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Former Jamaican Sprinter's New Health Center The Right Fit For Uptown

By Josh McGhee | October 13, 2017 8:28am
 Antonio Coke owns Uptown's newest fitness center, Bodi Shak, at 4704 N. Broadway.
Antonio Coke owns Uptown's newest fitness center, Bodi Shak, at 4704 N. Broadway.
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DNAinfo/Josh McGhee

UPTOWN — Two decades ago, Antonio Coke's career in design was stressing him out.

But when a co-worker invited him to try a group fitness class to burn off some of the stress, he declined. "I was extremely shy, so I said 'no,' " he said.

Twenty years later, Coke is hosting a grand opening for his own fitness center, Bodi Shak, 4704 N. Broadway.

On Saturday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. visitors can take a demo class, tour the facility, enjoy some reggae music and meet representatives from three nonprofits the center is partnering with: Care For Real, Sarah's Circle and the Test Positive Awareness Network.

"It was important to me to not just give back with fitness. I want to give back specifically to this community," he said, explaining why he opened the studio in his neighborhood. "It's the concept of Bodi Shak."

The charitable connection is a permanent aspect of the gym. Vases representing each of the nonprofits will be in the front lobby encouraging trainees to donate their spare change every day they come in. The gym also will have clothing drives, he said.

The love for the local area is imprinted in the design of the facility, which features tons of antiques from Mercantile M, 5049 1/2 N. Clark St. in Andersonville. Ninety percent of the decor is from the shop, according to Coke, a thrifter in his spare time

The fitness center has two studios, locker rooms, selfie walls and 15 stationary cycles. It also hosts a plethora of simply named classes, including Blaze, Dash, Grind, Gut, Reach, Refirm and Focus.

"I'm Jamaican, so my position on fitness is to make it fun," said Coke, adding the single-word titles were "straight to the point, but fresh."

In simpler terms, the fitness center offers cycling, sprint training, strength training, yoga, pilates, high intensity interval training, boxing boot camps and cardio dance classes, according to its website.

While classes like Blaze — a group cycling class set to hip-hop music— and Strike — a boxing boot camp — are common at other gyms, Dash is one that has "never been done before," he said.

That class uses resistance harnesses similar to what football players would use while training to force students to do quick, powerful movements in a short time. The class has 15 lanes and lasts about 30 minutes. A demo class will be held during the grand opening, he said.

"I think that's one of the most interesting" classes, he said, adding it was one of his favorite exercises when he trained as a sprinter.

Workout room for Dash class, which has 15 lanes. [DNAinfo/Josh McGhee]

Between teaching group fitness classes, athletic training and track and field, Coke has 30 years of experience in fitness. The native of Montego Bay, Jamaica, graduated from the Pratt Institute, according to the Bodi Shak website.

After some time working in design, he began searching for something different.

Though he initially declined the invitation to participate in a fitness class, he eventually got the courage to attend. And after about a year, he was asked to teach his own class, he said.

"The reason I said yes was because I could get a free membership. No one would show up, I thought, but it turned into one of the best classes there," he said.

After moving to Chicago, he found similar success at Fitness Formula Clubs, becoming "their first-ever exclusive group fitness instructor" and was featured in their ad campaigns, according to the Bodi Shak website.

The goal of Bodi Shak, which will also serve as an event space, is to help people reach their fitness goals while building community, specifically, his own community, he said.

"And my mom is actually proud of me. She uttered those words for the first time," he said.

For a full schedule of classes click here.

Cycling room at Bodi Shak, 4704 N. Broadway. [DNAinfo/Josh McGhee]

Men's locker room at Bodi Shak, 4704 N. Broadway. [DNAinfo/Josh McGhee]

Front lobby at Bodi Shak, 4704 N. Broadway. [DNAinfo/Josh McGhee]