Lessons From the Fall: Turn Over a New Leaf and Switch Up Your Program
“Excess generally causes reaction, and produces a change in the opposite direction, whether it be in the seasons, or in individuals, or in governments.” - Plato
As a fitness professional my job pretty much boils down to two facets:
- Helping people establish the habit of regular exercise in their daily lives.
- Once people establish that habit and become daily exercisers, helping them break their habits by switching them up.
In my experience, this second variable is as difficult (if not more so) than the first, for at some level we are all habitual with our behaviors. What we must remind ourselves of is that while we can’t all keep getting faster, leaner, or stronger, we can all experience change through growth. As Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change. To be perfect is to change often.”
The change of seasons into fall gives us a reminder that change is in the air and that it’s time to ‘fall’ into a different habit. Animals do this naturally. As seasons change, so do their lifestyles and in many cases their bodies. They eat the foods nature provides to them, they make adaptations such as developing thicker coats in preparation for winter, and some go into hibernation. Birds, of course, fly south to warmer climates (taking a page from my parents who migrate to Palm Springs in winter). Must be nice!
Unlike the animals (and my parents), our modern technology makes it so that the change of seasons does not necessitate a change in us. But some of us still make shifts consciously or subconsciously in autumn. Fall is a busy time in fitness and the migration back to the gym begins. In my experience, the fall is second only to the onslaught of activity following the New Year’s resolution crowd. Odds are if you were in the gym the last week, it seemed a little busier. Humans, too, are following their natural patterns of change - kids are back to school, summer vacations are over, and the weather is starting to wane.
Most likely, after summer, you fit into one of two camps - you have been exercising a lot, taking full advantage of the summer season, or you have been exercising very little, also taking full advantage of the summer season! Either way, now is the time for a change.
Too Much Summer R&R
For some, summer is a time of rest. As the summer sun shines bright, it can be easy to slip into vacation mode. If this is you, it’s time for you to get moving. Time to join an exercise community such as a small studio, set a goal, and plan an event. It’s the last chance to take advantage of the end of racing season. If you need help getting moving in fall, here are some fall quick tips:
- Join a small community-based fitness studio. A gym doesn’t provide motivation, but communities do. Find one.
- Hire a coach to help you get moving.
- Plan a physical goal (such as losing ten pounds) and plan a functional goal (such as participating in a 5K or sprint triathlon). Both goals will help each other, and the community and your coach will help provide support.
Too Much Summer Exercise
I deal with a lot of exercisers who are creatures of habit and run themselves right into the ground, literally. Summer is a time to run, race, and ride. The days are long and the weather is optimal. The problem is some of us don’t know where to stop. Don’t wait until your body gives you the message the hard way. Let the change of seasons allow you to fall into a different pattern of exercise.
- Start transitioning to an indoor routine that includes lower impact activities - strength training, yoga, and power training.
- Put on that winter coat. Putting on a few pounds of muscle will help your game by giving you more metabolic energy and more strength (yes, ladies, this includes you).
- Give that body a rest and start treating yourself to indoor recovery activities - sports massage, therapeutic modalities of stretching, or hot yoga.
- Start training for a winter activity like skiing, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing.
Other Fall Considerations
Prepping for fall also means changing up how we support our exercise habits with our fuel and our gear:
- If you are feeling overuse symptoms like runner’s knee or shin splints, the first thing you should do is rest. The second thing you should do is look at your footwear. Fall is an opportunity for you to get rid of those shoes you ran all of your summer miles in. Time for some new kicks!
- If you’re staying outside, protect yourself from the elements. That means rain tires (slicks) on the bike, good trail shoes for outdoor elements, and good weather resistant gear.
- Switch up your diet. The natural season changes give us clues of the best foods to eat. Add in some root vegetables such as potatoes and carrots, as well as nuts and seeds, which are full of energy and protein. Squashes berries and pears are plentiful and optimal to eat. Many of us also migrate back to the kitchen in fall and it’s a good opportunity to establish the habit of eating less processed foods and preparing good nutritious meals like soups. Don’t start a diet, but instead use fall as a time to start eating good nutritious whole and raw foods. September is a peak season for healthy fruits and vegetables, so eat lots of them.
- Summer means partying for a lot of people. Maybe, just maybe, you don’t need two (or three) glasses of wine every day. Alcohol is a simple sugar and is metabolized in the body as fat. I sometimes have to remind clients, you can either have fourteen drinks a week or the body you want, but not both.
Fall is an opportunity for change. If we don’t respect the natural states the seasons provide for our lives and our bodies, we can find ourselves out of balance. Being out of balance can leads to changes in mood and resistance from our bodies. To keep your body and mind in balance, change with the season and use fall as a time to restore and rejuvenate yourself.
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.