There are plenty of aging gyms in Chicago—and some new gyms pretending to be old-school—but the 17,000-square-foot workout facility on the second floor of Soho House Chicago feels like a portal back to a time when a damp mustache and a fat lip were signs of a good workout. Here you can jump rope on the sweat-stained slats of a parquet floor and do your best impression of Swiss gymnast Louis Arnold Zutter as you work a leather pommel horse. You can channel your great-grandfather as you toss around a medicine ball and smack chain-suspended heavy bags that look straight out of a Joe Louis documentary or a German porno. The centerpiece is the boxing ring—enclosed with actual braided ropes!—in which trainers teach the sweet science to hotel guests and gym members. Sure, there are also computerized treadmills and other modern amenities, but as a self-respecting athlete you’d have to feel silly being part of a group fitness class when, a few feet away, you could be perfecting your jab.
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