Between the seasonal change and that pesky daylight savings time (please someone explain that one to me again), it's enough to take the joy out of anyone's daily run.
“It got cold.” “It got cold fast.” “Oh, and it got dark, too.” “Who turned off the lights and turned on the outside AC?”
These are thoughts or statements we often hear or even make as the early fall turns into mid-fall and our warm, well-lit summer running becomes a thing of the past. Between the seasonal change (that seems to occur all-to-abruptly these days) and that pesky daylight savings time (please someone explain that one to me again), it’s enough to take the joy out of anyone’s daily 5. And I’m betting Ben Franklin wasn’t much of a runner.
The past couple of weeks and the next few weeks offer us some of the biggest race events, both locally and regionally. NYC, Marine Corps, Rehoboth, MS Runs, the Turkey Trots, etc., are all events that many of us spend our late summer and early fall warm-weather, well-lit runs prepping for and, once they’re done, the landscape looks bleak.
I would offer up that this is the time to enjoy the run, with less stress and more time to look around. This is the time of year to reset your stride, slow down your pace and not focus so much on how fast, how far, how many. Late fall and early winter training doesn’t have to be about anything other than the pure joy of lacing up and getting out.
Now, having said that, there are some additional precautions you’ll need to take. As you shed the stress of mindful training, you will add to the baggage of safer routes, better warm-up routines, proper clothing, and even finding more partners.
This time of the training year requires being able to know your surroundings AND being more mindful of them. The increased darkness after Halloween can be just as creepy and spooky. Sorry, but there are far too many weirdos and whackos out and about. Planning and varying your routes, letting others know where, when and how long, and even using the GPS on your mobile devices are all very good ideas. A safe run is a good run.
Colder air means muscles don’t necessarily react the way they do when it’s 80 outside. My normal warm-up routine takes 3-5 minutes and is usually done in my driveway or next to my car. As the temps sink, I usually add 2-3 minutes to the routine AND add a very slow 5-minute jog (and I mean JOG) as a part of it. That extra 7-8 minutes may mean my entire run is shorter, but it also means my chance of straining an unprepared muscle is diminished.
So for those of you who know me… I hate wearing tights on the run. REALLY hate it. But for those of you who know know me, I am also famous for saying “keep the weapons warm,” meaning your legs! I’d also add hands and head to that mix. Protecting the extremities on cold, breezy runs at this time of year is imperative to making sure you don’t damage yourself and that the run is enjoyable. And yes, even I find tights useful below a certain wind chill. Gear up, folks!
Finally, dark cold runs are hard enough to get out the door to complete alone. And you’ve heard the expression “misery loves company.” So find someone to be miserable with! Your chances of getting out there and running increase dramatically when you know someone else is waiting for you to join them. And they’ll appreciate your company just as much.
Late fall and early winter base building is really about generating movement, maintaining the habits you’ve already established, and getting ready for your next year of training and racing. So just because bears hibernate doesn’t mean you need to. It just means you need to spend a bit more time prepping and being safe.
One word of advice… just like we are all advised to change the batteries in our smoke detectors annually, I’d recommend changing the batteries in your flight lights, headlights, blinky lights, vest lights, etc. Dark can get REALLY dark REALLY fast.
I hope to see you on the roads, tracks and trails…well dressed and well lit!
Former standout Lock Haven University runner Andy Shearer is a member of the Middletown Athletic Club, the Greater Philadelphia Track Club and USA Track and Field.