Gearing ourselves up for the change of season

Mary Jennings: Now is the time to reluctantly accept that the sense of freedom and lightness of summer running is almost gone

Signs of autumn are everywhere these days, but for me the change of season is most real once I replace running shorts with longer leggings. Now is the time to reluctantly accept that the sense of freedom and lightness of summer running is almost behind me for another year. But this change of running attire also marks a new beginning. It is not just a chance to refresh the wardrobe but also a reminder to plan and get excited about the autumn days of running ahead.

Digging out memories

As I unpack that bag of heavier running gear not worn since late spring, I reminisce about the miles these outfits have already travelled over their many years. I wonder where they will end up running this year and who I will share those miles with. The old race T-shirts remind me of challenges completed and great days out. The festive leggings have plenty stories to tell too. Even the impulse buys I bought but have not worn yet are staring back at me reminding me that I don’t need any more new gear. I can only wear so much. But somehow it keeps on multiplying.

Shining bright

While most of the leggings and long sleeve tops are still too heavy to wear, there is one item in the bag I need now. My hi-visibility vest will accompany me on every morning and evening run for the rest of this year and beyond. September running can be misleading when it comes to safety, particularly where daylight is concerned. We can start a run in bright sunshine and be surprised to finish in darkness. But from hi-vis vests to lights and gadgets that keep us illuminated, there are endless options on the market that are comfortable as well as practical for runners. Even though it may feel too warm still for an extra layer, this is one which we really need to prioritise from this week onwards.

Staying cool

With changeable autumn weather there can sometimes be a temptation to layer up when heading out, especially if the weather looks a little murky outside. But remember how quick you will warm up once running. It is not that cold yet. Your body has to work harder to keep you cool if you overdress so try to be practical. Light layers you can take off and tie around your waist are ideal if you cannot face those first few chilly minutes. Consider a warm-up indoors if that helps you avoid bringing too many extra layers. We will have plenty time in the depths of winter for all your heavy gear and once you are out the door the weather is always better than it looks from inside the window. So dress with the second half of your run in mind.


Keeping hands free

Being practical in the season of falling leaves and fading light means that the chances of slipping are higher right now. I always remind those I coach to run with their hands free for balance, posture and indeed safety. You are less distracted if your hands are free but also you can react quicker if you do slip or lose your footing. Most running gear has pockets for phones and keys, but if not, a small investment in a running belt to hold everything will stand to you right though the seasons. That is one item I would add to your shopping list.

Taking stock

As you refresh your wardrobe, now might be a good time to check to see if your essentials are still up to the job. While I don’t suggest you need to keep up with the fashions of the seasons, many of us forget to consider the basics of comfort in running in favour of the latest gadgets and outer layers. Check to see if your ageing sports bras might need to be tightened and refreshed or consider if your running shoes might need an upgrade. Don’t forget to protect your skin as well. The autumnal weather can be as wearing on our skin as the summer sun, so a good barrier cream on face, lips and hands will act as protection.

Off to a new home

As part of this new beginning, decluttering might be on your mind. If you have great intentions of minimising your running wardrobe, be honest about which gear you will wear in the coming season. We probably all have good quality hardly worn items that we have kept for that just-in-case scenario. If you didn’t wear them last winter, what are the chances of you wearing them this year? If you have good quality items you know will remain on the shelf, why not give them a new running life. Contact your local branch of Sanctuary Runners who will help distribute these items to runners in direct provision.

Dress for success

As I pack away most of the summer gear, I could focus on what we will miss about the summer. But rather than be disappointed about the passing of the season, lets decide to celebrate the autumn instead, get out there and enjoy it. Only last month were we all complaining that it was too hot to run. It is now the optimal temperature and the most colourful and striking months in nature if we choose to look around when we go out.

So it’s up to you. Pop on your hi-vis and get out the door. You won’t regret it.

- Sign up for one of The Irish Times’s Get Running programmes (it’s free!) First, pick the eight-week programme that suits you.

  • Beginner Course: A course to take you from inactivity to running for 30 minutes.
  • Stay On Track: For those who can squeeze in a run a few times a week.
  • 10km Course: Designed for those who want to move up to the 10km mark. Best of luck!

- Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with Her autumn running programmes kick off in Dublin and online this week.