While some people take advantage of Saturday mornings to sleep in, scores of people headed to Millennium Park as early as 7 a.m. on Sept. 2 for a free summer workout.
Summer Workouts, produced by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, were held weekly from June 3 through Sept. 2. Free morning yoga sessions were also offered Tuesdays and Thursdays from June 6 through Aug. 31.
Each week’s workout followed the same format of four 45-minute classes, but some weeks had a theme. For example, one weekend in June had gospel music themed workouts.
Summer Workouts were started in 2005 by former Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Lois Weisberg and former Millennium Park Executive Director Helen Doria.
Toni O’Neill, house coordinator at the Chicago Cultural Center, said the Summer Workout program came from the desire to offer a fresh start to the day, and she’s pleased with its success.
“It’s been extremely popular,” O’Neill said. “It just gets bigger and better and people are getting their outfits and taking it extremely seriously … and I like the camaraderie.”
People of all ages attended the workout sessions offered on the Great Lawn in front of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion: pilates at 7 a.m., yoga at 8 a.m., strength training at 9 a.m. and Zumba at 10 a.m.
Aubrey Huffman, 23, said she was visiting from San Diego and was among the first to show up at 7 a.m. Huffman said she liked being immersed in the urban environment while working out.
“I think it’s cool just seeing the city vibes and the hustle and bustle but still being able to relax and do a workout outside … as the sun is rising,” Huffman said. “It’s such a cool experience.”
The 7 a.m. pilates class drew in a smaller crowd of about 30 people, but yoga, strength training and Zumba each drew in more than 100 attendees. Pilates and yoga were quiet and relaxed routines, while strength training and Zumba were fast-paced and high energy.
Kyrie Bock, 36, said she’s gone to free workouts hosted at Millennium Park for five years. Bock said she was involved with more intense sports including running and boxing in the past, but she especially liked the yoga class led by Alie McManus.
“What I love about [McManus] the most is she’s very slow and methodical in her movement,” Bock said. “Coming from a higher stress job and … more extreme workouts, I really lean on yoga to be slower … and I appreciate that she allows that for other people — whether it be beginner to advanced levels — to really be able to participate at any level.”
Loyola alumna Janice Lofton led the Zumba class. She said she likes teaching morning classes because they are easy for people to fit in their schedules.
“You come early, you get at least 10,000 steps and you’re done with your day before 12 [p.m.],” Lofton said. “You still have time left to grocery shop, run errands [and] do whatever you do on a Saturday, so it’s the best time to workout.”
The Summer Workout program will start up again next year in June, according to Public Relations Specialist Mary May.