How to Make the Most of the Fall Running Season
Five simple strategies to stay motivated as the seasons change
With crisp weather and gorgeous scenery, fall is a great time to run. But the change in season also brings fewer daylight hours, tighter schedules, and increasingly cooler temperatures. For some runners, making the adjustment—and staying motivated—can be challenging. Sound familiar? Here’s how to embrace the season.
1) Find a Partner
“It’s simple human psychology: you’re much less likely to flake on a workout if you know you’re accountable to someone,” says Carrie Cheadle, a certified mental-performance consultant and co-author of Rebound: Train Your Mind to Bounce Back Stronger from Sports Injuries. This applies to both getting out the door and pushing yourself harder in the actual workout. “People need someone to own up to,” says Coach Morgon Latimore, who works with runners of all abilities. “We’re a driven society and don’t want to let anyone down.”Another great thing about partners: you’ll perform better running alongside one, as studies show we’re more focused and less distracted by the pain when we’re running with someone or training with a group.
If this accountability relationship needs to be virtual right now, get creative with your check-ins. Take a post-workout selfie, tag your partner on social media, or send a message via Under Armour's MapMy Run mobile training app and social run community. You can also share your MapMyRun logs with friends, allowing you to see, comment, and like each other’s workouts. Whatever your goal, let your buddy help you reach it—and vice versa.
Another option is to sign up for a virtual running challenge, like the ones Under Armour is hosting right now in Boston, Chicago, and Baltimore, where you can virtually link up with hundreds of other runners. They're free to join and fun to do: at each milestone, you'll receive a scavenger hunt or puzzle to solve, which unlocks a prize or discounts at local retailers. You also have the option to upgrade your experience and get limited-edition, city-specific UA gear.
2) Use New Music as a Motivator
When it comes to getting a push out the door, music is one of the best motivators, says Cheadle. It can also, according to multiple studies, boost performance. For most runners, songs with an average of 120 to 130 BPM are the ideal tempo for fast, powerful running, and matching your stride to a particular beat can help you better regulate your pace and make you a more efficient runner. But you can do better than just queuing up some random playlist. “I often encourage people to play with music,” Cheadle explains. “Put some thought into what you want from a particular workout—to get fired up and go? To get into a competitive frame of mind? Tap into that emotion and then match the music you like to the mood.” Since the pandemic began, Under Armour athlete and Olympic runner Aisha Praught-Leer has been doing just that. “I make playlists on Spotify, put my phone on airplane mode, and have fun with it,” she says.
3) Explore a New Route
If you’ve been running the same two or three routes all summer, take some time to develop new routes for fall, especially if your favorite routes are now more crowded—or more affected by the changing weather. The MapMyRun app makes this process easy—browse popular routes uploaded by other runners in your community or build your own using the custom route planner which estimates key stats like mileage and elevation gain. Since the season is putting its colors on display, try to design one that will take you past the best foliage in your area.
Cheadle says another option is to simply run your usual loop in the opposite direction. “The brain will take in the stimuli in a different way,” she says. “We are wired to enjoy novelty—it makes us feel good and happy. The act of running somewhere new and different can be a huge mood booster.” Praught-Leer favors creating a point-to-point route for some variety. “I’ll make a fun route or explore a new trail and coordinate for my husband to either drop me off or pick me up at the end,” she says.
4) Embrace the Lunchtime Run
There’s no question that dark mornings and dark evenings can put a damper on motivation. “It’s natural for us to want to dial back and come indoors once the weather starts turning,” says Cheadle. “Lack of sunshine can be pretty impactful on your motivation.”
The simplest solution: the lunchtime run, which, if you’re now working from home due to the pandemic, might be even easier to pull off. “If you have the flexibility in your day, try running at lunchtime,” she says. “The key is to plan ahead so that you’re not making a decision in the moment, which might kill your motivation.”
5) Mix It Up
The changing of the seasons is a great excuse to switch up your routines, especially if you’ve been running hard all summer. “You don't always have to be running to become a better runner,” says Praught-Leer, who emphasizes the importance of cross-training, especially during the fall, to avoid burnout and injury but also for the endorphin release, which can help keep your spirits up as the days get shorter. Her go-to workout (see video above) is simple: Goblet squats, Romanian deadlifts, and kettlebell swings—10 reps each; three rounds total. “Together, these movements build strength in key muscle groups for runners and they're a great change-up from the normal running routine.”
Coach Latimore agrees, as long as you keep it simple. “As we head into fall, allow yourself some adjustment time before putting too much on your plate,” he says. “Remind yourself why you started and keep that front and center so you can stay healthy and do what you love to do.”
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