Summer is over, Autumn is kicking in, and many of us are back to reality with cooler days and longer nights.
Getting fit for Autumn might be your way to get back into shape after a busy summer, kick off the new uni year, or really commit to changing your life now. Today, we’re taking you through the basics of getting fit for Autumn and the restart so many of us need after those sunny summer months.
Getting started or restarted
The autumn season is a great chance to refresh your approach to things like fitness. This is even more true if you’re one of the millions of people who come back to university or have a different schedule during summer.
We’re all going to see some health and mental differences as seasons change. Our circadian rhythms – the alignment of our body’s natural systems with the cycle of the sun – is pushing us to eat and sleep more, and exercise less.
Darker days don’t have to mean accepting a lazy winter, though. We’re not bears, and we can take this as a time to change gears, get restarted with fitness goals, and embrace the perks of cooler months.
Circadian Rhythm: What to Expect from Autumn
As night closes in sooner and sunlight hours drop, you might experience a drop in energy levels. For some people, this is a real risk with things like seasonal affective disorder (SAD), but we all experience it at varying levels.
The first step to sorting your Autumn fitness schedule out is to check in with yourself: are you eating properly? Do you get enough sleep? Is your drinking at a healthy level or are you letting yourself run away with it?
Things like nutrition, sleep quantity and quality, and other lifestyle-management choices come into play more in winter. During that slightly increased stress level of darker nights and colder weather, having your basics locked in is a great place to start – and matters more than ever!
Even if you’re feeling low energy, regular exercise is one of the best, easiest ways to reduce these seasonal depressive effects. It regulates your energy levels, helps you sleep better, and pushes you towards those better sleep and dietary habits that look after your health in the cooler, darker months.
Transitioning from Summer to Autumn
If you’re already into your fitness and health, then the change from summer to autumn might push a shift in focus.
The idea is that we’re going to have less daylight hours, specifically outside, and the season will be ending for a lot of summer sports. This isn’t a bad thing: these sports tend to have off-seasons that you can take advantage of in the same way as elite athletes.
While summer is the competitive season for sports and they shut stadiums down for some events over Autumn, the athletes work hard on things they neglect during the competitive season:
- Building more muscle
- Focusing on strengthening weak links
- Improving tendon health and repairing over-worked joints
- Taking a lighter, recovery-focused phase for health purposes
- Improving power and other high-recovery-demand traits
- Working on new skills, exercises, or types of movement
So, what about you? These are all areas where most of us could stand to improve and the change out of summer sports can be a blessing in disguise – especially with how mud-logged and rainy it might get. When field-sport conditions aren’t looking great, it’s the perfect time to get inside and put in some work.
Making the most of fitness In Autumn
The best next step for you is up to you. We don’t know your life. But we do know what the summer-Autumn transition is like and there are a few major changes you can reflect on that might fit your lifestyle or goals and help you squeeze the benefits out of the changing seasons.
1. Build Muscle
If you’re hot off the heels of a good summer, then you might want to get into the seasonal massing and shredding priorities that many people still use. It’s a bit of a bodybuilding culture meme, but the summer-shreds and winter-gains are a real approach that make sense at a biological level.
We’re not hibernating mammals, but we like to eat more in winter, when resting energy demands are higher due to the climate. There’s never a better time to focus on gaining high-quality weight than in the Autumn and winter months when you’re already eating up to begin with.
As summer sports go out of season and many clubs are less-active, this is a perfect time to focus on muscle mass, strength, and joint resilience. Putting more time and effort into resistance training while you gain weight can be a fantastic investment in your health, fitness, and longevity.
You’ll be wrapped up warm for winter and don’t need to get out to the beach, so even those who are most scared of a little weight-gain can make the best of the cooler climate for gaining mass.
Much like muscle and strength, power is an adaptation that requires good recovery. It’s intense on muscles, connective tissues, and joints alike.
If you’re taking time off of other activities and eating bigger through winter, it’s a perfect time to start working on your power output. That means 2 things: improving your rate of force production from a static position (like a seated jump) and stretch-shortening cycles (like jump series’).
Power doesn’t play well with other high-demand activities, making it one of the best things to focus on with your off-season training. This is also perfectly paired with the improved force that comes with bigger, stronger muscles – and some of the same training choices (like eccentric overload).
If you’ve been working hard through summer, either in sport or in the gym, the increased calorie intake and sleep focus of a good Autumn can really level up your recovery.
Taking a few weeks or even a month of lower-volume work to let your body rest and recover might be exactly what you need.
If you’re new, that’s not the move. However, if you’re already into your fitness and spent the summer blasting yourself in the sun, a little time to recover and adapt is the most important change you can give your body.
4. Picking Up New Sports
Summer sports are winding down, but winter sports and activities are on their way back in. The cooler months have their own sports and ways of keeping moving that you should probably explore.
You don’t need to go up the alps to make the most of winter. Cross-country is still going strong, artificial turf sports are always a great new choice, and sports like ice hockey, indoor athletics, and pool sports (both swimming and water polo) all maintain their strong presence year-round.
If you’re looking for something new, look at indoor sports for Autumn and try your hand at something that will make you fitter, healthier, and get you into new experiences!
5. Dial in Your Diet
Autumn and winter come together in culinary terms: the meals we want to make are warm, hearty, and nutritious. This is a great time to start thinking about the dietary choices you make and setting up big, comforting staple meals to support your body’s needs and development.
Foods like casseroles, pasta dishes, lentil-based dishes, soups, stews, and other classics offer great chances to get practiced in better cooking. Slow-cooked meals that take a simple approach of carb, protein, and veg sources can do a lot of work for your diet overall.
It’s easy to overlook the cooking side of a diet, but focusing some of your attention on these real-world, concrete practices could be a huge improvement. Get used to cooking a meal around the axis of protein-carb-veg (plural) and you’ll be on a great footing for long-term dietary progress.
Key considerations for Autumn exercise
You don’t have to stop your summer sports for Autumn, but there is a reason they’re seasonal.
Many of the sports that we play outside like football run into some gnarly weather conditions. Preparing your body and equipment for that kind of experience is a key part of keeping yourself ticking over through Autumn and then winter.
Make sure that your warm-ups use the kind of conditions you’re playing or practicing in. Expect some frost and ice and make sure your cleats are in shape. Extend your pre- and post-practice cardio a little to keep core temperature up and help joints adapt to the sharp contrast of cold rest and high-demand movements.
Whatever your fitness, put time into the most important nutrients that will help during the winter months:
- Vitamin B: keep your metabolism healthy during cooler months with higher energy demands. Focus on B1, B3, B6, and B12.
- Vitamin D: A powerful anti-SAD vitamin for supporting wellbeing year-round. You should already be thinking about Vitamin D, but even more now that days get shorter, and sunlight is limited.
- Vitamin K: An underrated but crucial circulation-health compound for supporting your vasculature during cool months and outdoor exercise.
- Fish oil: Omega-3 fats are a great way of preventing mental health decline through the winter and can be taken in cod liver oil, which also contains fat-soluble vitamins A and D.
- Magnesium: a circulatory and metabolic support mineral that is also commonly-deficient. Magnesium intake through food (like wholegrains and pulses) or supplementation is a great way to stay healthy when circulation is most important and most at-risk.
- Iron: A key mineral for supporting blood health, metabolic wellbeing, and supporting the immune system. Iron is also commonly-deficient (especially in women) and should be on your watchlist.
- Zinc: another metabolic and immune function mineral, zinc is a great way to support your overall health and wellbeing. It can be found in foods (wholegrains, pulses, red meats, nuts, and seeds) and can be supplemented (often combined with magnesium in ZMA tablets).
Final thoughts on Autumn fitness
You don’t need to lament the loss of summertime. As the leaves change and the days start closing in, there are opportunities to enjoy the different priorities and activities that pop up around us.
Autumn training can be an off-season, a restart, or a brand new start. If you’re into sport already, it’s a time to regroup and work on different priorities. If you’re new to fitness, it’s the perfect time to work on indoor activities and develop some really important foundations (like strength) that serve you well in the long-run.
For all of us, it’s a chance to look at the most important habits – food, sleep, and exercise – and where they fit into our lives. By working through these simple priorities, you can ensure that you’re ready, taking care of yourself, and even making the most of the cooler, darker months!
Medically reviewed by Sian Baker, Dip ION mBANT mCNHC – Written by Beth Giddings
Updated on 1st December 2021