Getting Ready to Run in the Fall
Fall is upon us. And, for many reasons, autumn is actually a pretty fantastic time of year for runners. Gone is the oppressive sun and stifling heat of the summer months, making those long outdoor runs much more enjoyable. Running in the fall, though, does require some fairly significant changes in your overall training routine. How can you be best prepared for the shifting seasons, though? What adjustments do you have to make to your runs so that you can safely and effectively run through the autumn months?
As the seasons change, your athletic wardrobe will also need to adapt. Of course, precisely what the fall means to you will largely depend on where you live and how that particular time of year manifests itself in your area. For the most part, though, fall means colder, wetter days.
So, autumn running is going to require you to make wise use of layers and warmer clothing than you’ve likely been wearing over the past few months. Just be careful that those insolating clothes don’t make you too hot or even block your body’s natural cooling systems. To balance the variety of needs imposed on you during the fall, you may want to invest in moisture-wicking materials.
Really, though, this is sort of the obvious stuff. In reality, seasonal changes also dictate behavioral changes that you might not always think about. Consider, for example, the impact that the shift in seasons will have on the length of days in your area. Again, these exact numbers will depend entirely on where you live; the further you are from the equator, the more drastic the change will be from summer to fall.
Just to give you an idea, a runner in New York will lose almost 5 hours of sunlight from June to November. Another athlete training Texas, though, would only lose about 4 hours. So… why does any of this matter? As your area starts to receive less and less daylight, the window in which you can safely and comfortably run outside will gradually close. Will you may have been able to run later in the day during the summer, you may not be able to maintain that practice in the fall.
Instead, your runs will like have to move up a few hours. Or, you may have to completely change your habits by running in the morning instead of the evening. While this might not seem like an important point, these changes could make a major difference in your performance – particularly at first – and may take some time for you to get used to. To minimize the amount of difficultly you face, try to make gradual rather than sudden changes in your schedule. Also, avoid changes that will directly conflict with your other responsibilities. If, for example, a morning run is going to have a noticeable impact on your ability to get to work on time, you may have to consider some other options.
As the seasons change, people are often enthralled by the rich colors taken on by the leaves. But, in their awe, those some individuals often forget the problem with that foliage. It falls.
And, in addition to the dropping temperatures, autumn tends to bring with it more rain then the summer months. As a result, the roads on which you’re running can quickly become coated in a thick layer of wet, slippery leaves. This could create a dangerous situation.
To stay safe in the fall, the obvious solution is simply to avoid paths, trails, tracks, roadways or other running surfaces that are covered in damp leaves. But, this isn’t always an option. If that’s the case, do your best to keep your stride short – even if that means changing you’re standard stride length. Avoid over-extending your legs and do not allow your feet to land in front of your knees. This will keep you stable and secure as you progress through your run.
Those cold, short, damp days can also affect your performance in a more subtle way. You may notice that your mood, energy and motivation begin to decline as the season marches on. In many cases, this can be overcome by retraining yourself to view fall running in a more positive light. Find a route that you really love, develop a post-run ritual run to look forward to or find some other way to make your fall runs more enjoyable.
It should be noted, however, that things are not always that straightforward. Some individuals may suffer from a depressive disorder known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – a condition that causes depression as the seasons change. Although Fall-onset SAD is by far the most common form, this disorder can manifest itself during any time of year. As a result, suffers may find that they simply have no energy to head out when fall starts to set in.
Interestingly, one of the best home remedies for SAD is to get outside and run. Both being outdoors and exercising can decrease the symptoms of all forms of depression, including SAD. So, while it might be challenging and even counterintuitive, those runs could help to pull you out of your fall funk. To stay motivated, then, focus on the many ways that you will benefit from maintaining your routine even during the colder parts of the year.