Survival of the fittest

Train like a 'Hunger Games' tribute with these offbeat exercises

  • Avril Brown works out with a training sword at Forteza Fitness.
Avril Brown works out with a training sword at Forteza Fitness. (Lenny Gilmore/RedEye )
April 30, 2012|By Mick Swasko, RedEye

Let the games begin.

Even if the most physical activity you got this winter was lifting a copy of Suzanne Collins'"The Hunger Games" or walking to your car to see the movie, the odds still are in your favor to get active come summer. That is, if you start your training now.

The book trilogy and blockbuster movie—in which teenage "tributes" from one of 12 districts in a dystopian future battle to the death in an unpredictable arena—already has inspired a growing interest in archery, with heroine Katniss Everdeen being a master markswoman with a bow. But fitness enthusiasts from around the city say there are more than just arrows and a bull's-eye awaiting those who want to kick start their summer workouts like their lives depend on it.

For Bikram Yoga Chicago owner John Marcoux, the 105-degree, full-humidity yoga classes his Wicker Park, Lincoln Park and South Loop studios offer mimic the extreme conditions not unlike those in the at-times fiery "Hunger Games" arena. Keith Jennings, head trainer at Forteza Fitness in Ravenswood, will whip you into shape with training that includes wooden replicas of medieval weapons and bare-knuckle improvisational boxing. He said the training is indeed fit for prepping one to tackle the Hunger Games.

"They would have a bit of swordsmanship skills under their belt, empty hand boxing and wrestling skills, a heightened cardiovascular ability and overall functional strength," Jennings said. Lifting and throwing heavy objects, pulling yourself onto a tree branch and dragging a fallen comrade to safety—all skills that led to survival for the tributes – will probably be easier as a result, he said.

But the bottom line, especially with warmer than usual weather at this point in the season, is to get in gear now.

"If you want to have your tank top on this summer, now is the time you've got to work on it," said Clint Phillips, a personal trainer who runs boot camp fitness sessions around the city. "Get at it now and work hard, get your diet dialed in and you can make a big difference between now and June or July when it gets really warm."

HOW TO TRAIN LIKE A TRIBUTE

Fighting Fit Training

Arena: Forteza Fitness, 4437 N. Ravenswood Ave.

Contact: 773-271-3988

Cost: Varies; $75 for FightingFit! course, three classes a week for four weeks

How you'll train: Forteza's FightingFit! classes use "unconventional tools" to get you fit, head trainer Keith Jennings said. Using a combination of weapons such as mock-medieval swords and wooden staffs with kettle bells, pull-ups and weights, the class is very much like the circuit training the "Hunger Games" tributes undergo. "It builds muscle mass and burns fat at the same time," he said. The studio also teaches Bartitsu, an improvisational bare-knuckle combat style.

Bikram Yoga Chicago

Arena: Studios in Lincoln Park (2736 N. Clark St.), Wicker Park (1344 N. Milwaukee Ave.) and the South Loop (47 W. Polk St.)

Contact: info@105f.com or 773-348-9642 for the Lincoln Park studio

Cost: $89 for the Bikram Yoga Challenge

How you'll train: At 105 degrees and 100 percent humidity, it's going to be tough just to stand during the first class, Bikram Yoga Chicago owner John Marcoux said. But get through 30 of the classes in 30 days, and you've conquered the studio's challenge. The reward? Fifty-nine dollars for your next month's tuition. Good for sharpening the mind as much as the body, Marcoux said the 26 poses struck during the 90-minute classes help completely reboot students' systems.

Chicago Sport and Social Club Rock Climbing

Arena: The Ledge at Fitness Formula Club Old Town, 1235 N. LaSalle St.

Contact: 312-850-8196

Cost: $150 for a beginner class

How you'll train: The all-around body workout of rock climbing prepares you for when the only way to go is up. "It works every muscle in your body from the smallest muscles in your fingers and hands to toes and ankles that you never knew you had," Sport and Social Club President Jason Erkes said. Plus, the beginner classes will build climbing chops for those who want to take the workout outdoors. The once-a-week courses last six weeks, and offer an additional six climbs during the session. Registration is already open for classes in late June and July.

Kettlebell Training

Arena: Rhodes Fusion Fitness, 538 N. Western Ave.

Contact: 312-637-9772

Cost: First class is free, $160 for unlimited monthly classes after that

How you'll train: Kettlebells require a bit of heavy lifting. For those new to the training – which focuses on building endurance and strength—the iron balls used for different movements will weigh between 18 and 26 pounds for ladies and 36 to 53 pounds for guys. Prentiss Rhodes, owner of the gym, says weight loss, better posture and greater flexibility occur after about a month. "Over time, your work capacity increases. You'll be able to do more. You definitely gain strength and you will start to see the definition that people look for."

Archery at the Lincoln Park Archery Club

Arena: Lincoln Park Archery Range, Lakefront at Belmont Harbor Drive

Contact: lincolnparkarchery@yahoo.com

Cost: Free for monthly clinics, $30 club member dues

How you'll train: Like "Hunger Games" heroine Katniss, you too can hone your bowmanship along the lakefront. Once-a-month clinics are offered for free, with additional practice and sessions offered at the Archery Bow Range (1757 N. Kimball Ave.).

Listen while you work with our Spotify playlist of the Best Songs About Chicago

mswasko@tribune.com | @mickswasko

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