In HBO’s Game of Thrones, winter is coming, is the motto of the Starks. For them, the phrase is not necessarily a negative one; it is meant to be a reminder to stay vigilant of upcoming challenges and to prepare for the hardest of what is ahead.
So whether you like it or not, winter is coming in Chicago and if you want to come out of it successfully do as the Stark’s do and prepare. With a solid plan, winter is coming, can be an empowering motto that means you have planned to conquer all that winter can throw at you.
Here are four pieces of a successful Chicago winter running plan.
Spring may seem like a long way off, but committing to a goal and a target race now will give your winter running purpose.
Registering for a race is a commitment, both psychologically and financially. The “I’ll wait and see how winter goes” approach does not work out. Knowing you paid for an upcoming race will keep you motivated and committed to put in the miles through the winter’s most challenging conditions.
Aimless running often leads to failure. Races certainly are not the only purpose of running, but setting a goal does add a level of accountability to your training.
Once you have chosen a target race, it is time to set a course of action by creating short term, week-by-week process goals. Process goals are all about what you need to do in your preparations to be ready for the primary goal, that being your spring race.
With process goals you do not have to wait until the end of the season to know if you have succeeded. You will be able to build confidence consistently as you check off small goals each week through the winter.
Process goals for winter can include simple goals; how many days or miles you will run per week, or putting in a certain number of cross or strength training sessions. The best process goals are quantifiable. Set them in a way where you either did it, or you did not. If you do miss a goal, then refocus, but do not beat yourself up.
Don’t Fly Solo
Whether you partner up with a friend or join a group training program, like the ones offered by CARA, being part of a group not only makes winter running more fun, it provides you with accountability to stay the course.
Knowing that someone is expecting you, and better yet counting on you, is one of the best ways to get yourself out of bed. Your group, small or large, will provide motivation, accountability and a more positive experience when you are pushing through winter months.
Make it Work for You
Ultimately winter running is about getting it done, not about where or how you do it. Whether you brave the great outdoors, hit the treadmill or run around an indoor track, just make your miles happen. But winter running does not have to be punishing to be successful. Be honest about what is going to work for you, and however you choose to do your miles, feel good about those miles.
If you decide to run on the treadmill, set the grade to 1.5 percent, as this helps keep the effort equivalent to that of running outdoors. Also focus on maintaining natural form; avoid running too close to the consul in a way that alters your arm carriage.
When running on an indoor track, it is important to alternate direction on the track regularly. Going the same direction all winter can lead to overuse injuries as it stresses hips, knees and ankles differently than running primarily straight routes outdoors. Also, try running in the most outside lane. This lessens the sharpness of the turns which also puts less stress on your body.
If you run outdoors dress in layers; you can always take off a layer after you have started. Let the effort dictate your pace and the conditions dictate your route. Also, be flexible to ice or snow, and expect to slow down. The last thing you want is a slip and fall injury that sidelines you for spring. Good training is about a collection of good days. Do not put your training at risk for a single workout.
So don’t forget, winter is coming!
Greg Hipp is the Executive Director of the Chicago Area Runners Association. Greg is a USATF Level II certified coach and a former NCAA coach at Northwestern University, NIU, Missouri State and Appalachian State. He has coached athletes of all ages from beginners to elites, including runners who have represented Team USA in international competition.