Tips & Techniques

Middle School Winter Running Club

Jill Ernst 
December 23, 2020

Late September I literally sat straight up in bed at 3:00am with the idea to host a middle school running club.  The night before, McHenry County middle schools decided they would not be doing cross country, despite the state allowing the sport to continue.  So I awoke in the middle of the night thinking, “Well I can host a running club.  These kids need to run.”  I spent the next 3 hours designing a program, knowing I wanted it to be led by Megan Sloan and I wanted it to revolve around everything middle schoolers need to learn during these formative years.

The result was one of the most special times in my life – as both a physical therapist and running technique specialist.  Over the next 6 weeks, Megan and I designed a program that helped middle school runners learn about:

  • Running technique
  • Strength training
  • Mobility/flexibility
  • Nutrition
  • Mental performance
  • Injury prevention strategies
  • Pilates and Yoga
  • Proper footwear
  • Race day preparation

We invited specialists from all of the above topics to share their wisdom.  We were able to host 4 meets, competing against ourselves and other schools.  But what stuck with me most was the friendships that developed and the excitement that surrounded running  . . . and learning about running.

And we wanted to try it again in the winter.  So yes – it will look different because now we are limited to groups of 10 and the weather is about to get cold.  But the goals of the program will remain the same: to teach these runners how to run faster, run longer, and reduce their risk for injury by improving their skills around running.  We will have to wear masks with the indoor sessions but when we get to run outside (on days where it is >20 degrees), we will explore downtown Crystal Lake.

Here was an article posted in Chicago Athlete describing our adventure:

Or watch our wrap-up video:

We were also featured in the Northwest Herald:


Registration for our winter running club is now open and we would love to have your middle school runner join us!

Click here to register!  Happy Running – nothing is going to stop us!

Meet the Author
Jill joined the Smith PT team in October 2020. She attended Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL, obtaining a degree in public health in 2011. After college, Jill spent 9 years working in wellness, fitness, special events and community engagement. She is an ACE certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor and a Schwinn indoor cycle instructor and uses her knowledge from these certifications to help others stay active and fit.
You were made to move!