Exhale is a mind-body Mecca with classes that make your muscles weep for mercy. But after huffing through mountain climbers in a core-fusion class, serenity awaits in a place called the locker room. Ditch your sweaty duds and step into one of the clean, cushy robes that are always on hand. There are stacks of plump towels, showers filled with yummy white-tea products, and endless supplies of mouthwash, face wash, lotion, hairdryers, razors, and combs. (All pretty important if you want to, say, re-enter the workday world.) Then, there’s a eucalyptus steam room that we’re pretty sure has magical powers. Spend 10 minutes in the warm, fragrant clouds, and you’ll step out feeling clearheaded and calm.
Outside the locker room, a Zen relaxation lounge has dim lighting, a stack of glossies, and icy-cold water. Throw in a tea bar with soothing “elemental healing teas,” and you may experience an unfamiliar feeling: never wanting to leave the gym. Call for membership pricing.
Exhale, 945 North State Street (at West Oak Street); 312-753-6500.
Beloved by Hollywood A-list types, Equinox rolls out the red carpet for its Chicago members, too. The gym has classes that tucker out even devoted gym bunnies — just thinking about the Tabata makes us a little sore. But after sweating it out, members can live it up in the executive private locker room. Sure, it’s a smidge steep to get access: there’s a $645 initiation fee, and dues are $254 per month. But, you’ll get private showers, a full-length locker, laundry service, fresh fruit and SmartWater, a lounge area with a TV, and a workstation with Internet access. Nope, you can’t take out a monthly lease.
The executive locker room is only at the Loop location, but all Equinox gyms have locker rooms stuffed with top-notch products from Kiehl’s including Crème de Corps, Amino Acid Shampoo, and Grapefruit Liquid Body Cleanser. Plus — ca-ching! — each location has a steam room to help you relax. Membership is typically $175 for initiation with a monthly rate of $142 to $158.
Equinox, 200 West Monroe Street (at South Wells Street); 312-252-3100. For more locations, click here.
It’s no surprise that the Peninsula has a pretty swank gym. But did you know that memberships are available for locals? (On a limited basis, of course — this is hardly a Bally’s.) Membership comes with access to the heated indoor pool and Jacuzzi, daily fitness classes, personal training, and exclusive use of a sundeck with city-skyline views. And of course, the locker room lives up to five-star standards.
In addition to a eucalyptus steam room, the women’s locker room has perks like cold, cucumber-infused towels. There’s a mini relaxation area with magazines, fruit-flavored water, and — how great is this — nail dryers. To avoid those semi-awkward encounters with other gym-goers, each shower has its own private changing area, and there are more grooming products than we can count. Let’s just say if you need body lotion and shaving cream, you’re set; ditto with dental kits and even hair pomade.
And though we’re focusing on locker rooms here, we have to share what goes on in the pool area. Every 20 minutes, staffers stroll through with cold towels and seasonal snacks like frozen lemonade, gelato, and sorbet. Gives you chills just thinking about it, huh? Call for membership pricing.
The Peninsula Chicago, 108 East Superior Street (between North Rush Street and Michigan Avenue); 312-337-2888.
Photo: Courtesy of The Peninsula Chicago