There is plenty to love about running in the fall. The cooler temperatures offer a welcome reprieve from the summer’s humidity. There’s a long stretch of 55-degree days— the conditions that have been scientifically proven to be ideal for long-distance running. And if you’ve been training through the heat of the summer, you’ll enjoy faster times with less effort. (Studies have shown that training in the heat translates to faster times in cooler issues).
Any seasonal change involves a bit of transition time. If you’ve enjoyed lots of extra hours of daylights for early morning long runs during the summer, you may find yourself standing around in the morning, waiting for first light to hit the road. The more hectic rhythms of the school year can make it more difficult to fit in workouts. But your running routine doesn’t have to suffer as the days get shorter. Here are some tips you can take to keep your fitness on track, and gracefully transition into fall.
Check your gear. This is probably the most important step, as the proper lights, reflective apparel, and warm gear will help keep you safe and comfortable during dark morning. Pull out all the cold-weather gear you used in the past spring and fall, and assess what needs to be replaced, recharged, and upgraded. Put new batteries in your flashlights and headlights. Put all your dark-running gear in a box near the door so that it’s convenient for you to quickly grab on your way out. Stash all the supplies you need to stay safe and comfortable on the road.
Allow extra time. Compared to summer running, you’ll need an extra 5 to 10 minutes to get dressed, gear up, and make any adjustments to stay comfortable. So start the process of getting out the door a little earlier so that you don’t have to cut your run short.
Join a group. Running with others is a great way to stay safe and motivated as the temperatures fall and inclement weather blows in. Plus, there’s safety in numbers. You don’t have to train for a race. But joining up for a weekly long run or speed session - even just once a week - can help keep your training on track. Fleet Feet Maine Running has training programs and group runs for runners of all levels of fitness and ability. Check them out here.
Find some new routes. Cooler, darker conditions may require you to reroute your regular runs. Search for some well-light, well-plowed safe trails, sidewalks, and streets that are convenient where you can regularly run when inclement conditions blow in.
Enter a race. Registering for an event is a great way to keep you on track with your running routine, so you’ll be more likely to get outside on days when it’s tempting to stay in. And if you’ve been training through hot and humid summer conditions, you can see all that tough, sweaty work pay off. An October 2010 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology showed that after two weeks of training in the heat, athletes improved their performances in cooler temperatures by five to seven percent. Check out the community calendar for races that are convenient for you.
Have a backup plan. It may be a a few months before you need it, but it’s a good time to start thinking about how you’re going to get your exercise when the streets or the temperatures make it unsafe to run this winter. You might check out area gyms with treadmills, invest in a treadmill of your own, or make plans to take up another outdoor sport that offers cardiovascular workout, like cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Investigate at the options for group fitness classes - like TRX, spinning, circuit training or indoor rowing. (Be sure to check out the classes regularly held in our Portland community room!). If you are going to cross train, pick one mode of workout and focus on it, so you can become proficient enough in it to get a good workout. The timeyou take to exercise off the road will help prevent burnout and injuries from running. Plus it will help you build total body fitness.