5 Tips for Easing Into Fall Running

Don’t ditch the outdoors for the treadmill just yet. 

A man and woman run across a grassy ridge in the high desert of Central Oregon.

Come winter, you’ll wish you had taken advantage of fall – an ideal season for trail and other outdoor running.

With the summer quickly coming to an end, runners will start to see the sun rising a little later and setting earlier. Outdoor workouts are suddenly feeling a little cooler, darker and maybe a bit damp. Is it time to start thinking about moving your workouts indoors?

Not so fast. Fall still offers some great opportunities to get outside. So before you trade the running path for the treadmill, take advantage of the beauty fall has to offer with these five tips:

1. Stay outdoors as long as you canAlthough the light is dimming and the weather is cooler, fall is a just a preview of what’s to come. Soon it will likely be much darker and colder. Fall is a transitional season, so look at it that way. Remind yourself that cool, damp and dark might seem dreamy in a few short months, when the alternative is snow, wind or driving rain.

2. Layer up. Wearing a light outer jacket that’s easy to take off will keep you warm at the beginning of your workout and is easy to take off a mile or two down the road. The rule of thumb is to dress for weather 20 degrees warmer than the temperature outside. This is because as you warm up, your body will feel that much warmer. Wear your outer layer while warming up and take it off as soon as you’re warmed up. You don’t want to overheat, which will just soak your clothes and can lead to chaffing, chills – and general stinkiness – later on.

3. Wear reflective gear. Once the light dims, it’s a good idea to wear reflective clothing and carry a light with you when you run. Reflective clothing and lights help cars see you when you’re on the road. Most running gear, including many brands of shoes, hats, gloves and jackets include reflective strips that will make you easier to see. You can also buy a reflective vest that will slip over the top of your clothes to really increase your visibility to cars. Carrying a light or wearing a headlamp will help you see the ground so you don’t stumble and turn an ankle when running in low light.

4. Run in the woods. Get under tree cover as a way to get out of the rain or wind. Running in the woods among fall leaves is not only beautiful, but the leaves themselves keep trails from becoming super muddy like in the early winter or spring. Fall’s the perfect time to explore a new trail, take in the views and share some pics on Instagram or your favorite social network with your running friends. Trail runs are also great for playing games like follow the leader or doing Fartleks, a way of running in which people can take turns leading the group at varying speeds.

5. Get some new shoesI always suggest that runners replace their running shoes seasonally. It’s an easy way to remember that it’s time for new shoes and keeps your shoes fresh and springy. Plus, what better way to motivate you to get outside and run than the prospect of trying out that shiny new pair of shoes? Your legs will feel great and you’ll get in a good habit of replacing your shoes about every three to four months. Just don’t stress about the fact that they’re going to get a little damp and dirty. It’s going to happen eventually anyway.

Fall is a great season to stay outside and stay active. The weather may not be appropriate for picnicking, but the cool temperatures are great for running and racing. Take the time to enjoy this cusp season. You can even get pumpkin spice-flavored energy bars now to really get into the spirit while you’re out there.

By  for US News & World Report