By: David Ball
The mornings are officially feeling crisp, the sun is going down earlier than we want but we still need to get outside…how do we manage that with less time? The answer: Trail Running.
Trail Running in the fall is really the peak season for the activity. With cooler temps you can run longer, need less water to stay hydrated and maximize your time outside with less daylight by covering more ground than you would just hiking. So, what do you need to know to get started with some fall trail running? Look no further.
First things first, if you’re freezing, you’re not having fun. You have to strike a balance while running, since you’ll warm up as the activity goes, I’m a firm believer in the philosophy of “be bold, start cold.” Which is to say that how cold you are at the trail head before you start isn’t how you’ll feel the entire run – so running in a puffy coat is only going to work against you by the time you’re officially all warmed up.
In the parking lot have on a beanie, some sweats or something to keep your entire legs warm and a jacket on. Here’s where you’ll do some warming up, which is crucial for your muscles when running in colder temps. This is where the extra layers will help warm your muscles up faster as you job in the parking lot a bit, do some dynamic stretching (never static stretching before a run, save that for after). Once your warmed up and about to hit the trail, you’re ready to shed a few items.
You can ditch the jacket and, most of the time unless it’s really cold out or you’ll encounter deep snow, the tights or sweats you’ve had on to warm up your legs. You can run in shorts almost year-round and feel fine, it’s often just outside things, like snow, rubbing them that you’ll want to protect against with tights or similar clothing. Leave the big jacket behind and only bring with you a light fleece jacket that you can unzip most of the way if needed to vent some heat.
Gloves are always smart to have on you during colder run. Our bodies pull in the blood from our extremities to keep our core warm and blood moving through the muscles that we’re using the most – in this case our legs. So, hedging your bets against cold fingers buy purchasing a thin pair of running gloves is never a bad decision.
While on your run make sure you start off slow and give your muscles time to really warm up and activate. While you did some jogging and stretching before starting your full run, the best thing you can do is start easy and build into your full pace, don’t go full speed right out of the gate. Cold muscles act like tight rubber bands, you want to gradually stretch them rather than crank on them right away.
Now you’re back in your car after a great fall run. Your hands stayed warm with your pair of running gloves, your legs weren’t cold even though you were just in shorts and your arms and core even got a little too hot, so you unzipped and vented your fleece jacket a bit to let some unwanted heat out. You didn’t even drink any of the water you brought because you hydrated well before your run and the cool temps kept you from sweating too much. Now what?
Put some of those layers you left at the car back on! As you wind down from your run the sweat on your body will very quickly start to cool you down and drop your body temperature if you let it. Put on your jacket, a beanie and even sweats again while you cool down in the parking lot, sip some water and do some light stretching. It’s crucial you don’t let yourself get too cold after a run, or in a few days you’ll be wondering where that sneeze and cough came from.
Trail Running in the fall is something you’ll love, especially when well prepared for it. You’ll get to enjoy the cooler temperatures, see all of the amazing fall colors we love so much, and see more places because you’re moving more efficiently. By this time next year, you’ll be begging for those temperatures to drop and leaf’s to change colors.
About the Author:
David considers himself the ambassador of the “Radically Mediocre” lifestyle. He defines this as being able to “hang with people doing just about anything and not slow them down.” You can find him trying to get people to talk to him about the book he just read in coffee shops, or in the western U.S. getting pumped out on scary trad leads (and follows), skydiving, split-boarding and trail running in his home mountain range, the Wasatch, with his dog Margo. Follow him on instagram at @DavidDenverBall.