Illustrations by Geoffrey Grahn
Is it just us, or is autumn the best time of year to be a runner? Still warm enough for shorts (hopefully), but just cool enough to inspire you to pick up the pace. And you’ve taken advantage of the long summer days to log more miles or train for a race, so you’re more fit than you’ve been all year. But this otherwise ideal season is fleeting, and without the right focus, you could lose all you’ve gained as winter rolls around. So make the most of your summer fitness and build on it. Whether you want to work on your motivation, speed, strength or endurance, we’ve got a plan for you.
SUMMER ACHIEVEMENT: Became a runner
This summer, you became a runner (maybe again). Congrats. Now that you’ve got the right running shoes, the right running routes and the right running partners – well, you’re on the right track. But keeping it all going through the lovely autumn is the key to staying with it through the more challenging winter, says Jenny Hadfield,
co-author of Running for Mortals (£10.53, amazon.co.uk).
AUTUMN GOAL: Stay motivated
Now that you’ve reached your original goal of becoming a runner, set your sights on another running goal to keep yourself pumped. Lots of new (or returning) runners get motivated by choosing a race as a goal, but use whatever target works for you, whether that’s building up to your first 10-mile run, running five times a week, or logging 100 miles in a month. “A good goal keeps you excited,” says Hadfield.
Consider trading concrete for dirt this autumn. Running on trails reduces your risk of overuse injuries because the surface is more forgiving. “Autumn is a beautiful time of year to enjoy trails,” says Hadfield. Fartlek runs, which randomly alternate faster bursts of running with slower jogs, are a great way to challenge yourself – and have fun – on trails. After warming up, set your sights on a big boulder or towering tree up ahead and increase your pace until you reach it, then run easy for a while before picking another landmark. But be careful, because the uneven terrain can increase your risk of an ankle sprain. “Keep your eyes about three feet ahead on the trail,” says Hadfield.
Vary Your Pace
Mix in some faster running to keep things interesting and enhance your fitness. Hadfield suggests a ‘negative split’ as a good way to start speedwork. Pick an out-and-back route. Run for, say, 20 minutes, then turn around and try to cut one or two minutes off that time coming back. You can also incorporate faster running into your normal routes by dividing some runs into five-minute segments, suggests Hadfield. Run the first one or two minutes of each segment at a pace that is faster than regular training pace, then ease back.
Simple logistical changes to your regular running routine can help keep your enthusiasm high, says Hadfield. Do you always run alone? Start running with a friend, or join a local running club. If you normally run in silence, try running with an iPod. Instead of always running from your front door, occasionally drive to a nice park or beach for a change of scenery.