Late Summer Is The Best Time To Start Running

As summer eases into autumn, we stand at the prime time to start, or restart, a running routine. We're looking at two months or so of beautiful running weather, with plenty of light in the mornings and evenings. Lace up, and let's get started.

Illustration by Sam Woolley.

The Weather Is Perfect, And It's Only Getting Better

Because it's summer, you probably already enjoy plenty of time outside. Maybe you're walking around more, or taking your kids to the beach or the playground. Compare this to how you'd feel if it were July and you had to unwrap your Snuggie and drag yourself off the couch. Take advantage of your sunny, active tendencies while you still can.

But it's hot out, you say. This isn't actually that much of a problem. Let's say today has a high of 32C. You can probably find a nice 21C hour some time in the morning, or a slightly warmer time around sunset. Then, as we head into March, the weather will cool off and your runs will become even more enjoyable.

Even if you can't avoid the heat, you'll be fine. Running in the heat slows you down, but makes you stronger in the long run. If you can stand to exercise when it's sweltering, you'll be in even better shape when the weather cools off. It's like giving yourself a superpower.

Either way, you have a few months of decent weather before winter begins. If you live in a cold climate, you'll need to buy some extra gear and learn to deal with wintery weather. But it's summer now! Those days are far in the future. When the chill finally creeps in, you can build up your wardrobe and your courage a few degrees at a time.

Now Is a Great Time to Start a New Routine

If you have to work around school schedules, the start of the school year is a perfect time to get your routine settled. It's easy to stick with exercise when you've built a habit that works for you, so give your schedule some thought.

I like to exercise right after dropping my kids off at day care, so that my run is over before I begin my workday. Summer holidays have ruined that schedule, so I'm looking forward to when the school year starts again, and I can get back in that habit.

If you're a student yourself, think of your workout as one more class you have to schedule in your day. Pick a time slot you'll stick with. If you wouldn't sign up for an 8AM class, you probably won't enjoy an 8AM run.

There's one more scheduling advantage when you start a running routine in late summer: Early mornings and late evenings still have plenty of light. That means you can fit an outdoor run into your schedule almost any time, and not have to worry about carrying a torch and dodging unseen potholes. You'll have to adjust your schedule (or buy a torch) as the days get shorter, but at least you can enjoy the light while it lasts.

There's an Autumn Race With Your Name On It

I have a hard time sticking to an exercise program if I don't have a clear goal to train for. That's why I always try to put a race on my calendar, even if it's months away.

Even if you don't run at all, you can ramp up to running a 5K in two months. The classic couch-to-5K program takes nine weeks, and the training programs from running websites and apps tend to be either six or eight weeks long.

That means you have plenty of time to train for a cool autumn race. Check out the Runner's World's race finder -- I can almost guarantee there will be one near you.

Don't stress about this. Most races you'll encounter as a casual runner are easy to run for fun. You pay your fee, pin on your numbers and join a ton of runners of all levels in what's basically a big group workout. Most 5K races include both runners and walkers, so no matter how slow you run, you won't be the last across the finish line.

You can do a nine week program with plenty of time to spare. Heck, you can do a six-week program twice. Ready? You've got this.

If You Miss This Perfect Window, You Still Have Options

If you're reading this in February or March, skip this section. Just start running now, and don't second guess yourself.

Still here? OK, it must be some other season. There are some second-best times to start, so you don't have to be too disappointed:

  • Spring Is Almost as Good as Late Summer. You're avoiding the heat of summer, and the chill of winter. The only downside is that you have to deal with cold weather right away, instead of easing into it.
  • Winter Is Great, If You Live in a Warm Climate. You can ignore everything I've said about snow and ice, and just enjoy having some not-scorching weather to run in. Australia's winter is fairly mild, so it's a good time to start for Australians.
  • January Is Good for Finding Company. Everybody is jumping on the new year's resolution train, so it's easy to find a buddy to join you.
  • Two Months Before a 5K Race, Any 5K Race. If your town has a race you'd like to try (or if you find one you'd like to travel to), you have a built-in training schedule. Two months is plenty of time to ramp up.

In truth, the best time to start running is right now, no matter when right now is. There's no point in waiting for a better time to roll around.

But I really think there's something special about late summer. The weather is great, you're outdoors anyway and you have plenty of nice days on the calendar before the darkness and the cold set in. Take advantage while you can. This is an excellent time to start.


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