Staying Fit & Having Fun: Lessons from Chiberia

Yes, this year’s winter in Chicago (and many other cities across the U.S.) has been uncharacteristically brutal. Maybe it’s a sign of changing weather patterns & a glimpse into similarly tough winters coming our way, or maybe we were due for a rough winter after the past few years of relatively mild winters. I’m hopeful of the latter, but either way, this winter has reminded me of a few “lessons” in fitness.

Know your limits

I think it is safe to say that this winter’s weather has tested the patience & resolve of even the most dedicated fitness enthusiasts. We all have a limit of how cold/slushy/snowy/icy it can be before we’d feel safer, enjoy ourselves more & get more out of our workout by staying indoors.  Everyone’s limit is different; know yours. And don’t beat yourself up if you see other people still “braving” the outdoors when you’re getting your sweat on indoors. Work hard, keep smiling & move on.

Be flexible

It’s 6 am, you’re dressed & ready to head to the gym to hit that swim workout. But, you find your car snowed in & your scraper got lost in the last snowstorm. There are endless variations of this story. Things aren’t going your way. Before you throw away your workout or lose time & end up cutting it too short, maybe you can be flexible. There’s a gym in your building with cardio & weights, but no pool?  This could be a perfect opportunity to get in some of the strength training that tends to fall by the wayside when we’ve got swim/bike/run to fit in. Or, maybe you can run today & swim another day.  Or get to work early via public transportation and swim after work.  Again, there are numerous options. Life happens, be flexible & make the most of your days/workouts, even if it’s not EXACTLY what you had planned. Work hard, keep smiling & move on.  

Try something new

Personally, I hate running outdoors in extreme cold and/or cold and wet conditions. In the past, I’ve forced myself to do it anyway, but the result was not good. I dreaded workouts, I was miserable during the workout, I didn’t perform well, and then I wouldn’t feel well – physically or mentally – afterward.  It was definitely not a win-win situation for my physical fitness or mental health; arguably, it was lose-lose. I learned to know (& accept) my limits, and I learned to be flexible (ie – moving workouts indoors or switching days around).  And this winter, with no major race on the calendar in the Spring, I have had the most fun trying new things. I visited DePaul’s Ray Meyer Fitness Center when a client invited me as a guest. We did an easy run on the indoor track & caught up. I checked out the new performance center at East Bank Club with another client. I went to FlyWheel with a friend, tried a fly yoga class, and a few classes at Shred415.  

Is my fitness the same as if I had been focused on run training all winter? No. It’s also not the same as when I focused mostly on strength training last winter. However, no matter what you do, fitness is never the same. It is always changing. Sometimes better, sometimes worse, and sometimes not “better” or “worse”, but different. The new things I tried this winter will probably never replace running’s “place” in my life, but it has been so much fun! I miss running outside, but I know I will have that again soon. In the meantime, work hard, keeping smiling & move on, right?!?

At the end of the day, staying fit is about being consistently active doing things we enjoy. No matter the season, we should all be having FUN with our fitness. Work hard, keep smiling & move on. We just might need to get a bit more creative with it in the winter.


Angie & Mike Thomson own Fast and Fit Coaching in Chicago, providing runners and triathletes with a well-rounded training approach.

Angie is a Certified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Consultant and holds her USATF & USAT Level 1 certifications.

Mike is also a Certified Personal Trainer and holds the following certifications: CSCS, USATF Level 1, USAT Level 1, and Charles Poliquin's BioSignature Modulation.

Michael Chin