South suburban sites offer fun exercise alternatives

2013-09-07T18:30:00Z 2013-09-07T19:24:16Z South suburban sites offer fun exercise alternativesPaul Czapkowicz Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
September 07, 2013 6:30 pm  • 

If you find the thought of running on a treadmill uninspiring, there other more adventurous opportunities to exercise in the south suburbs.

One option is Chicagoland Paintball, which offers an 18,000-square-foot indoor playing surface at 537 W. 195th St. in Glenwood.

Co-owner Andrew Zorn said the sport really began to grow in popularity about 10 to 15 years ago. In paintball, competitors try to eliminate their competition by striking them with paint capsules fired from a gun.

He said customers come from about a 30- to 40-mile radius to play at the facility that is equipped with inflatable "bunkers" to hide behind to avoid shots from opponents.

"We get a lot of people who come down from downtown because this is the closest one to the city," Zorn said.

He said 300 or more players per week visit during the winter, but the availability of outdoor fields drops that number to somewhere in the 100 to 140 range per week during the summer.

"We get about 85 percent men, but there's some women that play," Zorn said.

He said while the minimum required age to play is 10, most who play range in age from 12 to 35.

Corporate, birthday and even bachelor parties are commonly held at Chicagoland Paintball.

The cost per visit ranges from $30 to $45 and depends on how long one plays, with an additional $5 to rent equipment.

A face mask and goggles are required, but Zorn said the sport is not as perilous as some might think.

"It's statistically safer than golf," he said. "It's one of the safest sports around. You'll get an occasional twisted ankle."

But what does it feel like to get shot with a paintball?

"They do sting," Zorn said. "It's similar to getting popped with a wet towel."

Bryon Brumm, of St. John, began playing at the Glenwood business and now works there part-time.

The 20-year-old said playing with friends gives them lots to talk about after a day of competition.

"It's just fun and you get to meet a great group of guys," Brumm said. "When you're out there, nothing else matters."

Mitchell Campbell, 11, came to Chicagoland Paintball from La Grange on a recent Saturday to practice his shooting.

He has an interest in the military and the sport appealed to him because it involves paintball guns.

"It's just kind of a fun, physical sport," Campbell said. "It's kind of like an adrenaline rush when you're playing."

If shooting or being shot at is not your idea of a good time, perhaps rock climbing is.

Climb On, an indoor rock climbing gym, has been located at 18120 Harwood Ave. in Homewood since 1997.

The approximately 32-foot high walls made to resemble the look and texture of mountains contain a variety of holds for climbers to place their hands and feet as they scale to the top.

Owner Glenn Van Sipma said 20 to 40 climbers visit the facility on a typical night.

Adult climbers can obtain a day pass for $13, while a student day pass is $11.

"It's a great full-body workout," Van Sipma said. "It's something unusual. It's different than lifting weights or riding a bike."

The colored tape on the walls is constantly changed, as are the holds, to lay out challenging new routes for climbers.

Climbers who go up high use harnesses, while those who don't use a harness usually don't go as high in what is called bouldering.

Katie Kelly, 27, began climbing about two years ago, after her boyfriend took her to Climb On for their first date.

A resident of Palos Park, Kelly became a member at the facility and now normally climbs twice a week for both fun and exercise.

"I've met some really good people climbing, but it also keeps you in great shape," she said. "But I just love the challenge of it, I think, the most."

Sam Nelson, 21, began climbing in high school and now works at Climb On.

The Alsip resident said the school she attended, Alan B.Shepard High School in Palos Heights, had a rock climbing wall and she learned about Climb On when her class took a field trip to the facility.

She now travels the country to climb outdoor mountains, as well.

While most Climb On customers are college-age, that does not mean others are excluded.

"One of our youngest regular climbers is 8, and then our oldest member is 72," Nelson said.

Learn more about these facilities at www.chicagoland-paintball.com or www.Climbon.net.

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