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Ludacris brings fitness tour to Chicago: ‘People need something aggressive’

Ludacris performs while Nicole Winhoffer leads a fitness class during the Propel Co:Labs Fitness Festival. The workout, dubbed the NW Method, targets the arms, the waist and the buttocks. | Pat Nabong/For The Sun-Times.

A decade into an award-winning career on the hip-hop charts and on the big screen, Ludacris got a wakeup call familiar to many people hitting their late 20s.

“Somewhere around my fourth or fifth album, I looked down and I saw I had a small gut poking out, and I didn’t know where the hell it came from,” the acclaimed rapper said during a stop last weekend in Chicago.

The title of that fourth album —”Chicken-n-Beer” — just about summed up Luda’s diet during a non-stop career on the road, and he says it’s what pushed him toward a healthier lifestyle.

“There comes a time in every man’s life where he’s got to say, ‘Damn it, I’m gonna get rid of this and get some muscular disposition, or I’m gonna end up looking like Homer Simpson.’ ”

Since then, Luda says he’s turned himself into a gym rat, working with two trainers, six days a week, with a focus on resistance training and martial arts.

“You’ve got to confuse the body,” he says.

But he likes to keep things fresh, which brought him to Chicago on Saturday to perform at the Propel Co:Labs Fitness Festival, a concert-workout mashup at Revel Fulton Market along with celebrity exercise instructor Nicole Winhoffer. Luda, whose real name is Christopher Bridges, called it a combination of “exercising and partying at the same time.”

“I love being in an environment with people who are disciplined and pushing themselves harder mentally, spiritually and physically,” he said.

“It’s a little more interactive with the crowd. You’re up close and personal. And I’m working to make things sync with what they’re trying to accomplish on a fitness level.”

His up-tempo music sounds tailor-made for the fitness studio.

“People need something aggressive. Something that makes you want to move, to get your blood pumping.”

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After his hourlong workout performance, Luda said he might give in to temptation with a stop at Harold’s Chicken. Born in Champaign, he spent part of his childhood in the west suburbs before his family moved to Atlanta.

“There’s definitely a place in my heart that has Chicago all over it. I spent a good chunk of my developmental stage here.”

As for future marathon performances Luda would like to lead in Chicago?

“I would love to play Lollapalooza. Let ’em know.”