Transition Your Running Routine From Summer To Fall And Winter

With its longer days, pleasant weather, and endless amounts of sunshine, summer is the perfect time to establish a consistent running routine. But when the temperature drops and the more unpredictable weather of fall and winter hit, it can be challenging to lace up your shoes and get outside for a cold-weather run. Challenging—but not impossible! With a few new tweaks, swaps, and strategies, you can keep your regular running schedule going through the fall and well into the winter.

Switch up your gear

Your cotton T-shirts might have felt great during your summer runs—but as the temperature drops, not so much. “Anyone who’s ever run in cotton in the winter knows that it doesn’t feel good,” says personal trainer and fitness and nutrition coach Gillian Goerzen. “Not only will it be more prone to chafe, because the wet cold fabric sticks to your skin, you’ll be more likely to chill.”

Stash away your cotton and switch it up for more seasonally appropriate gear. “Invest in some technical fabrics or wool. Technical fabrics, in general, are created to wick moisture away from the skin. This will go a long way to keeping you both dry in wet conditions and warm in the cold,” says Goerzen. “And while wool might not seem like the best fabric for fall rain showers or winter snow, technical wool is actually fantastic for the wet climate,” she continues. “Even when wet, it doesn’t feel cold and soggy. [This is something that’s] especially important for socks—wool running socks are my go-to for wet runs!”

Keep your head, feet, and hands warm

The gear you wear on your body during fall and winter runs is important for staying warm. But so is what you wear on your extremities. 

“When you run, your head, hands, and feet tend to get cold easily,” says Paul Johnson, founder of digital running and fitness resource Compression+Design. “Combat this by layering up and wearing a hat, gloves, and heavier running socks than normal, even if it doesn’t seem that cold,” says Johnson.

Tweak your routine

In fall and winter, you might not have the same motivation, energy, or opportunity to work out like you did in the summer. And that’s okay! “Transitioning from hot to cold weather running, for most people, means that your ‘A-Race’ has passed,” says Johnson. “Take the opportunity to reduce your mileage, cross-train, and then go into a new basing mode.”

For example, if a midweek, post-work five-miler was the norm during summer, you might need to scale that back to a three-miler in the fall or winter, when it gets darker earlier—or head inside and knock out those miles on the treadmill. The point is, there’s nothing wrong with switching up your training to fit with the current season. “Having different ‘periods’ of your training throughout the year is key for health and performance,” says Johnson.

Enlist the help of a friend

The colder it gets, the harder it can be to get out and get running. “Sometimes the hardest step is the one out the door,” says Goerzen. “So find a buddy to keep you accountable.”

Make set plans to run with a friend a few times a week. Not only will it make it harder to ditch out on a scheduled run (your friend is waiting!), but having a buddy to pass the miles with can also make your runs more enjoyable. 

Put safety first

Safety should be a crucial part of your running routine all year round. But it’s especially important to put safety first during the fall and winter seasons, when daylight hours become shorter by the day. “In the fall and winter, you are often running in lower light, and even darkness, compared to summer,” says Johnson. 

If you can avoid running on the road or near traffic in the dark, that’s your safest bet. But if you do run on or near the road, make sure to invest in reflective gear and lights (for your front, back, and sides), which can make it easier for passing cars to see you. 

The right gear can definitely help in making you more visible during your fall and winter runs. But remember, it’s also important to take your safety into your own hands and make sure you’re paying attention. “In the rain, even if it’s not dark, cars may not see you,” says Goerzen. “Be a defensive runner.”

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