An Ultramarathon Runner’s Tips for Transitioning to Fall Running
Fall is here, and we’re welcoming cooler weather by wearing those fashionable fall buys and whipping up our fave fall soup recipes. But while it’s pretty easy to transition your favorite summer clothes to fall, it can be a little trickier to navigate your outdoor cardio in the crisp weather. So we called in Jackie Palmer Merritt, who’s not only a Milestone Sports endurance athlete (she’s been running ultramarathons since 2010), but holds a PhD in biomechanics and physical therapy, to give us the scoop on how runners can transition from summer to fall workouts without losing a step. We’re going to trust a woman who’s run 100 miles in less than 24 hours (bowing down).
1. Wear the right clothing. Daylight Savings is back in early November, so morning or evening runners are going to have to make some adjustments. Jackie says, “Runners will need to wear the right clothing to stay visible to cars, bikers and other people. A good tip is to look for bright and reflective clothing, so that you’re visible when light is shining on you and when it’s not.” In addition to finding clothes to help you stay safe, Jackie suggests cutting the cotton out of your existing fall and winter wardrobe, especially on longer runs. She says, “Cotton holds moisture and cold wind will cut right through sweaty material. Moisture-wicking material is the best option for staying warm and comfortable.”
2. Bring along a backpack. “Depending on the length of your run, you’ll need to bring along a few essentials, such as extra clothing, food and water. Yep, water. Don’t underestimate the amount of hydration you’ll need, especially on longer or hilly runs, because you’ll still be sweating,” notes Jackie. “Lower humidity and cooler temperatures will cause your sweat to evaporate much more quickly, so you might not realize how much water you’re actually losing. Bonus: Your backpack can conveniently haul layers of clothes that you shed mid-run.”
3. Find a workout buddy. Honestly, a workout buddy is great any season, but they can be even more crucial to stay dedicated as the weather turns cold. “If you’re just getting into running and trying to stay motivated, grab a friend and agree to go on a run a certain number of days per week together — even if it’s only 20-30 minutes,” suggests Jackie. “You’ll hold each other accountable and keep each other motivated on the days when you’d rather stay in your pajamas.”
4. Pay attention to the trail. Sometimes, running can get a little… uh, boring. And while rocking out to your favorite tunes might help pass the time, Jackie advises against it in certain situations. “Avoid checking your phone and listening to music while running in the dark, so you can stay alert to your surroundings. While it may be tempting to look at your phone, alertness is key to injury prevention. Broken tree limbs, slippery leaves, potholes and cars can pop up so quickly. Accidents and injuries can be avoided if your full attention is on the path in front of you,” Jackie says.
5. Sign up for a race. Fall is filled with amazing races (hello, Turkey Trot), and working toward a goal is a really effective way to stick to your running schedule. Jackie agrees, saying, “If you can, register for your goal race now, even if it’s months away. Once you put real money on the line, you’ll have the motivation to get to the gym or out the door. If you’re training for a marathon or half-marathon, you most likely already signed up. Consider sprinkling in a few 5Ks or 10Ks to add spice and fun to your training routine.”
6. Break in some new shoes. New shoes? Don’t have to tell us twice. “Whether you’re a new runner training for your first 5K, or a seasoned runner ramping up miles for a fall marathon, now is the time to start thinking about breaking in some new shoes,” says Jackie. “It’s not a good idea to go into a race of any distance with too-old shoes or brand new shoes, as both can contribute to your risk for injury. Need an easy way to know exactly when you need new shoes? Try a wearable like MilestonePod. This affordable wearable clips right onto your shoes and automatically tracks shoe mileage and rate of impact, two important indicators of shoe life,” she says.
7. Enjoy the scenery. There’s a reason we all go crazy at the first PSL sighting and chance to throw on a pair of boots. “Everyone’s favorite season is fall for a reason. Along with weather changes, fall brings beautiful scenery, and runners can not only go longer distances in the mild temperature, but can take the time to explore new paths and new destinations. Plan a route that takes you to a new part of town, or if you want a break from harsh winds along the road, get out and check out a new local trail.”
What’s your fave fall running route? Tag us in your pic @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)