Wow — September begins tomorrow, and the autumn weather that is sure to be coming will be here in a blink.
I love this time of year for many reasons. As a runner, the shift from hot and sticky to cooler temperatures generally makes for faster running times with less effort. As a coach, races at this time of year typically provide an opportunity to celebrate the hard work done throughout the summer training season and create a natural transition into the slower winter training season.
Though I usually stick with a consistent running routine for a good portion of the year, my running habits change along with the seasons.
In the spring, I’m excited to get outside more often as the daylight hours increase and the snow recedes. In the summer, having daylight well into the evening allows for slightly longer runs and — between work and leisure activities — the regular feeling of accomplishment from very productive days. In the fall, I’m happy to run more efficiently after training for months in the heat and humidity…and, at the same time, I’m sad to need my headlamp and safety lights as the days become shorter. In the winter, the freezing temperatures sometimes deter activity and, on the days I venture outside, warming up after a winter run is a full-day process.
Whether you walk, run, swim, bike, or engage in another favorite activity, my guess is that, throughout the course of a year, you also experience changes in the frequency of and effort applied to your selected fitness activities.
Are you intentional about these changes? Or do you wait until something you can’t ignore provides an incentive to switch things up?
Improving over time (e.g., getting stronger, faster, etc.) is a gradual process; your improvement comes by way of consistent, focused effort executed over time in a chosen activity. Even with intentional consistency, building some variation into your fitness routine throughout a given period of time can help you to avoid boredom, injury, and the dreaded fitness plateau.
If you’ve ever been injured, you know that sometimes your body doesn’t cooperate with the goals that you’ve set, providing a forced rest period for healing and recovery. Though the goal is always to avoid injury, making sure that you are enjoying what you are doing is critical to your happiness and your ability to continue exercising on a consistent basis. Taking time for less-intense periods of activity, building in rest, and doing different activities at various points during the year are all ways to ensure that you continue to enjoy your fitness routine.
If you haven’t given much thought to changing your fitness routine on a seasonal basis, you may find that it helps to create space for the periods of rest and recovery that will allow you to continue improving over time. When you resume your focus on a particular activity after a period of reduced effort, odds are good that you will have a refreshed perspective and renewed energy, leading not only to fitness improvements but also to positive changes in your overall well-being.