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    5 Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

    christmas cookies

    Version française

    Registered Dietitian Jenny Maloney from Midtown Athletic Club in Chicago shares her tips for staving off the seemingly inevitable holiday weight gain.

    The holiday season is here, and if you’re among the millions of people traveling to visit friends and family, the challenge of sticking to your healthy lifestyle can begin before you even set foot inside Aunt Nancy’s door.

    Follow these tips to eat well both on the road and as you navigate the cookie-laden holiday party scene.

    1.    Plan Ahead

    When possible, find out what’s being served at each holiday gathering. If you’re eating out, look for the restaurant’s menu online.

    If you can make good decisions on food choices before you go, you are more likely to stick with your plan.

    2.   Bring Meals with You

    Before you catch your flight or set out on your road trip home for the holidays, pack at least the first meal you’ll need to eat with you, to resist the temptation of grabbing unhealthy airport fare or pulling off the highway for a fast food run. It takes just a few minutes to assemble a healthy sandwich, or stash some fruit, nuts, real food granola bars, or other good-for-you, non-perishable snacks in your bag. And don’t forget to pack water.

    3.    Exercise

    Burn the extra calories you will be eating during the holidays by ensuring that you continue to work out. If there’s a gym where you’re going, plan to squeeze in a few sessions (and remember that Midtown members have reciprocal club privileges at each of our eight clubs across the United States and Canada). Pack resistance bands in your suitcase, or use your own body weight, and research some online workouts you can do in your hotel room or in your 10 x 10 childhood bedroom in mom and dad’s house.

    4.     Lose a Few Pounds Before You Go

    If your travel plans aren’t until next month, amp up your workouts now and you can drop several pounds before the end of the year. Eat clean and less processed foods, but don’t go on a crash diet; you run the risk gaining back any weight you lost and then some.

    5.     Keep Splurges to a Minimum

    The holidays are for drinking and eating delicious food, but every meal should not be a cheat meal.  The average American adult gains two pounds during the holidays each year, and over the course of five years, if you don’t lose that weight, you’re carrying around an extra 10 pounds.

    Plan your splurges to include Uncle Andy’s pecan pie with homemade whipped cream on Thanksgiving Day, but skip the four cocktails at the bar on Thanksgiving night when you’re out with your cousins.

    No More Excuses: Add Strength Training to Your Routine and See Results

    kettlePersonal Trainer Jenny Maloney from Midtown Athletic Club in Chicago is back to talk about the benefits of strength training and to dispute the myth that strength training is something only men should pursue.

    Many people do not strength train consistently.

    Perhaps it’s because they don’t experience that an immediate sweat right afterward, so they might not feel that the workout was effective.

    But it is, especially when you complete a high-intensity strength-training workout.

    Or maybe it’s because you’re a woman who thinks strength training involves heavy weights and therefore the workout is only for men.

    But really, you don’t have to use any weight at all, unless you choose to. You can use your own body weight and ladies, you aren’t going to get “bulky.” Women’s hormones are different than men’s and your genetic makeup plays a big role in how your muscles develop.

    Or maybe you think it’s too time-consuming, and ain’t nobody got time for that.

    But you can get a whole-body workout done in about 20 minutes. Or you can break up your workout into 10-minute increments twice a day.

    There really is no excuse for avoiding strength training.

    Here are some benefits of strength training that you stand to reap:

    • Stronger bones, ligaments, and tendons
    • Improved balance and coordination
    • Injury prevention
    • Weight loss and weight management (more muscles means more calories burned)
    • Lower risk of chronic diseases
    • Body change that you might achieve from doing only cardio exercise
    • Boosted energy
    • Better mood
    • Increased sports performance

    So how do you get started? 

    At the club, start with the machines. Many include pictures of how to do specific strength training exercises. Or, try taking a strength training class to get motivated.

    At home, try using resistance bands, free weights, or your own body weight. Check out YouTube for workout ideas, or ask a personal trainer for a workout plan.

    The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends working all your major muscle groups 2-3 times per week, giving at least 48 hours of rest in between. Aim for 2-3 sets, 10-15 repetitions, 2-3times per week. To see a true change in your body, leave your comfort zone behind. You’ll be able to feel the muscle burn during the last 4-5 reps. Don’t be afraid to lift heavy weights; you need some resistance to get results!

    So, if you’re not currently incorporating strength training into your workouts, start now.

    6 Dieting Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

    carbsTips and techniques on losing weight flood your Facebook and Twitter feeds daily, but which are really effective, long-term solutions to weight loss?

    Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer Jenny Maloney from Midtown Athletic Club in Chicago separates fact from fiction and offers common-sense ideas on how to lose weight and keep the pounds off for good.

    Dieting Myth: Eat a minimal amount of calories and you’ll lose weight quickly.

    Reality: While it’s true that if you eat fewer calories than you burn, you’ll lose weight. However, when you don’t eat enough calories, your body and metabolism slow down and go into shut down mode. Taking in fewer than 1,200 calories per day is not recommended.

    Dieting Myth: Don’t eat carbs.

    Reality: I can’t count how many times someone has told me, “I’m trying to lose weight so I’m cutting out carbs.” In reality, the person isn’t cutting out all carbs, because vegetables, fruit, grains, beans, milk, and yogurt all have carbohydrates (and these foods are good for you). 40-50% of your total nutritional intake should come from carbohydrates. Watch your portions and choose whole grain, whole food carbohydrates.

    Dieting Myth: Choose calorie-, sugar-, and fat-controlled foods.

    Reality: Highly processed ”food” marketed as sugar-free, fat-free, or portioned into 100- calorie packages are not real food and they are not satiating. Have a real food dessert like a small piece of dark chocolate or a real food snack, such an apple and some almonds to feel satisfied without ingesting chemical additives and preservatives.

    Dieting Myth: Splurge days are diet-killers.

    Reality: Eating healthy and balanced meals are an excellent way to lose weight, but eating some not-so-healthy foods once or twice a week will help you feel like you’re not depriving yourself. Plan your splurges ahead of time and don’t overdo it; this will help you stick to your nutrition plan for the long term.

    healthy bfastDieting Myth: Skip breakfast

    Reality: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You’ve gone 6-8 hours or more since you last ate, so you should be hungry for breakfast if your metabolism is working correctly. Skipping meals and snacks can set you up  to overeat later in the day. Try to eat every 4-6 hours to keep your blood sugar stable and your metabolism working.

    Dieting Myth: Weekdays are for dieting, weekends are for overindulging.

    Reality: While it’s okay to enjoy “splurge” foods over the weekend, keep in mind that eating (or drinking) too many of these foods can and will negate all the hard work you put in during the week. Figure out what meals you want to eat out or splurge on and again, don’t overdo it.

    The 10-Minute Workout
    10 minute workout1

    Bicycle abs

    Personal Trainer and Registered Dietitian Jenny Maloney from Midtown Athletic Club in Chicago is back to offer a short, yet highly effective workout for those days when you struggle to find time to eat lunch, let along squeeze in your daily exercise.

    We’re busier and more pressed for time than ever before, and our workouts are often the first thing to fall off the to-do list.

    What would you say if I told you that all you need is 10 minutes to get in a good workout?

    It’s true.

    The secret is to work out at a higher feeling of intensity. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most intense, perform the following exercises at an intensity of 8-to-10. This higher level of intensity is the key to an effective, yet short, workout.

    10 minute workout2

    Floor dips

    Perform two sets of these seven exercises for 30 seconds, with a 10-second rest in between each exercise:

    1. Planks on your elbows with toe taps out and in
    2. Squat jumps (modification is squats with 8 pulses)
    3. Push-ups  (modification is on your knees)
    4. Bicycle abs
    5. Side lunges both ways
    6. Dips on the floor or on a chair
    7. Skater jumps (side toe taps staying low)


    And your workout for the day is done.


    Member-Led Go Forth International Helps Those in Need

    Go Forth3Our members are among the most philanthropic people in their respective communities, and we love hearing about the good works they do for others.

    Angie DeLeon and her family, longtime members of Midtown Athletic Club in Willowbrook, IL, are true stewards of hope and charity.

    When Angie retired from Cook County Hospital as a registered nurse in 2004, she and a few other retired healthcare workers founded Go Forth International, a non-profit organization that provides healthcare services to global communities in need.

    The missions each run about three months at a time and are staffed by a team of volunteers. Most recently, the group went to the Philippines and provided health screenings, eye checkups, and dental hygiene to over 10,000 patients.

    Go Forth2

    Go Forth4

    We are truly inspired by Angie and her dedication to the global community.

    The world needs more people like her in it.

    Go Forth6

    Go Forth9

    You Should Be Eating Lentils

    lentilsJenny Maloney, Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer from Midtown Athletic Club in Chicago, IL, is back to talk lentils, and why you need them in your life.

    The inauspicious lentil doesn’t often get the credit it deserves, but this delicious and nutrient-dense legume deserves top billing on your lunch or dinner plates for myriad reasons.

    Here are just a few:

    • Lentils are inexpensive; they are non-perishable and bought dry, and so therefore much cheaper than buying meat or fish.
    • Lentils are easy to make; you can cook them over the stove or better yet, in a crockpot while you are away for the day.
    • Lentils are not only an excellent source of fiber, potassium, folate, iron, magnesium, calcium, antioxidants, and zinc, but they’re also high in protein, and low in sodium and fat. In fact, lentils are higher in protein than quinoa per serving, and are a great dinner substitution for meat if you find yourself eating too much of it. Add in your own seasonings, sauces, and additional foods to your lentils, and you have a complete meal that provides you with the energy and nutrients you need to power through your day.
    • If you suffer from tummy troubles, lentils are great for the digestive system, as they are a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber, making them not only easy to digest but also an aid in disease prevention.
    • Lentils can also help keep blood sugars stable; they are a complex carbohydrate, which allows for slow digestion and feelings of satiety.

    Here’s an easy recipe that you can make in the crockpot:

    Lentil and Vegetable Souplentil soup


    2 cups dried and rinsed lentils

    14 ounce can diced tomatoes (not drained)

    ½ cup chopped carrots

    ½ cup chopped celery

    16 ounces of vegetable or chicken broth

    2 cups raw spinach

    1 bay leaf

    2 cloves of garlic

    salt and pepper to taste


    Put all ingredients, except for spinach, in a crockpot for about 6-7 hours on low heat. Add spinach at the end for extra nutrition.


    Pilates is a Game-Changer

    Ban Pilates1Bill Schwartz is a 67-year-old member of Midtown Athletic Club in Bannockburn, IL, and while he loves playing team tennis, he never thought Pilates Reformer would work for his “tired, old body.”

    And yet five sessions of working with Pilates Instructor Kathryn Inda have been life-changing for Bill. His tennis buddies were so impressed with his on-court improvement that they are now Pilates class regulars, too.

    Ban Pilates2

    Bill’s friend Steve Jacobsen now joins him in a weekly Monday night Pilates Reformer session with Kathryn.

    Says Bill, “I have a history of lower back problems and had knee replacement surgery a few years back. I didn’t think there was any hope for this old body, but Pilates Reformer has completely changed my life. On the tennis court, I’m getting to balls that in the past I wouldn’t even bother going after.”

    Ban Pilates3

    For more information about Pilates Reformer classes at Midtown Athletic Club in Bannockburn, IL, contact Pilates Coordinator Kathryn Inda at kathryn.inda@midtown.com.

    Ban Pilates5

    50 For 50: Dena Levy’s Story

    denaDena Levy, a 14-year member of Midtown Athletic Club in Rochester, NY, turns 50 years young on Sunday, March 22.

    In January of this year, Dena decided to commemorate her milestone birthday by recommitting herself to a once vigorous fitness routine that had in recent years been thwarted by injury and illness.

    Dena decided to complete 50 workouts in the days and weeks leading up to her 50th birthday.

    There was just one challenge, which she didn’t realize until after setting the goal. She had just 53 days to fit in the 50 workouts before March 22.

    With a determined spirit and an unwavering desire to make 50 her best year yet, Dena is on track to reach her goal by Sunday.

    We sat down with Dena to learn more about her 50 For 50 project.

    Q: What inspired you to set this goal?

    A: I had surgery on my Achilles about two years ago and since then, I’ve had a difficult time returning to a consistent workout routine. Each time I got started, something would happen (chronic pain in my foot, pneumonia, etc.). I used to work out regularly, so I was very frustrated.  At the end of January, I decided that before I turned 50 I would get back to a regular routine, and so I came up with “50 for 50.”  The only problem was that I discovered I had just 53 days to get in the 50 workouts.  But I think having so few “rest” days available actually made the challenge more intense, which served as great motivation.

    Q: Do you have a fitness goal in mind for your 50 workouts?

    A: My goal is to get back to a regular routine after the challenge is over, where I work out 4-to-5 times a week. My next goal is to run a 5K in the spring. I haven’t done one since I had my daughter almost 9 years ago. 

    Q: What’s a regular workout at Midtown like for you?

    A: I work out with Dina (personal trainer Dina Smock) once a week, and then generally I use the treadmills. Sometimes, I will mix it up by using a bike or an elliptical. 

    Q: How many workouts have you completed so far?

    A: As of today, 47.

    Q: How have you kept yourself accountable?

     A: The best decision I made was to tell people about this challenge. Doing so has kept me accountable. I also put together a small “50 for 50″ Facebook group so I can report to my friends and family where I am and what I have done. It’s a pretty shameless attempt to get encouragement, but it definitely helps. And my daughter made count-down chain for me and every evening she takes off one of the loops from the chain. This has actually helped a lot because we can see how it keeps getting shorter and shorter!

    Happy birthday, Dena! We are incredibly proud of your resolve and commitment to improving your health, and we have no doubt that 50 will be your healthiest year yet.

    Top 10 Nutrition Trends for 2015

    Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer Jenny Maloney from Midtown Athletic Club in Chicago is talking real food, healthy fats, food allergies, and seven other top nutrition trends for 2015.

    We’re six weeks into the new year, and setting and meeting health-related goals is still tops in the minds of many. Whatever your health goal might be this year, staying on-trend will get you on the right track to weight loss, a healthier immune system, or a more fit you by the time the year comes to a close.

    1. Eat Real Food

    This year, fad diets are out, and real foods are in. Consume as many real, minimally processed foods as possible. Grab an apple and some almonds instead of a granola bar and give your body some real nutrients. Also, Big Food is taking notice of increased consumer spending on healthier, organic foods and is making changes to offer more healthful options.

    organic veggies2. Eat Local and Farm-to-Table

    Farmers markets have been around for years and we know that local food is a great, healthier choice. Studies show that grass-fed meat and organic produce have more nutrients than their conventionally grown counterparts. More restaurants are featuring local foods and ingredients and supporting area farmers. In 2015, more people than ever before will shop at farmers markets, food co-ops, and purchase meat and produce from a CSA.

    3. Have Some Fat

    Healthy fats, including those found in olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocado, have long been known to contribute to overall wellness. But new research suggests that butter and steak in moderation are just fine too. Studies have found that sugar, and not saturated fat, is the main contributor to heart disease, so use real butter and whole milk in moderation when cooking.

    food allergies4. New Testing for Food Allergies

    Over the past 10 years, the number of people suffering from food allergies has skyrocketed.  Help is now more readily available for those who have sensitivities or allergies, and with better testing comes relief once the culprits are identified and eliminated from the diet. In addition, restaurants and grocery stores are more allergy- friendly than ever before.

    5. Fermented Foods

    Fermented foods, such as kefir, kombucha, tempeh, miso, sauerkraut, yogurt, and kimchiare, are natural probiotics, or good bacteria that helps balance the gut. These healthy bacteria are good for digestion, help absorb nutrients, and are hot in 2015.

    6. Coconut and Date Sugar

    We already know that we are consuming too much sugar, so many are looking for sugar alternatives or healthier, less processed versions like coconut and date sugar. Keep in mind, though, that while you may get slightly more nutrients from coconut and date sugar, your body will still break them down as sugar, and sugar consumption should be limited. Aim for a maximum of 5-9 teaspoons a day no matter what kind of sugar you prefer.

    amareth7. New Grains

    Quinoa has long been identified as a supergrain, and now others like millet, amaranth, kamut, farro, spelt, and chia (actually a seed), are growing in popularity. Grains are a good source of fiber and B vitamins, and complement a meal nicely.

    8. Leafy Greens

    Kale is still in, but the other leafy greens are rising. Try Swiss chard, collard greens, turnip greens, and mustard greens for variety.  These greens are packed with nutrients like antioxidants, calcium, and Vitamins A, E, and C.

    9. Nutrition Labels and Facts

    Nutrition labels are becoming more user-friendly and easier to understand. More restaurants are providing nutrition information for their food, and consumers are better informed and can use the information to make healthier decisions about what they eat.

    10. Non-GMO Dietgmo

    Awareness of genetically modified foods (GMOs) is growing. More products are being labeled “GMO-Free” because savvy consumers are seeking out these products and buying organic foods to ensure that there are no GMOs.

    Hot Fitness Trends for 2015

    jono senk and hayley hollanderWondering what’s hot and what’s not in fitness this year?

    National Fitness Director Scott Hopson outlines the Top 4 Fitness Trends for 2015 to provide you with some ideas to jumpstart your routine if your fitness resolutions have begun to lag.

    1. Fusion Classes and Small Group Training

    “Gone are the days where people are searching for a solo and singular fitness experience,” says Scott. What’s hot are hybrids: Spinyasa (spin and Yoga Vinyasa), small group training, multi-station OMNIA workouts, and water-dry land classes.

    Why? “Because they’re fun!”, says Scott. Fusion classes and small group training allow you to try something new and exciting in a less intimidating, social environment, which increases your comfort level by providing a social space in which to work out.

    And once you’re in, you want to come back because of the connections you’ve made with others in your class or small group.

    “We’re finding that members also feel badly when they miss their group workouts, because they feel they’ve let down their friends in class who count on them to be there for moral support. Once you find your community, you don’t miss workouts often because of the friendships formed over fitness,” says Scott.

    2. Biofeedback

    Wearable technology that allows you to not only track your heart rate, but also your daily stress level and training zone provide you with the data you need for an effective workout.

    The younger generation is suffering from adult diseases (Diabetes, Heart Disease, High Cholesterol) and older adults are living longer with disease. These two facts make biofeedback data essential to maintaining or improving health. Our coaches are trained to work with members on effective biofeedback such as Polar, and MYZONE technology is currently available in two clubs, with more to come. The on-screen data provided by these tools allows you to see the exact effectiveness of your workouts with medical-grade accuracy.

    “Knowledge is power,” says Scott. “The data we provide via these tools makes you accountable for your health, which is key to making the lifestyle changes needed to improve overall fitness.”

    3. Mind.Body

    Yoga and Pilates classes will be hotter than ever this year. According to Scott, “People are more stressed than ever before, and they’re turning to Mind.Body classes for balance, connection, and centering.”

    new Pilates

    While certain extreme workouts at smaller studios and gyms may serve to break you down by encouraging overtraining and under-recovery, Mind.Body classes elevate your spirit through helping participants learn to slow down, breathe more completely, and focus on total wellness. This is something people will focus on in 2015 more than ever before.

    youth fitness4. Youth Movement

    Parents are realizing that the earlier they introduce their kids to a fitness routine, the easier it will be for them to continue leading active lives as adults.

    “To adapt to the growing interest in youth fitness, Midtown has created a model based on child development,” says Scott. “Our Youth Fitness coaches and instructors focus on the entire child, including cognitive, emotional, and gross motor skills, to ensure that our programming perfectly fits kids in every age group.”

    We’re also working hard to transform each club’s Kidtown into an area of active, focused play so that when kids are visiting, they’re engaged in physical activity to grow both their bodies and their minds. Several clubs have kids fitness equipment from Exergame Fitness and Pavigym installed, with more clubs following suit in the future.

    We’re one month into 2015. If your commitment to your fitness resolutions isn’t as robust as it was 30 days ago, mix up your routine with a fusion, small group training, or a Mind.Body class. Your body will thank you for it.

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