter LifeCenter, sees more people struggle to stay active in the fall. Her advice on how to stay in shape is simple, she allows, but it works: “Find something you like to do. That way you’ll stick with it.”
Talbert, who is also an exercise physiologist working in cardiac rehabilitation at Swedish Covenant Hospital, offers the following tips to help you stay fit into the fall:
Seize the season
Autumn in Chicago isn’t all dark and dreary. The season boasts a number of cool but sunny days.
“Brisk walks are great for fall because it’s chilly out,” she said.
Bicycling, raking leaves and gardening are also active ways to enjoy the autumn days. North Park Village Nature Center (5801 N. Pulaski) offers fall nature walks, bird walks and other nature-oriented activities, and numerous other local businesses host seasonal events that can keep you active.
Work with a buddy
Being accountable to someone helps you roll out of bed on those dark mornings.
“Pick a friend or ask your mate to help you and encourage you,” she said.
Keep fitness on your agenda
School activities, work functions and planning for the holidays can make fall a far busier season than summer. To maintain a workout schedule during jam-packed days, put exercise on your calendar as you would any other appointment. In time, Talbert said, a regular fitness routine will become automatic.
“If you have a conflict and have to change things, reschedule your exercise,” she said. “Don’t just take it off the calendar.”
Stay home — and work out
Is a downpour or a cold front keeping you from exercising? Talbert recommends checking out fitness videos on YouTube or renting DVDs from the library. If you find a workout style you like, you can pursue classes or purchase additional equipment.
Check in with a professional
Many people fear the gym because they feel uncomfortable and unsure what to do. Fall is a great time to schedule some sessions with a personal trainer and learn how to get fit indoors. Talbert helps introduce newcomers to exercise and establish short-term and long-term goals.
Staying fit with your kids in tow
For busy parents, it can be difficult enough to manage work and family responsibilities — much less find time for a formal workout or mental health break. Although it is easy to put exercise and fitness on the backburner, that mentality can lead to unhealthy habits, feelings of guilt and bad examples for your kids.
So finding ways to stay fit while you are spending time with your kids in essential. This will not only keep you active between workouts and help prevent obesity and other health risks, but also help strengthen relationships within your family.
Here are a few suggestions:
Go on walks and bike rides: These simple activities are great for sunny days, even when it’s chilly outside. You’ll get fresh air and great cardiovascular exercise without even realizing it.
Join in on the playground: When your children spend time at the park or playground, get involved! Chase them around, play the games and do some pull-ups on the monkey bars while you are at it. By getting off the bench and joining them, you will be burning calories, too.
Make it a group effort: The more friends, neighbors or family members that become involved in your exercise plans, the less it will seem like work and the more it will seem like socializing. Team sports and other outdoor games can accommodate for many participants.
Play catch, throw a Frisbee, hula hoop and jump rope: Working out doesn't have to be a big, time-consuming extravaganza. Try incorporating fitness in small doses throughout the day. If you have 15 minutes to spare, do something quick and easy.
Dance Dance Revolution and Wii Fit: Video games may have a reputation for promoting inactivity through idle entertainment, but some gaming systems have incorporated fitness and action into the games. Both Wii Fit (for the Nintendo Wii system) and Dance Dance Revolution (which has versions for most major game systems) feature games that get kids off the couch with challenges that burn calories.
Use the electronics to your advantage: Who says the TV is only for couch potatoes? A fitness DVD could be a good way to get a child who enjoys TV and movies to become interested in exercising. Additionally, for parents with iPad-loving kids, several mobile applications are on the market that use games to get kids moving.
Imagination station: Trying something new and creative, such as a setting up a scavenger hunt or obstacle course, creating a dance routine or making up a play to act out may be more engaging and exciting for kids than the regular games and sports that they play in gym class.
Fitness classes in the community: Look around your neighborhood, park districts and community centers for seasonal opportunities to get involved and active. Galter LifeCenter offers a variety of events and classes that promote health, wellness and fitness at all ages.
This article was originally printed in Well magazine, the precursor to this site, in September 2008. Written and edited by the editorial staff of Well magazine and Well Community.