Winter in Chicago is not for the faint of heart. Temperatures often dip into the single digits, and snowfall routinely pounds the city for days on end. As if that weren't wicked enough, high winds off Lake Michigan bombard the streets and turn exposed skin raw. It hardly sounds like an ideal vacation spot, but it was the perfect location for Nike to promote its "Get Out Here" campaign.
"Get Out Here" is the slogan Nike chose to encourage athletes to train and play outdoors this winter. The campaign, which kicked off with a cool "Snow Day" ad in late October, coincides with the promotion of a line of new winter gear designed to help athletes battle the elements and perform at a high level in cold conditions.Along with other media members, STACK was invited to a #GetOutHere Challenge in Chicago to embrace the cold and put Nike's new products to the test. Here's what went down.
Working on the River
My day started at 7 a.m., when I got suited up in clothing from Nike's Cold Gear Collection. Stepping out of my hotel room, I felt more than ready to battle the elements, considering my outfit included a jacket, tights and a compression shirt.
After everyone met up in the lobby, it was time to jog to the gym for a morning workout. We did a quick stretch on the bustling sidewalk and were on our way, led by a pair of Nike Run Club coaches. It was a mild December day for Chicago, as temperatures were in the high 40s—not exactly the best conditions to test cold gear, especially if you grew up with Midwest winters. After a six-block jaunt through Chicago's Loop district, we arrived at our destination. But this was no run-of-the-mill gym. Nike had erected an open-air training facility on top of a barge in the Chicago River. The floating white exoskeleton emblazoned with a giant silver swoosh would serve as our training center for the morning.
Photo Courtesy of @NikeChicago
The unique location made conditions a bit more chilly. Once we got inside the structure (I'm using the word inside rather loosely), we met up with two Nike Master Trainers who would lead us through our workout. The group performed a dynamic warm-up before breaking into six small teams.
RELATED: 7 Reasons Why You Should Suck It Up and Exercise Outside This Winter
The workout plan was simple. Six stations were set up around the perimeter of the gym. On the whistle, the teams would rotate among the stations, performing as many reps as possible in an allotted time. After one full circuit, we'd break for water and then perform another round, albeit with shorter sets and shorter breaks. We would perform four total rounds—one-minute sets, 45-second sets, 30-second sets and 15-second sets—to complete the workout.
Stations included Speed Ladders, Box Jumps, Rope Slams and Goblet Squats, and things got pretty challenging after just a few stations. It had been a while since I'd included agility and plyometric drills in my circuit training, and I had forgotten how those type of exercises challenge your cardio endurance.
Photo courtesy of Nike
My face was drenched in sweat by the completion of the second circuit (I've always been a heavy sweater), but the Nike gear did a great job of keeping my body dry. I never felt cold, especially once the workout started heating up, so it was hard to gauge how well the gear protected against the elements, but all the clothing was very functional.
The setting can get lost on you pretty quickly when you're in the middle of an intense training session. I was more focused on perfecting Rope Slams than admiring the scenery around me, but there was one moment when I found myself contemplating the absurdity of the situation.
Toward the end of the workout, I was doing Overhead Med Ball Slams, and the trainers were encouraging me to give it my all. Following their advice, I took a 20-pound med ball over my head, raised onto my toes and smashed it into the carpeted floor as hard as I could. I felt the ground shake beneath my feet and momentarily panicked, imagining the ball burrowing through the bottom of the barge and sinking the entire gym in the process. I'm not Superman so that didn't happen, but it certainly wasn't for lack of trying.
After the final round through the circuit and a chance to catch our breath, the group headed to a pop-up Nike product display. Unlike the gym, it was actually on solid ground. Here's a few things that caught my eye:
- The Shield Flash Max is a running jacket that features a reflective print that shines in low light conditions. Since the sun sets so early, many people run at night during the winter, which forces them to don cumbersome vests or ridiculous flashing lights to stay visible. I dig the fact that this jacket looks trendy during the day but has built-in safety at night.
- The Nike Therma-Sphere Max training jacket is ridiculously comfortable. I wore it most of the weekend and it's cozy enough for lounging around but very functional during training.
- The SneakerBoots are exactly what they sound like—hybrid footwear that's part sneaker, part boot. I thought they looked awesome and I could appreciate the purpose they serve. If you're wearing actual sneakers in the snow, they're going to get trashed pretty quickly and won't give you much traction. If you're wearing traditional boots in the snow, they'll handle the elements but feel clunky when you get inside. SneakerBoots are in a middle ground. They're durable enough to stand up to the elements but stylish enough to look fresh when you get inside.
Football on the Shores of Lake Michigan
After grabbing lunch at Moto, an ultra-trendy restaurant in Chicago's Fulton River District that serves meticulously deconstructed southern cuisine, the group headed to a city park on the shores of Lake Michigan for some flag football.
Former NFL Defensive lineman Anthony "Spice" Adams was on hand to talk about his experiences playing in cold weather. Spice was a member of the Chicago Bears from 2007 to 2011, and he knows all about performing in frigid environments.
"Nobody cares that it's snowing out, nobody cares that it's 20 below, they just want you to perform. So you have to block out everything and go out and do what you're supposed to do," Adams said. "[We'd] always be out there with no sleeves on, especially if we were playing a team like Atlanta or Miami. You want to let them know that the elements might change, but we're not going to."
RELATED: Former NFL Lineman Talks About Playing in Minus-20-Degree Weather
Luckily for us, we did get to wear sleeves. The unusually mild morning had given way to chillier weather as dark clouds swirled around the skyline and a stiff wind blew off the lake. Ever try to throw a football downfield and see it get blown six yards sideways? Now I know what Jay Cutler has to deal with.
Photo courtesy of Nike
Although the conditions weren't conducive for pinpoint passing, they were perfect for trying out Nike's cold gear. The Therma-Sphere Max training jacket was effective at stopping the wind, but light enough to keep me comfortable running routes. The Pro Hyperwarm shirt kept me warm without feeling uncomfortably tight.
As for the game itself, I captained a team called "We Are The Champions" (super creative name, I know) to a close victory. Everyone seemed to be more focused on the game than on the atmospheric conditions, so in that sense we heeded Adams's advice.
I definitely enjoyed training outside, but I was more than ready to crawl into my hotel bed by the end of the day. Getting out there took a lot out of me.