Taking the Barre: Chicago’s Trendy Workout Catches On

Jan 14, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Fitness, Health, Uncategorized

Taking the Barre: Chicago’s Trendy Workout Catches On

Winter Wellness Quiz

Jan 14, 2011 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Health, Medicine

Think you know how to stay healthy in the winter? Not worried about about catching that dreaded cold? Take our quick quiz to test your knowledge. We asked some health professionals about some common misconceptions about staying healthy in the winter.

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Taking the Barre: Chicago’s Trendy Workout Catches On

Jan 14, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Fitness, Health

I can barely lift my arms over my head. It was hard to get out of bed this morning because my leg, stomach, back and arm muscles were screaming every time I moved. I took a barre class a couple of days ago and I’m still feeling the results.

A barre workout is a low-aerobic workout that targets your stomach, thighs, arms, and butt. Korey Karnes, 34, takes classes three times a week at Barre Bee Fit. She describes the routine as “Pilates meets yoga meets body-sculpting.”

Karnes was a former Exhale Spa Core Fusion “addict” who began taking barre classes because “it’s a great workout in an hour. You can go back to work without having to wash your hair,” she said.

Barre classes have gained popularity in the past two years in Chicago, with The Bar Method being one of the first studios to open in the city three years ago this week. Now there are several studios that offer variations of the workout throughout Chicago, suiting their class the needs of their clients.

The Bar Method system and other barre classes evolved from the Lotte Berk Method. Lotte Berk was a professional dancer who created the routine in the ’50s after suffering a back injury. One of her students, Lydia Bach, opened the Lotte Berk Method studio in Manhattan in 1971. In the 2001, Burr Leonard and Mimi Fleischman opened their flagship Bar Method studio in San Francisco, California. Barre classes gained popularity in the West Coast and slowly moved across the nation.

“Now they’re all over the West Coast, said Tami Conway, owner of The Daily Method in Chicago. “They’re every ten miles of each other.”

I took my first class with Catherine Wendel, one of the co-owners of The Bar Method in Lakeview. The mirrored studio looks like a ballet practice area, except it’s carpeted and there are small hand-held weights, foam cushions, and mats stacked to the side of the wall. The regular students walk in with impossibly straight posture, Madonna arms and Gwyneth Paltrow legs.

“If you come in three days a week, you see results in four weeks,” said Esther Kufrin, a trainer at The Bar Method who took the class with me. “I was a runner and I never felt this fit.”

We began the workout with stretches, push-ups and progressed to muscle-shaking isotonic routines. At one point, we were instructed to fold a piece of foam and squeeze it in between our thighs, scoop our stomachs in, keep our butts tight and pump up and down ever so slightly on the balls of our feet.

“The tops of your thighs should feel like they’re going to burst into flames,” Wendel said. They did.

“How are you doing?” whispered Beth Greisch, standing next to me at the ballet bar. Greisch is 52 and looks like you could grate cheese on her arms and thigh muscles. Like Karnes, she’s a workout junkie who likes barre classes because it’s “efficient” and “you don’t sweat.” She attends classes five days a week. “It doesn’t get any easier,” she says.

A Tale of Two Barre Classes from chicagoloopster on Vimeo.

A Tale of Two Barre Classes from chicagoloopster on Vimeo.

Barre classes in and around Chicago

Check out our top 10 picks!

Best in Fitness: Top 10 Gyms

Jan 14, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Fitness, Health, Sports & Entertainment

Want a killer view while killing time on the treadmill? Or how about the ultimate place to get your ‘ohm’ on? Find your perfect match in our top 10 favorite fitness centers in the city, each excelling in their own area of expertise. No more excuses!

Staying Healthy in Winter: Loopster Takes a Look

Jan 14, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Fitness, Health, Medicine

The temperature drops, the jackets come out, and everyone begins worrying about staying health. The fears certainly aren’t unfounded. People are, in fact, most likely to have colds during the fall and winter, starting in late August or early September through March or April.

An estimated 5 to 20 percent of Americans contract influenza each year, according to the University of Chicago Medical Center,  and during a one-year period it’s estimated that people in the U.S. will suffer one billion colds. The common cold, caused by a virus that inflames the membranes in the lining of the nose and throat, and there are more than 200 different viruses that can cause this.

Prolonged exposure to cold will inhibit the immune system, your first line of defense against colds. Winter also means an uptick in activity for certain viruses like the flu and strains of the common cold are more active during the winter months. Add to that the increased time spent indoors or in close contact with people during the colder months, and it’s not hard to see why so many people catch something undesirable during the winter season.

There are a variety of locations in the Loop where you can be vaccinated against the flu.
“It is very important people try to do anything to avoid these things,” said Dr. Scott Burger, a former emergency room doctor and current attending physician at Washington Aventis Hospital in Maryland.

In addition to the basics like keeping hand sanitizer ready to go or making sure not to share things, like cell phones, computers and drinking glasses, Burger also said to stand clear of those around with a cough or sneeze.

“Influenza can float through the air,” Burger said, while other viruses can hang in the air after a sneeze.

Another thing to keep in mind is to bundle up as much as possible. The body releases a lot of heat in the face and skull because of the tremendous blood supply there, so make sure to wear a hat and a scarf.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is also important to ward off the sniffles, Burger said.

In fact getting a light workout in if you are feeling under the weather can actually help fight off colds before they get worse. The increased heart rate gets the blood flowing, which will help move the virus out of your system.

And while the actual scientific-based health effects of that age-old cold remedy, chicken noodle soup, are hotly debated, there’s no question that a warm, nourishing soup can ease some of the discomfort. This recipe from Chicago Food Snob promises a great chicken soup, but if you don’t feel up to cooking, there are plenty of options in the Windy City to get your chicken soup fix.

Burger pointed out that if you are feeling under the weather and noticed some discolored mucus, you should hold off before rushing to the doctor’s office. It’s a common misconception, he explained, that it’s a sign the body need antibiotics, but that’s not always the case. Try to flush out your system with lots of fluids, use a vaporizer or neti pot. And call the doctor if the symptoms get worse or haven’t improved.

Above all else, Burger advised, get the flu shot. Contrary to popular rumors, you cannot get the flu from the shot and the shot is very effective.

According to the University of Chicago Medical Center, it’s especially important for elderly people and those with chronic medical conditions to get the influenza vaccine because the virus can cause complications that may develop into a more serious disease for those with compromised immune systems. Pregnant women, children and those who work in hospitals, nursing homes and chronic care facilities are also highly advised to get the vaccine.

If, despite your best efforts, you still manage to get sick, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend getting plenty of rest, drinking lots of fluids, and taking an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen to help with pain or fever. Consult your physician before giving these medications to young children. Seek medical help if temperatures reach higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or symptoms last more than 10 days and/or aren’t relieved by over-the-counter medications.

What's Chitown Sayin'?

Jan 14, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Health

Using Storify, we’re taking a look at what Chicago folks are Tweeting about and discussing
online when it comes to health, fitness and making resolutions to get healthier in 2011.

Fighting the Flu and Cold Season With Natural Remedies

Jan 14, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Health, Medicine, Naturopathic

Chicago’s brutal winter is upon us. And the wind chill, ice and snow is the perfect environment for cold and flu season. Air-borne viruses pass a lot more quickly in close quarters and the dampness can trigger allergies, making people more susceptible to respiratory viruses, said Anthony Qaiyum, co-owner of Merz Apothecary.

Recommended Natural Remedies


Garlic “(Ginger and garlic) act as natural antibiotics. It’s better to chew it raw if you can handle it. If not, put it in your food and eat lots of it.” – Laskonis

Vitamin C “I would not take more than 500 milligrams at a time because it’s negative to the thyroid. When I’m sick I’ll take 1000 but only for a few days. Or take 500 milligrams sever times a day every few hours.” – Laskonis

Goldenseal “It’s nature’s penicillin. It’s a really powerful antibiotic… I don’t take it unless I’m sick; it shouldn’t be used like something like Echinacea.” – Dole

Mushrooms “I’ve personally been taking Life Shelf Immunity from New Chapter.” – Qaiyum. He recommends watching this video.

Thyme “If you have food poisoning take a teaspoon of thyme and make a tea out of it. You only need on or two cups a day and that eliminates it.” – Laskonis

White Oak Bark “It acts as a antibiotic that gets rid of infections and inflammation.” – Laskonis

Olive Leaf Extract “(It is) the best immune enhancers you can buy… much better than echinacea.” – Laskonis


Using a Netty Pot “Bacteria and virus have a hard time living in a saline environment.” – Quaiyum

Acai “You can take it to lose weight but it also helps your immune system.” – Laskonis

Many people are accustomed to taking multivitamins and popping pills when they get sick, but there are other things you can do to fight illness and boost your immune system, according to experts in naturopathic medicine and homeopathy.

The fastest acting remedy is homeopathy, said Dr. Elizabeth Laskonis, who works at the Larch Tree Natural Wellness Center in McHenry, Ill. as a certified natural health professional nutritional counselor, and master herbalist.

“You’re not taking the actual herb,” she said. “It’s made from an herb and it’s usually a liquid (called a tincture). It has the frequency of the herb because every living thing has a vibration.”

She explained that tinctures act in minutes because you place the liquid under your tongue and it goes through the blood stream, rather than through you digestive system like a taking a pill or eating an herb.

Qaiyum said the way homeopathic medicine is the most “gentle” form of medicine. It works stimulating the body’s own defenses with a diluted form of an herb that would trigger a similar physical response a virus would. For example, if a patient was suffering from itchy hives they might want to take a diluted form of bee venom to counteract it, he said. Although not homeopathic, the most popular alternative medicine his apothecary sells to treat cold and flu is Oscillococcinum, a product from Boiron. The active ingredient comes from a duck, he said.

Laskonis said almost every illness can be taken care of by the thousands of herbs and weeds growing around us. But, she added, before eliminating your illness it’s important to know if your illness is caused by a parasite or toxin that is causing the illness. That can be diagnosed by kinesiology, which is muscle testing.
Jacquin Dole agrees that everything we need to take care of ourselves can be grown in our back yards. Dole is a biologist with a botany background who cultivates healing herbs, such as echinacea and goldenseal, on her organic farm in McMinnville, Ore.

“The belief in natural healing is a challenge,” Dole said. “People need to know what they’re doing.”

The best thing to do during the winter is rest and drink a fresh lemon squeezed in a glass of water every day, she said.

“It’s all you need”. At 70, she can’t remember the last time she had a cold of flu – but she does get pneumonia. For that she takes black elderberry, olive leaf extract and golden seal.

Laskonis recommends eating healthy, non-genetically altered foods, staying hydrated, exercising and taking vitamin D.

“Most people don’t get enough Vitamin D,” she said. Fifteen minutes of sunshine a day is recommended but people living in northern states, such as Illinois, don’t get enough during the winter. “I wouldn’t take anything less than 1000 milligrams.”

Chicago businesses that sell homeopathic and natural remedies

Around the United States, the digital Prop 8 discussion

Aug 27, 2010 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Prop 8, Same-sex marriage

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Around the United States, gay marriage and other gay rights issues have sparked legislation, public debates and protests. And, these days, when an issue sparks a public interest, there’s no way that it won’t end up being discussed on Twitter. It has become an outlet for any discussion, especially those of vital importance to so many people.

Here, we at Chicago Loopster have created a way to track that discussion around the United States. Use the above interactive graphic to check in on the debate in some of the biggest cities around the United States. Twitter searches for Prop 8 will pop up in a new window. And check back often, because there’s constant chatter about Prop 8.