I really like alliteration. It’s happening again, fall. An admittedly beautiful time of year followed by the coldest, frozen and dreary time of the year. Fall brings it’s own challenges to the mix but for me it’s all about what comes next, winter, yuck!!! Your race season might be over, your motivation might be lagging and your schedule might be full. So how do you deal with fall and staying fit? A lot of this applies to all fitness routines including yoga classes and the gym but it can be especially difficult if you’re an outdoor exerciser. So here are the specific challenges fall brings with it and how you can address them.
Perhaps you have kids or less flexible hours at work but you’ll defiantly be dealing with shorter days and more on your plate then the summer. All of those long days, long weekends and vacation days are in the past now and soon it will be dark by 6 pm (and dark till 8 if you have a morning vibe) so you’re going to need a plan to find some time. We’ll deal with the specifics later but if you’re going to keep your momentum going you’ll have to find some time. Maybe it’s during your kids’ piano lessons, pre dawn or on your lunch break but if you’re busier you’ll need to schedule your fitness. The lazy hazy days of summer meant you could still squeeze in a quick 10k at 8:15 pm and if you didn’t every second weekend is a long one. The three daylight hours after supper or before breakfast were the coolest ones of the day and those are gone now. Sad face. Put it in your phone, or day planner (that’s still how I roll) otherwise the day’s going to be over again before you know it.
Race season is over
And so is training season or it will be soon. Nothing is more motivating than a looming race date. Firstly, you don’t want to embarrass yourself and quit early or come last. Secondly you’re phone is pinging at you, your have a checklist and you’re committed to or a very specific plan. Now you’re like a teenager looking a kale and a bowl of m&m’s. You know you should eat your kale and go for a run because it’s good for you. But chances are the m&m’s and Netflix are going to win every time. You have a couple of options here with out training for something new. In fact if you are thinking of training for a race again, perhaps don’t. When we’re in training we’re pushing our bodies further and further, week after week for months on end. Even if you stay consistent at a higher than average milage that will do a lot to prevent you from getting injured. It will also let you repair any damage the previous race season did to your body you are just unaware of yet. I think you should aim to spend less time in training each year than out of it at the very least.
Remember that the more you do in the off season the less it will hurt to return to it in the spring. One thing you can do is commit to a maintenance plan. Now you don’t have to go out there and find one, or you can, but you can make your own. It can be really individual to your expectations and very general or very specific. As general as three runs a week or as specific as 30 km a week, 5 Monday, 8 of speed work on Tuesday, 5 more on Friday and a 12 km long run on the weekend. You do you.
Another realistic option if you experience a real winter, which I would argue we do, is a more variable plan. One that starts with a higher milage and frequency, though lower than training, while it’s still warm out then tapers down in milage and frequency when it’s really cold. You might even take a couple of weeks off completely and head south in say early February. Then you reverse the trend and ramp back up as the weather improves until your ready to tackle next year’s training.
Stupid time change
A (short) open letter to the fall time change,
Stupid, stupid time change. You mess up my life on so may levels every single year. And even though I told you I don’t want to see you again you continue to be an unwanted intrusion in my life. Yeah I’m I night runner and I could get up earlier than I do but yolo and you do you, are cliches for a reason. I hate you! It tuns out you don’t save us any money on energy, you cause traffic accidents and every parent of young children want’s you gone, and yet your still here! It’s colder when I come home since it’s been dark longer and that means I’m more likely to encounter slippery roads. You make me wait for tea time, grocery shop in the dark and generally feel like a nocturnal possum. I hate you, why are you still here?
To get my runs in I have to suit up like a NASA astronaut on a space walk. Head lamps, reflectors, flashing lights and reflective gear. Bulky layers and strap on lights are not best friends. You make me run on the well lit concrete sidewalks in the city which means I have to put up with my sister’s stupid dog and my knees hurt. Plus everyone is always pointing out the ought to be irrelevant fact that the morning starts earlier. I don’t know about that, but I’m telling you go away and never come back!
Prepare for the cold now
I used to run only in the spring and the fall pretty much but I’ve since embraced hot weather running. The outfits are so cute and you get to feel the breeze and the sun on almost all of your skin. Now summer running might be my favourite. Just like summer running is all about consistency in the spring as the weather warms up. Winter running requires consistency in the fall. It’s being out there in the shoulder season that lets you transition to either really hot or cold weather. By getting out there every week as the weather changes you acclimatize to the changing conditions.
You’ll end up slowly putting on layers and running in more clothes appropriate for each temperature. By the time it’s really, really cold you’ll have adapted and while workouts won’t be as pleasant as say May your warmest outfits will suffice. Cold weather may also aggravate your injuries. Joints tend to suffer in runners, knees being at the top of the list. I find that the cold weather tends to make my bad knee hurt more without actually making the injury worse. Which in turn zaps your incentive to run. Then you don’t get out there for a while and your injury is actually back to where you started. This year taking a month off due to colder weather and princess level complaining about that fact knocked me back to square one and I was crying on my Christmas Day run. It took months of rehabbing it just to get back to consistent running pain free.
So what’s the solution, consistency or at least a minimum level of consistency. For me that’s one run a week. That keeps me acclimatizing to the weather, my knee pretty happy and actually reminds me why I love it and I end up getting out there more. I almost never do only one run in the week but if the weather is such that it looks like I won’t get out there. I drive to the local community centre, pay the drop in fee and run on the dreadmill. For all of my belly aching last year it only happened one time.
Maximize your motivation
You wake up one morning in October it’s still dark, colder than forecasted and freaking snowing! Not rolling over and going back to bed should earn you a medal, like a really big shiny one with glitter. Since no one is going to give you one you might have to go get one your self and then it might as well be shoes. Which is to say you need to externalize your motivation source since just for the joy of it ain’t going to cut it. This could be accomplished in a myriad of ways some free, some good for the world and lots and lots of selfish expensive ones.
Some free ones are apps, you probably use one now but if you don’t when you first start they give out trophies like candy. Sure they have no real value but they sure are nice. Perhaps if you use run keeper you could download nike run club or strata and use both on your runs collecting extra digital bling. Is it cheating, stupid and silly? Maybe. Is it free and will it work? Probably? Think about it.
You know what’s really motivating, races and medals. There aren’t as many to do in the winter but those that are out there are usually charitable. You could sign up for every single one, be motivated to get out there, get out there for the race and get lots of medals. That will work. Plus the charitable aspect is pretty cool and they start later in the day. I usually do a couple a winter like the frostbite five miler (cute snowman medal) and this year I’m thinking about adding the parade run. There’s even a hypothermic half in February but that’s not my thing, don’t sign me up for that, hard pass.
Now onto the expensive and easy option. Happy face. Buy yourself stuff! Sit down and make a list of what you want to do this winter. It could be weekly or monthly milages, number of runs a week or every single run or even all of those. Now next to each one write a present you’ll buy or give yourself if you get it done. It could be a bubble bath, face mask and rom com night or a Micheal Kors purse. See fun! You also might pick things like fancy coffee, a hot lunch, manicure or new book but it’s good to stay within your budget. I don’t really do this one but I could see it being powerful for a lot of people.
Another option is a long race early in the spring. Maybe a 10k or a half but what ever that means for you. Sign up for it now, put your money down and the motivation should take care of itself. I’m determined to finally tackle the olympic triathlon next year again. That means an earlier date for my big race next year and probably doing the 1/2 rather than the 10k at Bluenose in May next year! I’m thinking this will be a powerfully motivating force, hopefully. How can it not be?
Rope in a new runner
At a race I sometimes do the cheerers hold signs that say, “some one else will run because you did first.” Sometimes that’s true, other times you have to go out and find that person yourself and then call, text and show up at their house to take them for a run constantly. But you just want to share the love you have for running with the people you love right. Plus guilt, make sure you use some guilt too. Then you can do a couch to 5 k program with them (walking is still great exercise) then sign them up for a 10k you always do in the spring. Starting to see where the guilt comes in? I thought so. Of course you’ll do it all with them, motivation check! You’ll get to be an expert to them, relive the love you first had for running and stay fit. Plus you’re doing it out of love an support, right? I have a couple of candidates in mind this year. I’m looking at you mom and Shay….
What keeps you going in the fall? Any tips you have to keep your fitness at it’s peak? Grabbing any of this for yourself?