The UK has had one of its best summers in years, even to the point of people complaining about being too warm in the heat wave. All good things come to an end, as they say – so with autumn on the way it is time to think about adapting your fitness regime.
The kids are back to school, the roads are busy again and there is a general feeling that summer is, if not quite over, then drawing to an end. The jumpers and long trousers are replacing the shorts and t-shirts – it is indeed the time that winter draws on.
For many of us the worst thing about the end of summer is the rapid shortening of the daylight hours. If you remember your sine curves from school maths lessons, the times of sunrise and sunset follow these and so at this time of year there is a particularly steep rate of change. It is small consolation to know that the daylight hours will start increasing again from December 21st. Depending on location, it may not be long before people are leaving for work in the dark and returning at sunset or after, giving no leisure time to be spent outside in the light. This means the end of evening sailing, cycling and walking and suddenly there is a big gap in the fitness schedule.
Fortunately many of us still have weekends to get out and about, but with the uncertain British weather there are no guarantees that those two days out of seven will be good. There is even some evidence that the UK can be set in seven-day weather patterns, so it may actually be true that weekdays are sunny and weekends and wet and cold if one of these systems sets in. So if you enjoy being outdoors, it is time to make sure that you have the right clothes for your outings.
Layers are the way to go for the British climate. If you are running or cycling, forget fashion shops and make sure that your clothes wick away sweat, don’t chafe and that you have a waterproof outer layer to hand. A fleece hat is also handy – unlike wool, it won’t itch and won’t absorb water so it keeps you warm even in heavy rain. With those dark evenings, visibility is very important – your clothing should carry some bright yellow for daylight and some reflective strips to pick up headlights. Don’t run or cycle wearing headphones, this is extremely unsafe no matter what you see other people doing. If your running shoes have done a few miles, make sure that they are still supportive. Worn out shoes can cause damage, so downgrade them to gardening in good time and buy some new ones.
Make the most of any good weather to do some walking. It was really too hot this summer to do serious hill walking, but cooler conditions and the long dry spell mean that many tracks and trails are now in excellent form. They will be uncrowded so there will be plenty of space and peace to enjoy the country, especially as the autumn colours start to appear in the next few weeks. Remember to take a phone, some food and drink and some extra clothes, and don’t be caught out by the earlier sunset. If you are lucky enough to live near the coast, the crowds will now have gone so the ‘locals’ can reclaim their beaches for low-tide walks. Dog-owners may also find that the restrictions on where they can take their pet have been lifted with the end of summer, although this doesn’t remove the obligation to do the usual unpleasant bit with the plastic bag. It might be worth noting where the litter bins are placed!
Not too keen on the great outdoors now? Time to move your fitness indoors. Fortunately early autumn is an excellent time to get good gym deals, whether on contract or pay as you go. Most people resolve to join a gym after the over-indulgence of Christmas, so at that time of year there are plenty of new recruits. Now, everyone’s thoughts are elsewhere, so it should be possible to negotiate a discount or find a special offer for gyms eager to attract new customers.
Remember that there is more to gyms than just exercise machines. There are always new fitness classes to try, and there is no doubt that exercise to music is incredibly motivating and lifts the mood. You might also want to re-acquaint yourself with your local swimming pool, whether for a session of length swimming or to do some water aerobics classes. If you missed out on learning to swim earlier in life, sign up for an adult beginners’ class – these are friendly and fun and will mean that you head towards 2014 with a new skill.
If you have done good work with fitness and healthy eating over the summer, don’t stop now – no-one wants their ‘winter coat’ to show permanently on their waistline! We can’t do anything about the changing seasons (short of changing hemispheres for six months) so be positive about autumn and make the most of every day.