5 Ways to Get Fit Out on the Water

Summer is here and Lake Michigan’s clean, clear waters are open and beckoning you to come out and enjoy.

Have you always wanted to learn to sail? Are you intrigued by the kayaks you see at sunrise? Does the challenge of windsurfing interest you? Whether your style is a relaxing paddle on a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) or a high-powered rowing workout on the river, make this the summer to take advantage of the lake and improve your boating skills. There’s nothing like being out on the open water on a hot day taking in the beautiful lakefront.

Lake Forest Sailing, recognized as the Best Community Sailing Program of the Year by U.S. Sailing, offers instruction for all ages and skill levels. As program supervisor Hunter Ratliff points out, “There is much less boat traffic along the North Shore when compared to the city, making sailing a serene experience.” Hunter stresses the lifelong nature of the sport, making the investment in learning worth your while. Lake Forest also offers lessons and rentals in all other watercraft. Enjoy Lake Forest’s beautifully redeveloped lakefront as you harness the power of the wind in your sail. Parking for non-residents can be tricky, so inquire ahead of time.

Photo courtesy of Lake Forest Sailing. 

Enjoy calm water and spectacular city views from Northwestern University’s brand new Sailing Center, complete with full bathrooms, hot showers and spacious classrooms. NU offers seasonal memberships, rentals and lessons in sailing, kayaking, paddleboarding and windsurfing. There are also a variety of kid’s camps. NU is one of the few places that offers windsurfing lessons and rentals. With a land-based simulator, you can get the feel of pulling up the sail and adjusting your body based on the wind’s power—before you get all wet.

Photo courtesy of Kristin Andrews (pictured) at Northwestern Sailing Center. 

Wilmette’s Northwest Passage leads adventure tours all over the world and teaches kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) off Wilmette’s beautiful Gillson Beach. “Clients love the accessibility of kayaking,” says John Barkhausen, Assistant Program Director. “You can be paddling and exploring with pretty minimal skills and training.” There are two classes for the beginner: an Introduction to Kayaking class and a Chicago Day-Kayaking Program. “Our clients love the unique and total openness of floating out on the water on an SUP. We have a variety of boards that make balancing, going faster and turning easier. Many different kinds of people come out and they all end up having a great time. SUP may take a little longer than kayaking to get proficient.” An instructional SUP class covers the basics and allows more experienced SUP boarders to practice with a certified instructor. Guide Stephanie Metz suggests combining SUP and yoga. “You get a full-body workout focused on your core and stabilizing muscles in your legs.”

Photo courtesy of Kristin Andrews. 

Wilmette Boat Rentals can help you turn a hot, flat-water day into a fun-filled day of tubing, skiing and touring the lakefront. For experienced boat drivers (must be at least 35 years old) who don’t want the hassles of ownership, renting a boat for the day is a perfect solution. Now in its third summer, Wilmette Boat Rentals books up every nice weekend, so owner Ted Widen suggests you schedule a few weeks ahead of time to ensure a boat. Boats are launched in Winnetka or on a small lake in Wisconsin; skis and tubes are also available for rent.

Rowing, one of the fastest growing women’s sports, has become popular on the North Branch of the Chicago River. New Trier Extension offers women’s summer rowing classes beginning in June.Hilary Scott, Glencoe mom of two young boys, wanted to find a way to exercise outdoors. “I’ve never been great about working out alone in a gym, and so the idea of getting out on the water with others appealed to me. It’s grueling…[but] that is satisfying. I love calculating everything from the number of strokes to the number of meters rowed. There is a truly unique sense of camaraderie with the other women in the boat.”
Photo courtesy of New Trier Extension.

All of these out-on-the-water options allow you to get away from the noise and commotion and enjoy the peaceful, calming waters of the lake and river. Whether you crave speed or a slow pace on the water, make this the summer to enjoy all our waterways have to offer.