This post is in partnership with Toyota.
Whether it's the lazy afternoons spent laying out on the beach, or nights spent sipping cocktails at your local rooftop hangout, there are so many reasons to love and look forward to summer. It's a time for respite, fun in the sun, and adventure. But as any Chicagoan can tell you, there's something particularly special about "Summertime Chi." The vibes in the Windy City are on 100 when the temperatures rise, and the city literally comes alive in the most magical way.
Chicago-based personal trainer and fitness influencer Sara Hunt knows this all too well. The Grand Rapids, Michigan native came to Chicago for college in 2008. After falling in love with Chicago, she decided to stay and put down roots in the bustling city. And the summers spent in Chicago really underscore her love for the Chi each year. "My favorite thing about Chicago is 'summertime Chi,'" she tells xoNecole. "There's just so many festivals and things to do. There's a plethora of really good food, whether it's healthy or not-so-healthy food. Summertime in Chicago is unmatched [compared to] other places, with the amount of [activities] that are available to you."
Just like the Toyota Corolla Cross, Sara is always on the move. She's a mom with a busy career who maintains an active presence in the gym. Throughout all of life's demands, Sara is diligent about showing up for herself. It was her motivation to make fitness a lifestyle in the first place. But that discipline has carried her through in so many ways. "I used to put everybody else before me. Now, I put myself in a category that I would put other people in," she tells xoNecole. "I'll even put it in my calendar that I need to book a massage or go and get my nails done. Because if I don't do that, then sometimes my own personal things will go under, be left behind."
She sees her fitness journey through the same lens: a way of giving back to herself that isn't motivated by external sources. "Before getting serious about my fitness journey, I was starting and stopping. I wasn't really doing it for myself. I had a boyfriend at the time and it felt like I was trying to look good for him. And then when I started [working out] for me, that's when I started to love it."
See Sara's Chicago city guide below:
Swallow Cliff Stairs, 8999 W 123rd Street Palos Park, IL 60464
"There is a place in Palos Hills, a suburb of Chicago, called Swallow Cliffs, and there are these massive stairs. Sarah. It's very daunting to look at. People look at it and think, 'I don't know if I'll be able to survive.' But all the extreme fitness people will drive from the city to go here. One round is up and down, and then you have to walk around [to go again].10 rounds for me takes about an hour. So there's that."
Cryobar, 1205 W Webster Ave, Suite 1 Chicago, Il 60614
"I love going here to get cryotherapy done. It's the equivalent of taking an ice bath. There are a lot of benefits to getting cryotherapy. For instance, if you did a really intense workout and your muscles are really sore, doing cryotherapy helps out with that soreness so that you can continue working out the next day and not be in pain."
Lou Malnati's, 439 N Wells Street, Chicago, IL 60654
"I think Chicago has the best pizza, and I can agree with other Chicagoans that deep dish pizza is overrated. We like tavern-style pizza, and we have the best. Don't get me wrong, we have great deep-dish pizza too, but that's a touristy thing. There's a place called Lou Malnati's, and they're my favorite place to get pizza. I personally like veggie pizza."
Mesler Chicago, 1411 East 53rd Street | Chicago, IL 60615
"One of my neighborhoods to hang out in Chicago is Hyde Park. I personally feel like that's an area where it is pretty diverse and it's also safe. There's a lounge in there that I like to go to sometimes called Mesler. It has a nice little upscale vibe to it. The drinks are great and it's the perfect place to take someone who is visiting from out of town."
Lake Shore Drive
"Everyone's favorite place for a drive in Chicago is Lake Shore Drive. It's the perfect place to just clear your mind, see the city, and look at the skyline. And if you go when the sun is setting, it's the most beautiful time to drive down because you'll see the sun setting on Lake Michigan which is breathtaking. And then you see the skyline. I think Chicago has one of the best skylines, but of course, I'm a little biased."