Why aren’t there more people exercising on the lakefront?

Why aren’t there more people exercising on the lakefront?

WBEZ brings you fact-based news and information. Sign up for our newsletters to stay up to date on the stories that matter.


I’m off getting married and honeymooning and all that so, in my absence, some good friends are filling in. Today’s look at how the lakefront could be better used to exercise comes from Bryant Ousley — yeah, the dude in the picture, the one with only 7 percent body fat. He’s been training me for the last few months, and I have to thank him for getting me into the wedding dress.

The city’s lakefront is consistently filled with runners, joggers, and many exercise enthusiasts. This seventeen mile stretch provides an excellent backdrop for anyone who wants to escape the monotony of the gym. But despite its spacious location, centered in nature, surrounded by the elements, and bordering one of the nation’s largest cities, the lakefront does little to facilitate any progress among the 60% of people who are obese. This part of the city turns its back on the largest population of people that need special consideration with their exercise programs.

With bike lanes that double as jogging lanes, it is very difficult, if not extremely dangerous, to enjoy more than one person’s company while you move along the path. A group jaunt becomes almost impossible. And the problem with this is that the fit – those who already have the discipline to work out alone — keep getting fitter and the fat keep getting fatter. There is not much within our lakefront to encourage group fitness activity and even less to facilitate involvement of overweight people.

The list of physical activities consistently enjoyed by groups provides another example of how the fit get fitter. Before you mention basketball, volleyball and other popular sports, keep in mind that the skill set required for these sports must be taken into consideration. No one blindly walks onto a court or playing field and gets involved with a game without having some type of prior experience or previous intent for such to occur.

This is not to say that team sports don’t serve their purpose. But teams don’t just happen – and out of shape people may be the least likely to organize and regulate any type of physical activity. People who need exercise must make a concerted effort to get exercise, something that they are unfamiliar with in this day and age. The days of waking up and actually having to walk someplace are gone. Chopping wood is left to the manufacturer; incidental labor is rarely performed. For the person who lacks motivation, working out can be an arduous task.

America has shifted to a place where no one can accidentally get exercise. There are buses on almost every corner, trains to take you to every side of the city, and cabs to take you where public transportation will not. And in the one place, the lakefront, where vehicle can navigate, Segways have become available to make getting around easier and quicker. In order for the average person to make any progress toward physical activity, a great deal of planning and mental preparation must be involved.

As a trainer, I have had countless individuals schedule training sessions with me who, before we even begin, give me a list of arbitrary restrictions they put on themselves, like: no funny looking exercise, no exercises involving more than one movement and my favorite: “nothing that makes me tired.” The mental side of exercise is often the deal breaker.

The lakefront, which is the summertime epicenter for fitness makes little effort in the fight against obesity. Aside from a few fitness boot camp classes and some sponsored run/walks the lake is bereft of assistance for what I call de-conditioned individuals. The mini fitness centers with chin-up and parallel bars leave everyone out except for gymnasts and the select few that can perform pull-ups.

I implore people to take a a proactive approach when going to the lake with friends. Within the same bag that your refreshments are held, add a soccer or football. Games of Ultimate Frisbee do not need to be relegated to college campuses. Use some creativity, for many games that you can play outside, sticks and other objects that you find can be used to make goals and set boundaries for the playing field. Get out of the mind frame that exercise is something you must do alone. The most elite athletes are in terrific shape because their job is to play a sport – which is just another name for a game. Find something that is enjoyable; there are so many different activities to choose from.

Without the support system and companionship that friends offer, getting in shape is often a mountain-size task that many feel they are forced to do alone. The discipline that it takes to get in shape is often overlooked. I have heard people speak with such conviction about getting in shape that it inspired me, but once the challenge ensued, the motivation was lost. Trick yourself into getting in shape by doing something that is enjoyable for you and your friends.

Bryant Ousley graduated from DePaul University in 2009. Shortly after graduating he obtained certifications from NASM along with a specialty ISCA certification for kickboxing. Bryant possesses over ten years of experience participating in multiple athletic events. As a Mixed Martial Arts fighter, he has practiced Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai and has had more than 7 years of Capoeira experience. Bryant has also completed several sprint distance triathlons, half marathons and practices yoga regularly. He has been a personal trainer since late 2009. He is committed to a healthy and fit lifestyle, believing that patience and passion for what you really want in life will propel you towards achieving your goals.