An amazing autumn awaits
10 September 2021
When it comes to running, autumn has it all. It’s not too dark and cold, or come to that too hot; in fact, it’s pretty much perfect whether you’re just getting going or planning to add a bit more to your summer fitness programme.
Your body and mind will thank you in so many ways. Running is actually easier for a start, in the autumn (and yes, the winter) as the combination of lower heart rates, less dehydration and running in cooler temperatures will likely see you able to hit the same paces with slightly less effort, meaning if you so desire you can run a bit quicker or go longer or if that’s on your radar, race a Parkrun faster than ever before.
In pure scientific terms, running in the British autumn is up to 30% easier than running in the warmth of our summer. But if all that sounds, well, too professional, let’s not forget one thing as well. Autumn running actually is better for you when it comes to your own health - getting outside in the autumn can help to boost vitamin D levels, and ensure that core strength and cardiovascular fitness are sustained. “The mental benefits gained from running are also substantial, and likely to be even greater during the darker autumn months. The running-induced release of the body’s natural opiates – endorphins – create a feelgood factor, and while experiencing the countryside and trails is great at any time of the year, the changing colours of autumn, and the rugged landscape of a frosty winter’s day, can easily and quickly provide a boost to mental health that spending a day inside or in the office certainly will not,” says sports scientist Professor John Brewer.
When it comes to choosing a route, your fellow RunTogether runners will have some great ideas, but don’t forget at this time of year reflective running gear is essential, even if you don’t think your run will take you anywhere near a road or a car. If you can’t be seen, you are a danger to yourself and anyone – or any vehicle – that you come close to.
It's also a great time of year to remind yourself just how amazing your RunTogether group is – safe and social; like the time of year, perfect! If you do fancy a solo outing, remember running on your own in the autumn does require some planning. “You need factor in the length of the run, the time it will take, and the onset of darkness. If your route is unfamiliar, take account of the terrain and gradient – it may take longer than you think, and with the deepest winter days darkening before 4pm, make sure you have plenty of time to get back in daylight. Investing in a head torch is worth considering, helping you to see and be seen,” says Trail Running magazine editor Paul Larkins. “Even the most accomplished runner can get lost, and end up in a place or on a road where personal safety is at risk if others can’t see you. It is also important to plan your route carefully.” Which is where the expertise of RunTogether comes in!
Temperatures will also be lower in the autumn, but it is all too easy to react to a chilly autumnal morning by wearing copious quantities of outer clothing, and while this might be fine for the first mile or so, the body will soon start to generate heat as a result of the energy being produced when running and you’ll quickly regret overdressing.
Even in the coldest of conditions, this heat needs to be lost, either through sweating or by conduction into the external environment. Yes, staying warm is important, but getting too hot can easily spoil the enjoyment of a long run, so avoid the temptation to over-layer with clothes, and bear in mind that it is often preferable to suffer from a degree of chilliness for the early stages of a run, until the body creates its own heat and core temperature rises.
And one last thing: Autumn fuelling is about more than just throwing another log on the fire! Eating well to sustain training and – importantly – the body’s immune system is crucial at this time of the year, with the added precaution of not over-indulging too much during the festive period to come. As well as high-carb foods to energise performance and enhance recovery, you’ll need to eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables to help fight viruses and infections, and with the lack of sunshine, it may be wise to consider a precautionary vitamin D supplement.