Ask any runner how they feel about logging miles in the fall, and our guess is they feel good about it. After a difficult few months of sweltering, humid morning runs, the fall is a welcomed season of sunny mornings with a slight chill in the air that helps many of us remember why we love running in the first place.
But the season adored (by most, anyway) for its pumpkin everything comes with a few complications when it comes to lacing up and getting out for a run. Here, experts chime in with strategies to run smarter in the fall.
TAKE THE TIME TO WARM UP
Warming up is essential to any good run, but particularly when the weather is cooler. “Our muscles are much tighter when it’s cold out and therefore much more prone to injury (unless properly warmed up),” says Joe Tatta, DPT, and founder of the Integrative Pain Science Institute. “Be sure to do dynamic warmups — rather than just static stretching — to ensure your muscles are activated and ready to go.”
Dynamic stretches mean you’re constantly in motion, including warmups like leg swings or lunges. These really get your muscles ready to work, says Tatta.
Sometimes we assume cooler weather and decreased sunshine negate our need for water during exercise. That’s definitely not the case, says Lisa Nichole Folden, DPT, author of “Healthy Made Easy: The Ultimate Wellness Guide for Busy Moms.” “Our bodies still become depleted of hydration with exercise whether the sun is shining or not,” she says. “Take a water bottle along that you can easily attach or carry, especially if you will be running for more than 60 minutes.”
Folden adds that you can leave the hydration at home if you’re only going out for a few miles. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends reaching for something with electrolytes — like a sports drink — during any high-intensity exercise that exceeds 45–60 minutes.
As we ease toward winter, the amount of daylight we get to take advantage of during any given day dwindles significantly. That means that morning and post-work running can be dimly lit, and we have to rethink our gear strategy. “A reflective vest helps you been seen,” says Phillip Bazzini, MS, a certified strength and conditioning specialist. “The runner needs to also be able to see what’s in front of them, including things like pot-holes or other obstacles.”
A headlamp can make a major difference when you’re joining the dawn patrol, Bazzini adds.
The fall season brings along crisp, cool air and a shift in gear strategy — making picks like long sleeves and full-length tights a no-brainer. However, depending on the climate you live and run in (as well as your speed and distance), you’re going to want to layer smart. “It’s a good idea to be able to shed a layer during your run,” says Folden. “That may mean taking off a long- or short-sleeve shirt and going in a sports bra. If that’s not your cup of tea, opt for a sleeveless tank under a long-sleeve shirt so that if you do get warm, you’ll be able to comfortably continue on.”
Another word of caution: Avoid cotton when you can. Unlike other performance-focused, sweat-wicking picks, when cotton gets wet, it stays wet. Since cotton dries so slowly, you may get cold — and stay cold.
TAKE THE PATH LESS TRAVELED
Fall is the perfect time to take a break from the pavement, hit the trails, and really get in all of the benefits of your hard-earned effort by soaking in all of the season’s beauty. Enjoy a weekend morning trip to a local trailhead with a friend or family member and do some exploring.
JOIN A RUNNING GROUP
Sometimes with less daylight, we have less motivation to exercise. That’s where finding a buddy can keep you accountable and help you stay in a routine. “Training with a friend or running group can make things more enjoyable,” says Geno Mayes, DPT, owner of Iron Physical Therapy in New Jersey. “Plus, it can be exactly what you need to stay safe while doing what you love — for both your mental and physical health.”