Chicago Athletic Club climbing director Keith Geraghty talks to RedEye about how good of a workout you can get from climbing the outdoor rock climbing wall at the Lincoln Park Athletic Club.

Let's face it: Chicagoans have a limited time to enjoy the great outdoors.

So they're ditching the gym and taking their workout, well, outside.

While the lakefront trail can get crowded, fitness buffs are diving into the growing number of outdoor classes and excursions offered to stay fit.

Nearly half of Americans participated in outdoor recreation in 2012, and adults in their 20s and 30s were most likely to try a new outdoor activity, according to a report released in 2013 by the Outdoor Foundation, a not-for-profit branch of the Outdoor Industry Association.

People often don't think of Chicago as being a big outdoor draw like Colorado, said Theresa Salus, REI's outdoor program and outreach market manager in Chicago. But there's Lake Michigan and the Chicago River.

"For us, we're seeing more people connecting to water sports and paddling because it's our mountains. It's what we have here," she said.

It's no wonder as recent research has shown people respond positively to exercising outside from a boost in self-esteem and increased energy to drops in tension and anger.

RedEye went beyond boot camp to find the outdoor fit club.

 

KAYAK SPIN

Picture a spin class. But instead of a stationary bike, there are pedals inside a kayak. There's also the view of the skyline from the lake.

"What a fun way to literally put a bike in the water," said Megan Scully, 23, of Lakeview.

The avid cyclist bikes seven miles to work in the South Loop and is spin class regular in the winter. When Scully heard about incorporating pedaling and paddling in a kayak, she was all for it.

This summer, Chicago Water Sport Rentals began offering the $39, 70-minute kayak spin class.

"You're out on the water, enjoying being out on the water. You're kayaking. You're exuding extra strength and agility to power the kayak," company founder John Gibbs said. "And it's social because you're meeting people."

Scully pedaled from the dock into the lake, paddled for a bit and pedaled back to the 31st Street Harbor, working her quads, calves and shoulders.

"It was like everything you could get in a cardio sculpt class but in a different way and on water," she said.

 

ROWING

Sharlene King signed up for a three-session beginners sculling class for $165 at the Lincoln Park Boat Club after she saw the Internet meme of British rowers posing for a nude charity calendar to combat homophobia.

"I was like, 'Oh wow, they're really ripped. I would like to try that sport,'" said King, a 32-year-old Andersonville resident.

Sculling, which requires rowers use two oars, is one of the most popular classes at the boat club, said Trish Brubaker, the club's head coach. Also offered is sweep rowing, which involves one oar held by both hands.

"Rowing in particular is the most physically demanding sport there is," she said. "It requires total body fitness. It also requires a good amount of patience."

For Lars Carstensen, 27, using a rowing machine in the gym where he's paying attention to a blinking number on a screen was "hell." But sculling outdoors for 90 minutes in the lagoon south of Fullerton Avenue and west of Lake Shore Drive was the opposite.

"It's very peaceful," the Barrington resident said. "You're out on the water. It's a fun time."

 

INDO BOARD

Try the plank or bridge yoga pose using a board smaller than a surfboard while it's teetering with an inflatable cushion underneath the middle of the board.

"This is much harder than doing it on the ground. It's taking what you normally do and making it more difficult," said Mary Lou Cerami, who teaches the indo board workout on the sand.

During the $20 indo board beach boot camp at Montrose Beach, students try to find their balance on a wobbly board without the risk of falling in the lake.

Standing on the indo board for an hour engages all the muscles working to stabilize the body and nothing is at rest, she said.

 

ROCK CLIMBING

Maren McMullan enjoys the added benefit of workouts that clear her head.

"A lot of times when you're on a run or working out, it's easy to just keep thinking about things you've been thinking about all day," said McMullan, 29, of Wicker Park.

After a camping trip with a rock climbing enthusiast, she decided to scale the outdoor climbing wall at Lincoln Park Athletic Club.

"I feel like with this, if you don't think about your next move, then you're either stuck or you fall," she said.

Climbing is a growing sport, climbing director Keith Geraghty said, pointing to the climbing sculptures planned for Maggie Daley Park and how it was considered as a potential 2020 Olympic sport.

The color-coded, 40-foot-tall outdoor wall has climbing paths with varying degrees of difficulty to challenge anyone who purchases a $25 daily all-inclusive pass to the gym near the Diversey Brown Line stop.

Climbing engages the pull muscles so your arms, back, core, forearms and even fingertips get sore, especially for newbies who may be death-gripping the rock.

"You don't really realize you're getting a workout because it's fun," Geraghty said.