Jim Karas: Stressless in Lake Forest






In a 170-year-old former blacksmith’s shop in Lake Forest, superstar trainer Jim Karas offers fitness and wellness solutions for 2017.


Fitness and wellness expert Jim Karas.

Long ago bricked-up windows are now flush with light, while soaring ceilings with original nails and iron rings to secure horses being shod remain to charm clients.


An archival photo of the old blacksmith shop. Photo courtesy of David Forlow/Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society.

Of the space, Jim admits:

“I think I am an old soul and am not a fan of chrome and glass gyms. Our clients are responding as I did to the space, often they linger in our lobby and both men and women tell us how attractive it is.”

Having taught Hugh Jackman, Diane Sawyer, and many others how to quickly get in shape, Jim now concentrates on clients in the North Shore and Chicago clients—though his profiles in Town & Country, The New York Times, Vogue, and other publications along with appearances on programs including The View and Dr. Oz continue.

“Today we do not age as people of our parents’ generation did. Many of our clients are 70 year olds who are becoming grandparents. They take that job seriously and want to be playing down on the floor with grandchildren, realizing that pushing strollers, putting babies in cribs, and all other activities should be pain free.”

Described as a lifestyle expert and health futurist, Jim combines knowledge obtained at the Wharton School of Business with over 30 years of experience in the field. He frequently lectures on life extension, increasing energy levels, fighting fat after 40, and his own business plan for the body.

Jim explains his game plan for his Lake Forest clientele:

“I have discovered that there are real athletes in Lake Forest. They are involved in one or all of the following sports: tennis, running (including marathons), golf, and paddle tennis. 

Exercise, nutrition, critical sleep thinking, stress release, recovery, and hydration are our core values for intelligent fitness and wellness. We bring solutions to each of these areas.

“A typical session begins with exercise, followed by one of five or six targeted massages and then cryotherapy, which chills a part of your body to promote healing. Inflammation is the gateway of much pain and distress and an icepack simply can’t get cold enough to reduce inflammation.”

Although he has four Lincoln Park locations, he wanted to establish a Lake Forest base where all treatments could be under one roof.

Once Buzzy Norton’s highly acclaimed Country House Antiques, the Deerpath Road space became a must-have for Jim five years ago when it came on the market. He took two and a half years to build the space out, increasing the area to 6800 square feet.

Thanks to the Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Historical Society, discovering more of the building’s history has been part of the fun for Jim and his team.

“Just as we worked for structural integrity in our building, we are engineers for the body as well. If you had a lovely antique table with a faulty leg, you would first restore its integrity. We look for solutions to make the body stronger.”

Stating that he is 56 and has a goal to live to be 100, he plans to “go out kicking and screaming.”


Jim Karas.

From his six books, which have been New York Times bestsellers, to his job as Good Morning America’s fitness contributor, Jim insists that his energy and passion permeate everything he does. He continues to serve as a keynote lecturer for prominent international corporations, while commuting several times a week from his Lincoln Park locations to his Lake Forest center.

Jim explains a little bit more about his more holistic approach and the unique offerings in Lake Forest:

“Following exercise, our clients usually take a massage and a cryo treatment. Massages used to be thought of sometimes as something a little fancy, but now they are really done to correct issues, such as solving the problem of a sore neck.

“Cryotherapy comes from the Greek word for icy cold. I am Greek, so I like to use it. It was first used in Japan in 1978 to treat rheumatoid arthritis. It is really miraculous in promoting healing.”

Jim recently sat down with us to talk sleep, stress, and nutrition—some of the biggest contributing factors to overall health and wellbeing.

Where do we start on the road to wellness?

Begin by exploring your sleep patterns and develop a strategy that enables you to get enough sleep. I am very active during the day, and I need about 8 and a half to 9 hours of sleep each night. Sleep deprivation definitely makes you aggressively age. Get into a positive routine where you think about what you are doing before you go to sleep and what you will do when you wake up.

What about getting rid of stress? 

If you can plan 10 minutes of concentrated deep breathing daily, it will reduce your stress level by 40 percent. You can lie down or sit up with your elbows on a table. You should be in a darkened space and just close your eyes—you want to breathe into darkness.

Count one one-hundredth and expand your diaphragm—don’t be afraid of a Buddha belly for this. Try some soothing music or just silence and focus on your breathing only. This can definitely change your day.


The cover of the bestselling author’s newest book.

How does nutrition play a role in aging and overall fitness?

In researching my most recent book, The Ultimate Diet REVolution, I discovered that snacking should be verboten. People have been thinking recently that we are supposed to eat three smaller meals and three snacks.

We should eat the way people did in the 1950s when they had just three meals a day. People were much trimmer then, not like today when you see people walking around eating doughnuts or scones from Starbucks. It is not helping if you eat only a 100-calorie fat-free yogurt for breakfast. You should have eggs, nitrate-free turkey bacon, with whole wheat or sprouted grain toast.

What about hydration?

I recommend water and the miracle elixir: tea. Be it herbal, black, white, green, a designer brand, or good old Lipton’s, it is very anti-aging and provides much energy for both mind and body.

You have said that three-fourths of your work is on the inside, one-fourth on the outside. What about mental attitude?

When I used to participate in Oprah’s OU events, I tried to spread the world that being selfish is good. By that I mean that you should spend two to three hours a week taking care of yourself. Instead of putting yourself number 10 on your list, put yourself number one.

I am not talking of becoming one of the Beverly Hills ladies of reality TV—by taking time to exercise, relieve pain, and become a better iteration of yourself, you will be able to give more to your family, job, faith, and community.

I focus on aesthetics for the whole body and how to give it what you need. Any outside changes are really icing on the cake.

What is your biggest goal for your clients?

The old image was of a person crawling out the door following a workout. I want my clients to feel all filled up after a full session; feeling much better than when they came in, with less pain and less stress.



For further information about Jim Karas Intelligent Fitness and Wellness, visit jimkaras.com.