Category: West Loop

Summer in Chi Town: Don’t Miss Out on These Experiences!

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By , June 3, 2015 11:00 am

With brutally cold winters that seem to last a little longer each year, Chicago is a city that lives for its beautiful summer season. So now that summer is here (finally!) why not try something new to soak up the sun and make the most of it?

Chicago Jet Boat Experience

One of the best ways to see Chicago is from the water, so kick back and feel the wind in your hair on a Chicago Jet Boat Experience. This is a half-hour tour that combines an adventurous ride with the beautiful view of Lake Michigan and the sprawling Chicago skyline. The boat leaves from Navy Pier, and the captain will tell you all about the city’s landmarks, architecture, and hot spots. Jet boats run daily between 11 am and 7 pm, May through October.

Photo credit: acuestareig via Flickr

Photo credit: acuestareig via Flickr

Introduction to Kayaking

To get a little more active on the water, take our Introduction to Kayaking class with the experienced guides of Kayak Chicago. This is a beginner-friendly class that’ll teach you everything you need to know about paddling, boat types, proper gear, safety techniques, and rescue strategies. This expereince lasts about four hours and runs on Saturdays and Sundays from June through September.

Sailing 101 Chicago

Another great water activity to try in Chicago is sailing! Our Sailing 101 Chicago class is beginner-friendly, yet challenging and comprehensive. To complete the course, you’ll need to take four sessions, and each lesson last four hours. So this is a great experience for locals living in the city! Sessions run daily between April and September.

Chicago Shopping Tour: Bucktown and Wicker Park

If you’re more in the mood for a little retail therapy, why not let a shopping expert help you focus and guide you through the city’s trendiest shopping district? Our Chicago Shopping Tour: Bucktown and Wicker Park experience will take you to unique boutiques and introduce you to fashion trends and the creations of top designers. You’ll meet your guide and fellow shoppers at a cafe and then head out to receive VIP treatment and the guidance of a personal shopping stylist. The experience lasts about two hours and starts at 1:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

Devil’s Lake Day Rock Climb

If you’re willing to venture outside of the city to explore the surrounding area a bit, check out our Devil’s Lake Day Rock Climb experience in southern Wisconsin. This is an ideal climbing destination for beginner climbers, and experienced guides will provide you with all the gear you need. The day begins around 9:00 am and runs until about 4:00 pm. There are more than 2,000 climbing routes here along the picturesque cliffs that overlook Devil’s Lake – perfect for taking a summertime dip after a day of climbing!

Photo credit: stewie811 via Flickr

Photo credit: stewie811 via Flickr

These are a few of the other summer-centric attractions that are must-dos in the city of Chicago:

  • Lollapalooza
  • Cubs game at Wrigley Field
  • Sox game at US Cellular Field
  • North Avenue Beach
  • Lincoln Park Zoo
  • Chicago Air & Water Show
  • Navy Pier Fireworks

For a list of Chicago’s exciting 2015 festivals, take a look at TimeOut’s 2015 Summer Festival Guide and browse through FunSherpa’s Chicago experiences to find one that’ll make your summer unforgettable!

Update on track runner and personal trainer Ron

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By , August 27, 2009 3:23 pm
Ron running for the USA

Ron running for the USA

We spoke to Ron Potocnik a few months ago about getting in shape for the summer and working out the winter calories.  Well, summer has breezed by, and Ron just updated us with some cool things he accomplished this summer – maybe you can start prepping for next summer too and break some world records in athletics!

F: Can you describe your experience competing for the United States at the World Masters Championship in Finland?

R: Wow, where do I begin? This easily ranks as one of my top life experiences. That’s inside and outside of the world of athletics and competition. This is a global competition so it’s you against the world, literally.

I had this on the calendar for several months so I had some time to prepare physically, mentally and emotionally. I knew this was going to be a demanding track meet.

One of the biggest obstacles I had was with sleep. It was bright outside until almost midnight. 10:00pm would come around and it felt like it was 7:00pm! The time change didn’t help the first few nights either. Nerves were also a big factor.  I was about as nervous as I’ve been for something but I actually think it worked to my favor. I felt focused and couched together with some adrenaline, I was definitely ready. I know it probably drove my wife crazy as I was never much for conversation but, she was always out there supporting me!

My first event was the 100m – I finished 5th in the world.  On paper, I wasn’t supposed to make it to the finals so finishing 5th and upsetting a lot of favored sprinters was pretty cool. I also ran a PR (personal record) too.  It’s hard to describe but I felt like I heard the gun before it went off. It’s a pretty cool feeling when you’re that focused and “in the zone”.

My next event was the 400m and I finished 9th in the world. The 400m was an event I wanted to place a little higher. But I ran a PR for the year and you have to tip your hat to the next eight. It was the first time ever the top 8 went under 51.0. I ran a 51.10.

The relays were next and that’s were the fun began. It’s probably the most exciting part of any track meet. It’s our team against yours, you take your best four guys and we’ll take our best four and let’s play it out and see what happens. We had a solid team for the both races, the 4×100 and 4×400. We had three guys in the finals for the 100m which was a first in American Masters History for my age group. So we already had a great foundation there. Our fourth guy won Gold in the 110m Hurdles so we had a nice team assembled. We took home a silver medal. There is one important note about a 4×100 relay. TEAM USA in Beijing last summer had a problem with their exchanges and this year too in Berlin. They didn’t qualify because of missed and poor baton exchanges. Even though we just missed Gold, taking home a Silver was pretty cool. That was my first medal in an international competition. Then we took a Gold Medal in the 4×400 Relay. We had a great team lined up. We took the Gold, Canada Silver and Italy Bronze. Our team just missed a World Record by 3 seconds and an American Record by 1.5 seconds. THAT RECORD IS OURS NEXT YEAR!

F:  How much preparation did you go through for this competition?

R: My times were getting better all year and in some big meets before Finland I was hitting some personal records. My cardio was great which was required of me because my warm-ups would last over an hour so I needed to be in great cardiovascular shape. My lifts were strong too so I feel I did all the right things especially with the resources I had. I’m quite proud that 80% of my training, I did on my own. A lot of these guys have coaches to help them with block starts, training, massage, etc!

F: Like the Olympics, this event seems to have a lot of camaraderie and competition.  Can you give some highlights of the camaraderie and competition you saw at this event?

R: This is a great question. Words definitely fall short of the mark when I describe the athletes and the people I met both internationally and from the USA. The racing and accomplishments were great but the best part is the friendship I made from my time in Finland. One thing I didn’t expect was to have this emotional attachment to the stadium, event, and people. I had a hard time leaving which is really not like me. There were world records broken but one in particular caught my attention. There was a 70 year old guy from Germany that ran a .59 400m. If you’ve never run a 400m it’s a hard thing to understand or relate to. It’s definitely a test of character and will. It’s definitely not a race for the faint of heart. Well, if you can imagine a 70 year old guy burning a lap around the track in under 60 seconds, that was a pretty inspiring thing to witness.

F: Will you be competing in this event in the future?  What are your future track goals?

R: I will absolutely be competing in this event again. The next outdoor World Games come to Sacramento, CA in 2011. The next World Indoor games will be in Kamloops, Canada in March, 2010. As with every year too there are the USA Indoor and Outdoor Championships – Boston and Sacramento respectively. I have a few different goals for the next few years. I want to keep making a name for myself in the track and field community. I would also like to set an American Record in the 400m and set a World Record for the 4×400. I know we have a solid group of 400m sprinters. The 400m record has stood since 1989 and the 4×400 record since 1983 so that would be pretty cool to make history.

Bulk up like the Hulk and train with Ron

By , June 24, 2009 8:00 am

Ron Potocnik breaking more records

Ron Potocnik breaking more records

With summer finally here, and the weather finally cooperating, we decided to do an interrogation to assist you in getting your body “beach certified”.  Ron Potocnik, the Chicago athlete and trainer behind the “Train With Ron” phenomenon, talks to us about common exercise myths and the importance of a good diet and persistence.

F: Cool last name.  What’s the origin of that?

R: The origin is Czech. My dad is 50% Czech and 50% Italian. My Mom is 100% Italian. It’s a different last name and over the years I’ve grown to like it. It was fun in school because I never had a teacher or professor who got it right. You pronounce the “c” as a soft “c” or as an “s”.

F: Help us dispel common exercise myths…

F: There are so many to cover but I’ll mention some that are brought up most often. “I don’t want to get bulky from weightlifting”. This is very common concern from my women clientele. I have do to a “Jedi Mind Trick” sometimes on this specific myth. I tell them that even if their goal was to get bulky it’s just not going to happen. First, you (as a woman) lack the catalyst for muscle growth, testosterone. Second, if you want to get bulky you would have to lift, train and diet a certain way for years to give your body that bulky look.  Another popular myth is the classic “spot reduction”. My clients will also say, “I want to lose weight right here and right here”. I tell them just as you didn’t have a choice of where your body stored the weight, you don’t have a choice of where you want to lose it.  Even if you want to lose weight in a specific area, you need to do full body work, compound lifting movements along with cardio and a good diet. The good news is your body will probably lose it where it stored it in the first place.

F: You’ve accomplished a lot of personal fitness goals, including dunking a basketball and running a 5:27 mile.  What are some of your new goals?

Now that I’ve turned 40 and will be 41 this summer I needed a new set of fitness goals. I’ve taken up competitive track and field again.  I want to finish in the top 20 internationally for 2009 in my age group for the 200m and 400m.  Next year I want to finish in the top 50 all time for the 200m and 400m. These are records that have been kept back to the 1940s’. When there aren’t master’s races to compete in (meaning racing against guys your own age) I’ve entered myself as an unattached athlete in several different college track meets this past winter and spring.  You can’t name too many 40 year old guys entering themselves in a college track meet let alone a 100m dash. I’m thinking to myself sometimes as I’m getting into the starting block, “I could be your father”. I get a “laugh out loud” moment to myself when I think how much older I am than these guys. That actually helps me relax from some pre-race jitters too. Some of my other goals are to run a 4.50 40 yard dash, rep 225lbs bench press 15 times and one time max rep 300lbs in the bench press. The last two I accomplished within the past two weeks. Lastly, I am heading to Finland for the World Masters Track and Field Championships.  It will be an honor to wear the Team USA Uniform in Finland this summer!

F: Have you ever seen the reality show, the Biggest Loser?  Do you have clients who you’ve brought into a much healthier weight?  How long does it usually take to trim down from lets say 300lbs to 150lbs?

R: Yes, I’ve seen The Biggest Loser. Yes, I have a lot of clients that have lost anywhere from 20lbs to over a 100lbs of weight since they’ve been training with me. That’s a tough question to answer, “How long does it take to lose 150lbs?” It depends on many factors such as frequency, intensity, diet and your supporting cast. When you’re on a show like The Biggest Loser, you have the 24-7 support system with training and nutritional counseling. You also, have someone standing over your shoulder telling you to put away the ice cream. That last part doesn’t happen in real life.  Over the last couple of years I’ve had a few clients tell me they want to take up dancing. I tell them I think that’s a great idea but I also ask why. They say they’ve been watching Dancing with the Stars and people have been losing a lot of weight since they’ve been on the show. What people don’t realize is that they are on their feet, moving around, lifting each other in the air for five plus hours a day. When I put it in that perspective dancing doesn’t sound like that much fun anymore. The bottom line is change can happen quickly if you want to pay the price and make the sacrifice.

F: You’ve trademarked a 30 on 30 off process.  What is that?

R: I’ve always been a runner, well actually a sprinter and would try and simulate speed training on a treadmill. I wanted to interval train

Chicago's future athletes burning calories at TWR

Chicago's future athletes burning calories at TWR

at fast speeds and inclines without doing the long monotonous, running for 45 minutes at speed 5.0. I decided to increase the speed as well as the incline that would give me speed work as well as get my heart rate up. For example, I would run at speed 8.0 with an incline of 8.0 for 30 seconds on and then 30 seconds off for recovery.  I try and do that for a total of 30 times for a 30 minute workout. I would not recommend 8.0 and 8.0 for someone new to the workout. I would suggest starting at a fast walk or light jog of speed 4.0 and incline 4.0. Do that for 10-12 workouts before you bring up the speed and incline. First, so you’re comfortable getting on and off the treadmill platform and second, build up your endurance to the higher speeds and angles. It’s a no nonsense, to the point, intense interval speed training. 30 on 30 off has also evolved into other aspects of training. It could be basic moves like lat pull-downs, push-ups, etc. You can break it up into three different body parts. Do a leg press of 30 on 30 off for a total of 10 rounds or 10 minutes, then a lat pull down for a total of 10 rounds or 10 minutes and finish with push-ups for a total of 10 rounds or 10 minutes. That’s a full body resistance training workout via 30 on 30 off.

F: If you had to do those workout infomercials, what would you showcase we buy for 5 monthly payments of $19.99 (but if we call now, we’d get one monthly payment off!)?

R: Well, I don’t know about another exercise machine but one product I would definitely endorse is Rank Your Workout – an online fitness tool to rank and chart personal workouts such as a five mile run or bench press session.  After two or more entries it gives you a cool line graph of your time as well as a field to make notes such as, “it was rainy or hamstrings were tight today”.

I think one of the more exciting parts of the site is something I call Rank Your Workout Signature Moves.  A strength of ours is our ability to create new moves workouts. Our clients like the fact that they never receive the same workout twice. Matt, DB and I come up with fun new moves like, The Terrible Two, The Crazy Eights, The Kilo, The Upper Body Century Club and many more.

You’ll find these new moves, as well as 100s of other videos that show other cool moves with the correct form, on the website.  Currently, the videos are only available (and free) to our clients right now, but we expect to launch RYW to the public by the middle of August. The cost is $4.95 a month or $50 for the year. We want to make it very affordable.

F: What’s in your refrigerator?

My refrigerator has been very boring the last six months.  In particular, I try and bring in a lot of spinach, broccoli, asparagus, and an arsenal of fruits such as bananas, apples, plums, strawberries, blueberries, etc. I’m looking for nutrient and energy dense foods. My workouts have been harder than they have been in a long time so I’m trying to eat food that will help me with my recovery!  Once a month I’ll allow myself McDonalds or Taco Bell. Again, that’s once a month.  Unfortunately, as people around the country eat this way once or twice a day, it becomes a nationwide problem.

Questions about Chicago

F: What’s your favorite summer activity?

When I was in my 20s and 30s I used to play 16” softball all the time. I loved the outfield. I was pretty good at robbing guys from cheap singles to a would be a home run in the gap. I hung up the cleats about four years ago. I really miss 16” softball and I’m glad I played for all of those years. It’s a Chicago classic and there are not too many other things like it in Chicago. I also like to golf, but time isn’t always on my side with this one. But I’ll still manage to make it out five to ten times a year. And despite not being a distance runner I do love getting out on the lakefront when it’s 90 and humid and going for an easy two to three miles. Of course I’ll turn it into something competitive for myself and I’ll time how long it can take me to run from the North Ave bridge to the Fullerton Ave water fountain. I’ve also played all of the Chicago social scene sports such as beach volleyball, flag football. Pretty much anything athletic and competitive you can count me in.

F: Any beach you particularly like in Chicago ?

I used to live in Lincoln Park so the North Ave and Fullerton Ave beaches always worked well for me.

F: Best place to eat AFTER a workout?  Best place to eat BEFORE a workout?

I’m pretty boring when it comes to this too especially if I’m eating for a workout it’s my house. I have control and I know exactly what I’m putting in my body. Right now, I’m strictly a function eater so I do a lot of Trader Joes and Whole Foods shopping. But if I had to pick one restaurant I would say definitely Flat Top Grill. I love that place.

F: Where can we learn to bulk up like the Hulk?

There’s only one place: Train With Ron! We are definitely tailored to people leaning out who want to feel better about themselves. When you look at my average success story on my website, we are about hitting goals. It could be passing the fitness test for the FBI, going off blood pressure meds or just staying consistent working out for the first time in years. I think another thing that helps my clients reach their goals is that we make it interesting and fun. The other guys at TWR, Matt Ulrich and Dale “DB” Barr have been with me for almost two years now. Matt is a former All Big Ten Football Player at Northwestern and a Super Bowl Champion with the Indianapolis Colts. DB is an up and coming triathlete. He also played baseball at the University of Arizona. Between the three of us and our athletic backgrounds there really isn’t another gym or facility that can match our experience and dedication to our clients.

Exploring beauty and temptation with the L’amour house of burlesque

By , June 19, 2009 8:00 am

Time travel back to a different era with Michelle (photo by Treagan Colston)

Time travel back to a different era with Michelle (photo by Treagan Colston)

Pow! Known around the world as ‘The Ass that goes Pow’, Michelle L’amour exposes the world of burlesque dancing and the true definition of beauty.  A winner of Miss Exotic World 2005, former contestant on America’s Got Talent, and frequent performer across the US, Michelle is a star in the burlesque scene who is out to bring this age old art into the mainstream.  We recommend everyone, from young to old, go see her troupe’s upcoming shows – we’ll even make it easy for you: see the schedule at the end of the feature!

The lady behind the pow…

F: Sounds like you live an interesting life traveling the country performing.  Do you ever get bored?

ML’: Are you kidding!  I don’t have time to be bored!  I manage a production company, a burlesque dance studio, websites, costuming, travel, and 16 Chicago Starlets.  Holy crap, that’s a lot of shit!

F: It seems that being a burlesque dancer, requires a lifestyle of sexy.  Does the dancing influence who you are or do you influence the dancing?  What’s your definition of sexy?

ML’: They definitely influence each other.  It’s like asking, which came first, the chicken or the egg.  No one really knows for sure.  My definition of sexy is being a genuine person.  In order to be truly sexy, you must show that it comes from an honest place.  That lets people know that it’s ok to watch and enjoy, because it’s coming from a healthy place.

F: How have your acts changed since you first started performing?

ML’: Well, I’m certainly a lot better!  I’ve learned how to better craft my acts and put as much of me in them as possible.  I really like surprising the audience.  It’s all about finding your style and being comfortable within that.

See a clip of Michelle performing below.  Requires plug-in.

F: Why does everyone who works at your studio seem to have the most exotic names?  What’s behind the practice?  Do you read applications and throw away all the Jane Smiths?

ML’: Actually, the naming is a grueling process.  All the Chicago Starlets have been studying with me for 2-3 years.  For their first student show, they were required to come up with stage names.  Some of them would go thru many names before I granted them their wish.  I’m the burlesque fairy godmother in many ways.  Anyway, we put a ban on names like Kitty, Something Von Something, and ridiculous puns.  Girl’s gotta have standards.

F: I imagine a lot of awed faces staring at you during a show…what goes through your mind as you see the bulging eyes from the crowd or the dropped jaws?

ML’: Well, a lot of times, I just giggle to myself.  I think it’s absolutely hilarious.  I love the audience.  They’re great.  You must respect and love the audience, otherwise, why show up?  Sometimes I will single people out and play with them.  Other times, I am being strategic in my staging and dealing with certain stage environment can be super challenging!  Like, oh look, there’s a cord over there, don’t shimmy over that!

F: We’ve seen your ass go POW.  Is it insured or have you considered insuring it?

ML’: No, it’s not, so don’t get too close.  I have to protect my baby.

F: You teach burlesque dance at your studio.  Is it difficult to get your students to throw out all inhibitions?  What is your secret to developing your students?

ML’: I really encourage my students to find something they love about themselves and showcase it.  It’s all about being comfortable in your body.  Sure, the first time you feel the breeze on your naked skin, it’s a little jarring, but then you become incredibly addicted.  Look what happened to me!  Anyway, I really love watching the girls make progress.  It is such a scary and vulnerable thing, but so life changing.

F: If you didn’t do burlesque dancing, what else do you think you would have done?

ML’: Well, I did go to school for finance.  I guess that?  I don’t know.  Makes my insides itch just to think about not taking my clothes off for a ‘living’.

F: If Big Brother put you in charge of the censors, what would broadcast TV look like?

ML’: I would definitely get rid of dumbass girls on TV.  I hate it.  Why must you dumb yourself down to be sexy.  I think it’s a huge problem with the ladies out there.  I teach intelligent sexuality.  And of course there would be a burlesque reality show on TV.  I mean, I’m trying, but we’ll see.

Where to burlesque in Chicago

F: Your favorite place to perform?

ML’: I really have loved performing at the Music Box Theater.  I love historic theaters.

F: What is the best place or thing to do for locals to feel sexy?

ML’: I really recommend coming to see one of my shows with the Chicago Starlets, or perhaps come to Naked Girls Reading, a monthly event at my studio, or hey, how about taking some burlesque classes.  Wow, so glad I have things to talk about!

F: For most locals who tend to keep their clothes on all day, especially during the winter, what’s the best way to learn burlesque and say bye to inhibitions?

ML’: You should come to Studio L’amour and we’ll take care of you.

F: What’s the city’s sexiest restaurant?

ML’: I really love Marche.

F: If you could perform anywhere in the city, where would you do it?

ML’: The Chicago Theatre.  It’s one of my many dreams.

Enjoy our feature? Fill out the funsherpa survey (if you haven’t already), get a chance to win a $100 gift certificate to Avec and help us help make the world more interesting!

Notable events coming up

June 20 (8pm – midnight, Studio L’Amour) – L’amour Couture Launch: features performances by the starlets and the premiere of sexurious headpieces; also the one year anniversary for Studio L’amour

June 26 (8pm, Gene Siskel Film Center) – Summer Student Showcase

July 10 (7-10pm, Studio L’Amour) Naked Girls Reading: Watch the L’amour team read your favorite bedtime stories.

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