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Autumn is one of my favorite times of year for being active outdoors. The weather is cooler, the leaves are starting to change color, long sleeve shirts come out of the closet for the run, arm and knee warmers become a staple for most any ride, and trail running and hiking happen more often.

But there are also challenges to training this time of year as well: there are fewer daylight hours for biking and running safely and if, like me, you have had limited access to a pool this year, then the prospect of swimming in open water when the water and air temperature is cool isn’t as appealing.  So what can training look like in the Fall?

If you’ve already reached your goals (big event, PR, etc.) for the season, take a break. Take at least two weeks off from structured training. Emphasize sleep and relaxation during these two weeks. Plan on getting 8 hours of sleep per night. If you can’t get 8 hours of sleep, then make sure to set aside time for a 20-30 minute nap in the early afternoon. A break like this is for your physical and mental health. Physically and mentally we can’t always be pushing a harder gear and striving to reach the next goal.

Stay active during this break, but be active for the joy of being active and because you like to move your body. Go on a bike ride with family. Join a group ride if you feel comfortable with that during the pandemic. Explore new routes just because that road is there. Try out gravel riding or mountain biking. If you run exclusively on the road, then hit the trails or gravel roads,. Go for a swim because you like it and without a set workout. Whatever you do, do it because it is fun, low stress, and enjoyable. Even consider leaving the devices (Garmin watch, power meter, HRM) at home. And of course, cut loose a bit when it comes to healthy eating, but not too much. As I tell my athletes, “Take a break from structure. But don’t just eat Toblerone’s and Mars Bars the whole time.”

If goal completion is still weeks or months away, you still need to adjust your training because of changes in daylight and weather. Safely riding outdoors in the early morning or evening is out, so take the bike indoors. Set your bike up on a trainer (I love the  Wahoo KICKR and KICKR Core models) and explore the roads of Watopia or the courses on Rouvy as motivation to continue training. Indoor training on the bike is a great way to really focus on hitting the workout your coach has prescribed for you. Plus, it allows you to engage in banter with other athletes around the world. If schedule allows, on the weekend take the bike out after the sun comes up. 

If you do decide to hit the roads at this time of year, invest in a good set of lights for your bike. Many European countries require the use of bike lights at all times and their bike fatality record is significantly lower than the US. For upfront, I recommend buying a headlight with at least 400 lumens for riding at dawn or twilight that has multiple intensities and a strobe setting. Use the strobe setting during the day and make sure it is pointed toward the road and not up into the eyes of drivers. For the rear light, I’m a huge fan of the Garmin Varia RTL515 Bike Radar Rearview Tail Light for it’s visibility and the radar function that can connect with your Garmin head unit to tell you when a car is approaching from the rear. Remember to always ride defensively. Drivers know to look for other cars, but don’t always look for cyclists. Be seen and be safe!

For the run, invest in good running lights and reflective clothing and run in the early morning. Good running lights and reflective clothing are about being seen and not about looking nice. Put on that gaudy reflective clothing and turn your lights on and make sure you are lit up like a Christmas Tree. As daylight lessens, drivers are less aware of pedestrians so run defensively. If you run in the evening, then be even more cautious. Remember, early morning running gives you a bit more safety because there are fewer people out on the roads.

Likewise, it might also be difficult to get into open water comfortably during Autumn, so shift your swim workouts to the pool. If your race is taking place in open water, then make sure to practice open water swim skills (sighting, fast race starts, treading water, and turning at the “T”) regularly.

If you are done with the season, then enjoy being an active person this Autumn! You don’t have to be training for something all the time. And if you still have a race on the calendar, good luck! Tailwinds all the way! Enjoy the change in weather and the new stimuli this wonderful season presents.

Coach Jim Rowe

Playtri Level 2 Coach

UESCA Certified Triathlon Coach

TRX Certified Coach

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