While the Windy City may be frequently associated with deep-dish pizza and Italian beef sandwiches—and trust us, we’d never knock either of those—the growing health and fitness scene is nothing to scoff at. (Not to mention that a good workout gives you free rein to indulge in said pizza and sandwiches with abandon.) Whether you're looking for a sleek mega-gym with all the bells and whistles, a smaller neighborhood spot, or a boutique exercise studio, Chicago’s got all of the above in spades.
Ahead, the seven best gyms to hit up for a serious sweat session.
Chicago Athletic Clubs
Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, and no matter which one you call home, there’s likely a Chicago Athletic Club (CAC) nearby. Each of the seven locations within city limits is slightly different in its layout and offerings, though an extensive array of classes and plenty of well-maintained machines and equipment are the norm (there are also separate CAC Pilates studios in Lincoln Park and Evanston). An added plus: They offer both yearly memberships and a convenient month-to-month option, which is ideal for commitment-phobes or frequent travelers. Monthly fees vary from $69 to $89 based on location.
East Bank Club
Prefer big gyms? Like, BIG? East Bank Club spans a whopping 450,000 square feet over five levels and two city blocks in River North. That means seven tennis courts, four pools, an indoor track… you get the picture. Members can also take advantage of a seemingly never-ending list of amenities. Think: car wash (why not get your car washed while you do cardio?), dry cleaning, restaurants, and a salon. It’s no wonder that Chi-city royalty like Barack Obama and Oprah have worked out here. If you’re not going to be a member, it helps to at least befriend one so that you can take advantage of the pool and roof deck come summer. Initiation fees start at $500 per individual, with monthly dues ranging from $200 (for single members) to $335 for partners.
With 11 locations spread throughout the city, FFC combines a neighborhood vibe with all the bells and whistles of much larger chains. Cool extras like rock climbing walls and mixed martial arts classes are a good option for anyone who wants to bust out of a treadmill rut, and 10 of the locations also house spas that offer an extensive array of muscle-relaxing massages, among other services. Single-club access starts at $85 per month.
If you, like us, prefer riding a bike where there’s no risk of falling off, check out either one of the two Chicago Flywheel Sports locations and cycle to your heart’s content. Pumping beats and über-energetic instructors make the calorie-torching classes fly by—see what we did there?—while competitive types will love that you can see how your performance compares to others. The Old Town studio also offers FlyBarre, a barre-based, muscle-toning class. Pay for a single class ($30), or purchase a pack of five, 10, or 20 classes. Unlimited monthly memberships are also an option.
Finally, a gym made for those who love nothing more than a group fitness class. It’s all classes, all the time at ENRGi Fitness… over 80 per week, to be exact. Sure, there are the standard suspects like dance classes and boxing, but there’s also a range of creative and innovative options, like S.W.A.T., a circuit training class that involves monkey bars—enough said. There are restorative classes, too, which are perfect for when you want to chill out and give your muscles a little TLC. Members can use the cardio and strength equipment when classes aren’t in session. Pricing is based on how many classes you want to take: $125 for five classes per month, $230 for 10, or $199 for unlimited.
Studio Three's two Chicago locations each offer three unique fitness options under one roof—Peloton cycling, interval training, and yoga—meaning there’s something to scratch every fitness itch. Take classes from all three of the exercise disciplines (“studios,” as they’re called) or just stick to your fave. No matter what you do, don’t leave without grabbing a nutritious and delicious post-workout smoothie from the Graze juice shop (inside the lobby at both locations). Class packages start at $145 and monthly memberships are also available. Brides-to-be can take advantage of the three-month Bridal Package, which offers unlimited access to all studios for $545.
Expect non-stop muscle shakes and quakes during every 50-minute CHI50 class. Based on the Lagree Fitness Method and done on a Megaformer machine, the total body workout is different every time, making plateaus a thing of the past. There’s a pre-/post-natal class that teaches new moms and mommas-to-be how to adapt the workout for their bodies, and we’re also big fans of the incredibly friendly owner and roster of enthusiastic instructors, who go above and beyond to make everyone feel welcome. New clients can take an intro class for $15, or purchase an unlimited monthly membership for $175.
Next up: Check out the workout that can literally reverse aging.