Thursday, September 29, 2011

26.2 Places to Eat Over Chicago Marathon Weekend, the Last Half

Art Smith ran the Marathon, too, in 2010.
Have no fear, I wasn't going to leave you stranded at the 90/94 overpass right before you cross under the halfway mark banner at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Just like the race, we have to make it to the finish line with these eats. So for the second 13--and 0.2 for good measure--I've picked up right where I left off with a spot that's steps from the course when runners hit the north end of Greektown.

14. Greek Islands
I definitely ate here one year after the marathon, I remember my dad requesting it and I acquiesced—and I ran so hard during the race that I couldn’t get up from the chair when the meal was over. Besides, you ran through Greektown earlier in the day, you may as well dine in it—plus now’s your chance to overload on saganaki and bread, both of which are about as free flowing as the wine around here.

15. Grahamwich or Graham Eliot 
Some may disagree with me but I’ve enjoyed my meals at both the original (can I call it that?) and its fast casual cousin.

16. The Purple Pig 
Jimmy Bannos and Tony Mantuano behind the same spot? This is almost too good to be true. And they’re open late so if you need a near-midnight snack after the race, you won’t have to go hungry, you can go gourmet.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

26.2 Places to Eat Over Chicago Marathon Weekend, the First Half

If Stephanie Izard (middle) is expediting, she'll break for photos.
The foodie in me comes out around marathon time. The parents are in town (hello meals my wallet can’t afford), my stomach is screaming out for food and lots of it after running 26.2 miles (as long as I don’t drink too much Gatorade on the course), and well, I never would have majored in journalism if I hadn’t thought that my post-college dream was to become a food critic (picture Julia Roberts’ character in My Best Friend’s Wedding and you had my 18-year-old self’s grand aspirations). And I feel like I need to set the record straight on places to eat when you’re in the Windy City after reading another runner’s list last year—one, I might add, that Runner’s World caught wind of and posted somewhere in the depths of social media. The list wasn’t bad, per say, it’s just that there are better choices—or my choices—and they’re different. And more must-eats-when-in-the-Windy-City. And not deemed go-to’s by a site that’s based out of Albuquerque (in defense, the list was compiled by a traveling runner--and Chicago 2010 participant--and gastronut).

Coming to Chicago to run the Bank of America Chicago Marathon? Check out these 26.2 eats when you’re in town—or save them for your next, non-running trip.

1. Girl and the Goat
Unless you reserved this one right around the time you signed up to run the marathon, you’re going to have to reserve now for the next time you plan to be in town. This Top Chef (Stephanie Izard) hot spot has a two-month long wait list for most nights in the near future—I tried weeks ago to reserve on Opentable and couldn’t get in until November. But the cuisine? Soooo worth the wait, even for this barely-eats-meat girl who’ll take bikes of the pig face any day.

2. Table Fifty-Two
Oh Art Smith, what would we do to dine at your Chicago restaurant (and not because I can walk there from my house). Your hummingbird pie, your hot-out-of-the-oven biscuits to start off the meal, your deviled eggs that I’ll only eat out of your kitchen, your mac n cheese that’s so rich I can’t take more than a bite, your pleasant surprises on the menu—the fish special that I think I eat every time because not one sounds worthy of skipping for fried chicken.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why you need arm muscles for skiing--and how to get them

I've been obsessed with Michelle Obama's arms, I've envied many a triathlete's guns (something about those muscles that look even more defined after perching in aero position for 112 miles), and I've engaged in plenty of yoga sculpt classes in hopes of scoring my own envious arms. But in all honesty, it was probably more for show than for utilitarian value.

Even so, I know the importance of arm muscles for the sports I partake in, not excluding skiing. I like to think of it this way: You never know when you'll need to use your poles like a Nordic skier. I've been practically stranded in Vail's back bowls and felt my arms burning as I furiously used my poles to traverse the flat (or what felt like it) Silk Road. I've high-tailed it on Cloud 9 in Blue Sky Basin to the China Spur on the other side of the mountain. I've felt the arms burn on the cat track that I want to traverse in a hurry: I'll skate, I'll pole, I'll don my best Nordic skier interpretation all in the name of reaching my destination faster.

Now those are all situations I've found myself in where a little arm strength does the body good. But how about an example that we've probably all felt at least once in our lives? The "I've fallen but I can't get up." Sure it's a phrase we memorized from those lifeline commercials, but you don't have to be old, living alone and unsteady on your feet to utter the phrase while you're skiing. Take my mom who I got on skis for the first time in seven seasons back in March. She toppled over not once, not twice, not three times. Totally understandable considering she hadn't skied in years and was even more rusty than her last attempt. But when tipped over, she couldn't get herself back up. These weren't difficult falls to recover from, it's just that she lacked the arm power to push herself back up and couldn't leverage herself with her poles. Instead she had to pop her skis off (or rather I did it), stand up and start all over. A situation that easily could have been avoided. 

The fix? Stronger arms. The benefits? Sculpted muscles, longer ski days, less arm burn so you can expend more energy in the legs--and maybe even sporting those killer arms when you're chillaxing in the hot tub. How? lays out some exercises to start with that'll shape and strengthen your biceps, triceps and deltoids--and maybe a few others, too. It'll all in the name of toning your arms for skiing.

What moves do you use to max out your arm muscles?

Photo grabbed from

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chicago Marathon 2011: 13 Days and Counting

The countdown to the Bank of America Chicago Marathon suddenly became more real. I'm running, or I'm supposed to be running, 26.2 miles in 13 days. Where did the time go?

I look at the marathon’s website on a semi-regular basis—I almost have to, or find myself doing so, as a part of my day job—and I know plenty of people, me included, who’ve been set on running it since February. I’ve written tons of marathon content (plug: you can soon check it all out at Time Out Chicago’s website, Chicago Athlete and the official marathon program), talked to enough awesome sources and attended an array of events, with more yet to come. But I didn’t bat an eye once the Chicago Triathlon passed and I knew it was time to focus on running and long mileage. And it didn’t phase me until days before that I’d be missing the 20-miler weekend thanks to a wedding, nor did I fret about not doing in the cold and rain and undesirable running weather that hovered over D.C. when I could have laced up my shoes.

Yet this whole less-than-two-weeks-and-counting thing really hit, and hard, this weekend. Was it the table conversation about the marathon Saturday afternoon? Definitely. How about the advance screening of the official marathon gear, available at Fleet Feet and Niketown? Absolutely. Or did the Breaking Through the Wall seminar, which I virtually attended for the first time via live streaming on my computer, have something to do with it? No doubt, as I heard mistakes I’ve made a million times before, tips that I knew would have been good to hear years ago when I started this whole marathon running thing, and answers to questions that I’ve been too afraid to ask at more than one point in training and racing.

Gotta love the heather blue!
As for a visual, check out the above display of the 2011 Chicago Marathon gear. If it hasn’t hit you yet that you’re running 26.2 miles in less than two weeks—and by the time you read this, you’ll likely be too sore to stray too far from your most comfy piece of furniture—maybe the gear will get you as it did me. And if not, consider it your excuse to go shopping for a new running outfit that you can break in now for race day (even if it is taboo to wear race wear from said race) or save for later to subtly brag about your accomplishment. I did (thank you, Fleet Feet), though I might be jinxing myself if I wear my newest Nike pullover out and about before the race.

Surely I’m not the only one thinking like this, am I? Are you getting nervous, anxious, excited for the aptly nicknamed #cm11 or whatever else it’s being called these days?

Note: a version of this story originally appeared at FFCheer.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

New Trail to Try: Bloomingdale

One of Kate's favorite spots to workout
I’m a run-on-the-Lakefront kinda girl. It’s a straight shot east from my house to the path, a residence I liked even more because of its half-mile proximity to my favorite running spot. I’ve got my water stops pre-planned at least up until the ground starts to freeze and the park district turns off my go-to fountains. And it’s some of the most beautiful scenery in the Windy City—that alone makes it easy to ignore the fierce headwinds and swirling breezes that only intensify this time of year. I can say that because I fell in love with Chicago, and knew I could tolerate six to seven (or even eight or nine depending on the year) months of misery, when my dad and I drove in from the Skyway and up Lake Shore Drive to Evanston on a picture-perfect Saturday morning to deposit me at school for the year. Runners, cyclists, walkers, inline skaters, sailboats (close enough to the path, right?), you see it all, and it only made me want to get outside, too. Running in this town is infectious I tell you, always has been—the Lakefront scene that captured my heart happened roughly 10 years ago.

It might be hard to tear me away from that path, but it’s not impossible. And thanks to Time Out Chicago, I think I’m going to have to stray from my mainstay sooner rather than later to investigate the Bloomingdale Trail.

Three thoughts came to mind when I saw the magazine’s tweet about this trail. 1. Bloomingdale. That’s a suburb. It has an IKEA. 2. Must be a new suburban trail. (Cut me some slack: I’m totally city-fied and the most suburban I’ve gotten this year is an afternoon in Naperville for Mizuno shoe test and driving north on I-90 and I-94 to ride my bike.) 3. Enter at your own risk? What’s the big secret to this trail?

And then I found my answers. 1. Bloomingdale refers to the Northwest side’s avenue, not the suburb. 2. It’s a new trail alright—elevated to boot—but it’s only in the design stage. Apparently “no trespassing” signs aren’t stopping walkers, runners and partiers from treading. Heck, if I had learned about it before today, the accompanying picture makes me want to run it, too. I realize it looks nothing like my beloved Lakefront Path, but it reminds me of the multi-use trail I biked from Coeur d’Alene to the Washington state border back in July, something about those houses lining it. 3. The secret? It’s an old rail line with a plan for an elevated park that could take years to complete (unless it goes up as quickly as Meigs Field went down). And from the sound of it, it’s not exactly simple to enter. But have no fear, Time Out solved the entrance issues with four popular ways to get in.

One problem though: I’ll need to get there soon. Word spreads fast and if watchful eyes catch this tip and take action, I’ll miss out.

Have you run the Bloomingdale Trail?

Photo grabbed from Chicago Man at flickr.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Update: Equinox's 20-year Deal

Thought it was too late to join Equinox for its 20-year, $20 membership deal? It's not.

This steal that was originally publicized as being available on September 22 only, the day before Equinox officially turned 20 and the day of the fitness center's 20th anniversary celebrations, is still valid--unless the ad I saw on Google is lying to me. You can still join for $20, at least until September 30. Consider an early start to keeping your fitness, and waistline, in check during the holiday season.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Equinox Turns 20!

The year: 1991. The Minnesota Twins won the World Series (I'd be a bad wife if I didn't mention that for my Twins-fan husband). The New York Giants won the Super Bowl. Gas only cost a little more than a dollar on average. Pearl Jam, R.E.M. and Nirvana worked their way onto our playlists--well, some of ours anyway since I calculated that I was in fifth grade and listened to tapes of M.C. Hammer and Vanilla Ice. The Dow Jones Industrial average was only about a third of what it is now. Equinox opened its doors for fitness fans--its first facility opened at 76th and Amsterdam in New York City on the autumnal equinox (how appropriate!), September 23, 20 years ago tomorrow.

And they're celebrating their 20th anniversary in one of the most appropriate ways possible: throwing a fitness party and offering a steal of a membership deal if you join today, in Chicago, anyway. The deal? Join Equinox today for only $20. And bring you and your friends free of charge to the Loop location, even if you're not a member. The party? Your typical food, drinks and decorations, but spiced up with a 75-minute Then & Now workout promising to take you through the annals of fitness from circa 1991 to present. Don't worry, you won't have to dig out your best Jane Fonda moves or push your way through 8-minute abs. So. Much. Better.

Fitness has come a long way in those 20 years, but it also lives up to that saying, "the more things change, the more they stay the same." Equinox proved it to a handful of Chicago journalists this morning at a "Then & Now" workout, a sampler of what guests could experience at the three Chicago gyms tonight, starting at 5:15 p.m. at the Loop location, 5:30 p.m. at 900 N. Michigan, and 5:45 p.m. at the Lincoln Park location.

Then: aerobics, stair-steppers, Billy Blanks's Tae Bo. Now: tabata, TRX, ViPR, high intensity training and more. Those same moves that you busted out in an aerobics class? Still there but with a medicine ball thrown in--Cardio Core Ball. The Tae Bo that may have helped give martial arts recognition beyond The Karate Kid and Mortal Kombat (I kid, I kid)? Got that too with Cardio Kick. The modern day workout? Tabata, guaranteed to get you sweaty, hurting (good pain, I promise), and ready to collapse in less than 10 minutes--less than 4 minutes if you really want to get specific.

But Then & Now didn't feel like a throwback to an antiquated workout that either should have been left in its own decade or tossed altogether. Mention the word aerobics and step classes to me and I cringe, remembering high school swim conditioning that involved Eric Nies, The Grind and me tripping over my own two feet wishing I was running laps on the track for that afternoon of dryland training. Yet if you told me that I was doing aerobics, or some incarnation of it this morning, I wouldn't have believed you. I was having fun, and mind you, while feeling sick and completed stuffed up. I was sweating, but not to the point where I was spraying it across the room (ew, gross!). My muscles were feeling it, from my inner thighs to my chest though I'm sure the previous day's yoga sculpt class made those medicine ball lifts and pushes hurt even more and a two-day-old run didn't make the kicks any easier. And I was surprisingly more coordinated than I remembered.

Does any of this sound remotely familiar to how you worked out 20 years ago? I can't compare, considering my elementary efforts were concentrated on curve balls, batting, the pool and my first swim meet. But if there's a throwback workout in another 20 years, I'll take it even if my marathon- and skiing-burdened legs are on the brink of falling off as my mom predicts.

Happy Birthday, Equinox! Here's to another 20!

Photo grabbed from Equinox.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Love Those Leg Strengtheners

Can you do this? I can't.
Is it just me or is this Midwest weather wearing you down? We're still supposed to have a few more days left of summer, according to the calendar the autumnal equinox isn't official until early Friday morning, but it feels like our weather system has reverted back to the gloom, cold, ick that settled over the city in May and June. If there's any light at the end of the tunnel it's that the ski season comes closer every day. Not that I've had reservations for months to be in Keystone when it opens November 4, nor am I armed and ready to drop everything and dash to Arapahoe Basin or Loveland when they rush to be the first North American resort to open for the season. But I can be ready to go from a fit standpoint for the next time I am taking to my skis. That is, if I get in some leg training that's more than swim, bike, run (I'm having a hard time dropping triathlon dreams from my workouts) and truly focused on finding my best Lindsey Vonn...or Julia Mancuso...or Maria Riesch.

How to do it: leg strengtheners, especially those that'll get the quads, glutes and hamstrings ready for the day on the snow. Sounds simple enough, especially if you run and bike as much as I do (er, bike only since my running is still quite pathetic). But all that forward motion from pavement pounding and concrete cruising doesn't get you too far when you're on skis--that lateral movement can hurt, bad, if you don't prepare for it. Where to get started? Try these four moves, and a bonus one that Mancuso and Vonn make look easy (see above), from that'll work your lower half for ski season. And even if you're not a skier, check them out. You can get some pretty rocking legs for Indian summer or any beach getaways planned for fall. 

How do you get your legs in gear for skiing?

Photo grabbed from Lindsey Vonn's Under Armour Workout.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fit-Pic: Now That's a Running Costume

Who needs a costume idea? Whether you want to run in costume or you simply need an idea for your next themed-run around Halloween, here's one I stumbled upon that might send you home a winner of Best Costume award. Or most precarious to run with. I've seen fairies and cows but this was architectural amazement.

You know how some people, i.e. friends and family who'll watch but won't run, wonder how you ran a marathon? What do you think they say when they're standing on the sidelines and see the Eiffel Tower run by? I just wonder how one obtains such a replica, and if any body parts were harmed from running with the famed structure, beyond normal marathon wear and tear.

What kinds of costumes might you wear while running? Would you wear one during 26.2 miles?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ski Shape

Hard to believe that it's nearly mid-September? I am. I'm still in shock that the beaches are technically closed--and to be honest, with the weather we've been having, I barely want to venture outside--and that fall is just around the corner. Sure, I say that a lot with the changing of the seasons yet I feel like summer barely started or that I got to enjoy it since I only became my usual, active self in August.

But regardless of what the calendar says or the weather forecast shows, winter is just around the corner. I know it, the mountains know it (they already saw snow!) and the ski resorts know it. One problem: I'm not so sure my legs, arms and core know it. Preparing for running and biking is one thing, but getting in ski shape can be another endeavor entirely. All day on the slopes, moguls, steeps, powder, ice--the equipment can only go so far and then it's all about the engine behind it.

So how can you start revving that engine now before you get back on your skis come November? Well, securing a ski pass or planning a trip are two ways, but I'm talking about the fitness focus. How are you going to get in shape for skiing? Are you the type to engage in a little trail running or mountain biking? Or would you rather pop in a DVD (ahem, maybe P90X or Insanity?) or arrive at the gym for some strength training, toning and full-on muscle building? We all have our own weapons for whipping ourselves into shape--or we learn from the suggestions of others.

My go-tos: running and cycling. They're the easiest, not necessarily the smartest, for me to do. Why? Because I pavement pound and stick to forward motion. As for moves that get you moving across all planes of motion and moving abruptly as we sometimes do when we're skiing (you know, when you have to avoid a rock or tree, or you aren't as stellar as your partner and end up on advanced terrain that leaves you jerky instead of fluid), there are plenty of other ways to get in ski shape. Find them at, where it's all about five ways that meet the all-important question, "How do I get in shape for skiing?

Next step, start sweating!

Photo grabbed from cnolan011, Christopher Nolan, at flickr.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Going Back to the Footwear

What does Back to the Future have to do with fitness? Not much. Or really not anything beyond skateboards, chases and 1950s bicycles unless there's a connection I'm missing or I could do more than display a new, highly buzzed about Nike shoe release. But I'm going out on a limb here and I suppose the only honest thing to do is blame growing up in the 1980s, my grandfather and my shoe obsession. So here it goes...

"Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads."
"1.21 gigawatts!? 1.21 gigawatts1?"
"What the hell is a gigawatt?"
"Power laces, alright!"

I can recite various parts to all three Back to the Future movies--my sister can too, and get the two of us together and we can probably still talk out most of the movies. In fifth grade, I wrote and illustrated a book (one of those assignments that we did for English) with a time traveling Corvette. My dream car was a DeLorean and when the neighbor up the street had one parked in his driveway, I totally wanted it. Any time one part or all of the trilogy is on TV (thank you VH1 for making it one of your classics), I'm tuning in. And when I most recently watched Part II last month, I couldn't help but wonder if we'd ever see any of these so-called futuristic items for 2015 since the real 2015 is just around the corner (boy, did that seem a long way off when I was 10). But, I digress.


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