It’s the most wonderful time of the year – at least, fall has always been my favorite season! Crisp air, cooler temps, gorgeous colors, and pumpkin spice everything (yeah, I’m that girl…). Fall has also always been my favorite season for running, for many reasons, but there are also some things you need to watch out for during your training.
I think we can all list several reasons why fall running is the BEST:
Lower Temperature and Lower Humidity
When the mercury doesn’t climb above 75, there’s no need to wake up at the buttcrack of dawn to get your run in before it gets oppressively hot. In the fall, you can really run at any time of day without concern for heat, making it easier to schedule your training and your life. Ever feel like the cooler fall temps put a spring in your step? It’s not your imagination – excessive heat alters your heart rate and blood pressure, so your normal running routes don’t just FEEL harder during the summer – you actually ARE working harder. When your body doesn’t have to spend so much energy cooling you off, it has more to devote to your pace.
And the humidity? That’s not your imagination either. It’s easier to breathe and to perspire when the air is a little drier, which means it takes less energy to cool you off and therefore, more energy your body has for the actual running itself.
The Fall Colors!
If you’re one of those people who needs a little scenery to stay entertained and engaged on runs (we are ALL this person at one point or another!), then this is the season for you. What better way to get in touch with nature than a fall run? Those leaves turn even your neighborhood routes into scenic vistas. Research shows that regular time spent in nature reduces stress and normalizes cortisol production, aka, lowers your risk of things like heart disease and high blood pressure. So take advantage!
Lets be honest, does anyone really want to run a marathon in the dead of July or August? Uh…no. I think there’s a reason why so many of the biggest marathons in the US (Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, etc) happen in the fall. Summer is great for track efforts, mile races, 5ks, and 10ks, but fall is really suited to the long efforts.
BUT…..there are a few things you need to consider when transitioning to fall training!
It Gets Dark Earlier
….and stays dark later into the mornings. Consider your typical running routes – do you feel safe running in the dark? I know I’ve lived in multiple cities where (speaking as a woman) I wouldn’t dare go for a run in the dark on my own, whether at 5pm or 5am. You may, if this is your situation, want to move your runs to the dreadmill. But if you can’t bear the thought of that, you should at least invest in some stylish reflective gear for your own safety.
You still need to hydrate.
Just because it’s cooler out and you can stand outside in pants without sweating doesn’t mean you don’t need to hydrate. This is a good time to check in and see how much water you’re losing on a run, because it will inevitably be less than you do in the summer. As we’ve talked about before on Fit Nerd Physios, overhydration is a real risk, and maintaining your summer hydration protocol into the fall could well result in that. But you do want to avoid swinging the pendulum too far in the other direction. Check in with yourself, pay attention, and readjust your water and electrolyte intake as needed.
Slippery When Wet.
Fall, especially early fall, can be “the rainy season” – at least on the East Coast. Be aware of this, especially with leaves falling. Trails and roads may still be wet the day or two after it rains, so check the treads on your shoes and be mindful when you hit the trails!
Mind Your Volume
Just because the weather is nice and cool and suddenly running seems more appealing than it did in mid August does NOT mean you should stray from your training plan and run extra – or start running every single day if you haven’t hit the pavement all summer. Increase your running volume gradually – no more than 10% each week for MOST recreational level runners – and pay attention to your body. There are plenty of other ways besides running to enjoy the fall weather and colors, and it’s not worth risking an injury.
Be safe, be smart, but above all – get out there and enjoy this awesome season!