Happy Fall! The weather has officially changed. You can smell the difference in the air. We have had thunder, lightening, rain, and sun. I love fall. It’s my favorite season and a great time of year to work on getting healthy. It’s usually summer that makes us think of getting healthy, not fall. And most people don’t think of running to an exercise class as soon as it gets cold outside (oddly enough!), but that is exactly the reason you you need to give it a try! So in that spirit, here are some fall health tips and exercise ideas to get you started.
Getting Healthy in the Fall – Welcome to Off Season
Dietitians, trainers, and people working in health promotion as a whole go through what I’ll call “open season”. Just like the hunting term, when January 1 rolls around it’s almost as if you can hear the sky open up and call “open season!” on all gyms, personal trainers, exercise studios, and dietitians. Our calendars are blacked out.
Those are long days, crowded classrooms, and people calling to try to get their name squeezed onto our schedules so they can squeeze into their pants. Then, after the storm, the quiet comes. It’s like entering a desert wasteland. Exercise classes once waitlisted have open space. There are no lines to use the gym equipment. And all of our schedules get just a little bit looser as summer rolls around. It is time to breathe.
Why Fall is the Perfect Time for Getting Healthy
I love going to the gym in the fall! It is empty! Far emptier than in January or June. I can park with ease, get any piece of equipment or class I want, and I rarely have to wait around long to use anything.
Trying Something New
Fall is an especially good time to try something new. If you are new to exercise, it is a lot easier to schedule a training session and get help using a piece of equipment. It’s even easier to just plain exercise without feeling like everyone and their mother is there watching you try to struggle through a push up.
Do you want to try a new dance class? Pilates? Power yoga? Ballet? Now is the time to do it! As fall kicks in, it is the easiest time to enroll in new classes. Remember all those people who are gone? Neither do the instructors! This is great for getting more personal guidance.
I hear a lot of people new to exercising worry about looking like a fool. Not knowing what they are doing and feeling intimidated when they are surrounded by a bunch of super fit people who could teach a technique class if they wanted to. The latter I don’t think is a fact, but it’s the impression people new to exercise get. The truth is that most of the people in the gym are also just doing the best they can and don’t see themselves as “experts”.
Complete digression for a minute (and me getting on my soapbox): We also tend to judge ourselves a lot harder than the people we deem as super fit gym goers do. Women especially. We have an idea in our head that in order to belong there we need to look like we just walked out of a fitness magazine. From what I’ve seen and experienced this just isn’t the case. I know, I know, you can take me by the hand into your gym and point out the mean and judgmental people you see. And for every one of them I could point out three that are not like that. Maybe it’s confirmation bias, but still, why would you care what mean people think anyway?
Back to the topic at hand: What is better than empty gyms, open equipment, and lots more help when you need it? Cold weather!
Our bodies have a harder time exercising when it is hot or humid outside. They have to actively work to prevent from overheating. As a part of that, you will physically slow down. You won’t perform nearly as well. You will experience more frustration, earlier fatigue, and get exhausted much easier.
Now, bring on the cold and what do you get? More physically optimal exercising temperatures! Yay!! The reverse is also true and as the weather gets freezing, it can be harder to do strenuous exercise again. But just moderate exercise will help your body stay warmer.
Yes, you can adjust to different temperatures, but it takes time. I’ve also never seemed to adjust well to heat. Measurably so. In the hot, humid months, my mile time can increase by as much as 1 minute per mile. I can feel the drag on my feet and the sweat coating my body that just won’t evaporate. I would probably have even worse running times, but by the time it feels like that I generally decide it is time to put up my running shoes until the fall.
But in the fall, the air is crisp and the sun goes down earlier. I can run through my neighborhood in the oasis of my music and thoughts. I can use my spin bike without overheating and have the windows open so I don’t make my room smell like a gym.
Is exercising solo is not your thing? This is the time of year your friends also would appreciate having an accountability buddy to keep them moving too.
Fall Diet & Health Tips
Fall is also the perfect time to pull out the slow cooker. Fast food just isn’t the same as cooking at home. Especially in the winter. Turning on the oven or cooking over the stove is no longer hot and sticky but warm and inviting. Coming home to a warm house with the smells of dinner in the air is priceless.
It’s the time of year to learn new recipes with winter squash and root vegetables. To share dinner and swap recipes with friends. This is the time of year to enjoy food, family, and friends. Exercising will help burn off those additional meals.
But the reality is that you aren’t celebrating at every meal. On average in the fall, how many meals really are celebrations? 4-8 a month? That is only 1-2 per week. Less than 10% of your meals (if you are eating 21 meals a week). Even less than that if you are on the 4-6 mini-meal eating plans.
Even if you are looking at 21 meals a week, that still leaves you 19 solid, balanced, lean meals. Those 2 meals don’t mean much from that standpoint. Make the other 19 a healthy foundation. Oatmeal with cinnamon, flax, and a splash of vanilla soymilk. A grilled eggplant, roasted red pepper, and mozzarella cheese sandwich, beef stew with lean meat and extra veggies, stuffed baby pumpkins. Mmmmm…
I love fall. I love fall meals – both the healthy dishes and the less healthy ones. Baking fresh bread, whole wheat zucchini muffins, sweet breads and making cookies with the kids.
I love signing up for new classes. Learning new exercises. I love running in the crisp air and walking the dog while the kids ride their bikes. Watching the trees change color as I drive by each day, the smell of the pavement after it rains, these are the things I look forward to all summer. I love the quiet and crisp air after dusk, exercising hard without the limits of sweltering heat pushing onto me.
Happy fall!! What are you going to do this year?