How to stay safe while running this autumn

Grit Doctor: Like every season, autumn has its pitfalls, but it also has the advantages of being stunningly beautiful – and it is still warmer than winter

Whether you are running on trails, woodland or in the city parks, leaves can be covering up holes, thorns and tree stumps

Whether you are running on trails, woodland or in the city parks, leaves can be covering up holes, thorns and tree stumps

 

What do you do with all this leaf-fall to prevent accidents?  I slipped during my last run.  Luckily no injury, but it’s put me off for a few days, I can tell you!  Like I needed another excuse not to go for a run?  But seriously, what’s the best way to combat this dangerous autumn terrain?  - Alice

Alice, I feel your pain.  My running woods, once covered in a blanket of crispy yellow leaves is now a carpet of thick brown sludge.  Not ideal underfoot, as it can be ultra slippery, and with this persistent drizzle overhead, it’s not the most motivating weather for running either.  With random storms and hurricanes in between, what’s a runner to do to stay safe?

First things first is stick with it.  What seems gritty now weather-wise is a mere bagatelle to what’s in store, and if we stop running now on account of it, we’ll likely be indoors for the next five months.  I highly recommend running through all the seasons and while autumn, like every season, has its pitfalls, it also has the advantages of being stunningly beautiful at times and, err, let me see, oh yes . . . less cold than winter.

Tips to make autumn running safer

Wherever you can, avoid running on leaves.  Whether you are running on trails, woodland or in the city parks, leaves can be covering up holes, thorns, tree stumps (as I discovered the hard way on a recent lap round the woods), or any other irregularities in the terrain, which can swiftly twist an ankle, or worse. Run on clear paths wherever possible.

Assume all surfaces to be wet.  Shorten your running stride, and slow right down in case of slippage.  This gives you the best opportunity to recover your balance in time to avoid falling over.  Far better to reduce your speed than fall over and embarrass yourself, get covered in mud, or worse, give yourself an injury which can put you out of action for far longer.  Any excuse to slow down is a welcome one (for me anyway), so embrace these extra opportunities to get your breath back. 

Don’t get fooled by all the foliage.  Be extra cautious about visibility, arguably at its worst during autumn.  This is especially important when running on the road side by woodland.  Make sure you wear clothes that are as contrasting as possible to your environment to ensure you remain visible to drivers.

Be weather wise. The weather is super unpredictable right now, as storm Brian and hurricane Ophelia have recently made apparent.  Met Éireann forecasts 13 further storms for Ireland this year, so keep an eye on the forecast and plan accordingly.  It goes without saying that during a hurricane or storm, it’s best to run in the gym.

Explore alternatives.  Autumn is the season to try out new running paths.  Not only is variation often cited as an important technique to keep you motivated long term, but finding more suitable terrain until the trees are fully shed is a safer option too.  Take time and pleasure in discovering new paths.  I like to go with a running buddy and try out their running route.  That way I benefit from all their experience, which lessens my worry factor.  And probably makes me safer as well.

Now is also the perfect time to start looking at alternatives in the form of all those free classes I wrote about in a recent column, and do more sessions at the gym.  I’ve done several inductions already, so I won’t break a bone (or worse still, the equipment) by failing to use stuff properly, and I’ve also signed up for a new class, Zumba, with my au pair.  I’ve not tried Zumba before, and I’ve no idea what to expect: Latin and international dance moves combine to make an effective workout, so says the blurb.  Just thinking about it makes me cringe, but I will use my au pair as a human shield, and hide behind her.  What can possibly go wrong?  I’ll let you know.

The Grit Doctor says

Be grateful you aren’t wearing hat gloves and scarf with chapped lips, streaming eyes and nose.

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