October is upon us and fall is definitely in the air in Northern Colorado! After a host of 90 degree days over the summer, the cooler temps are more than welcome. These slightly chillier days often have people snuggled up inside with a pumpkin spice latte. It’s a pretty enticing thought, but autumn is actually my favorite time of year to get outdoors and go for a nice long run.

As an elite runner – you know the type: lots of bright spandex, weird compression socks, and really horrible tan lines – I log a lot of miles throughout the year and fall is typically when all that hard work comes to fruition for me. After the struggle of the spring and the build-up during the summer, I love the roaring zenith of energy in the fall. I Love finally feeling the result of literally thousands of miles under my heels, when hard workouts and long runs feel easy and all of the elements of a race just click together. It’s an invigorating awareness and it’s available to just about anyone. It just takes some good shoes and a little practice, and that crisp fall air doesn’t hurt either!

The benefits of running go well beyond a strong race performance. We all know that running, just like any cardiovascular exercise, is great for our heart health and helps us maintain a healthy weight. But my favorite perk of pounding the pavement is the way it helps me manage stress and stay focused and energized at work – and the good news is: it doesn’t require thousands of miles! I work down at the Ice Haus and fall is the beginning of our busy season, when I need to have high energy and all my ducks in a row. While I tend to prefer the more intense side of it, there’s no need for a dramatic race performance or odyssey of a long run to reap the stress busting benefits of running. I’ve found that even my shortest, easiest runs are enough to help me prepare for (or recover from!) a crazy day at work. Rough day at the office? Try lacing up your shoes and heading out to one of Greeley’s gorgeous parks or the Poudre Trail to run and shake off the stress of the day. (Here’s a tip: you don’t even need a fancy GPS watch to judge your distance! The trail at Bittersweet Park is just about 1 mile and bigger streets like 23rd and 35th Avenue are usually approximately 1 mile apart.)

Running anytime of the day is beneficial, but for me, starting the day with a run gives it a healthy domino effect. I can eat my fair share of junk food (hello, pizza!) but kicking my day off with exercise helps me make better choices throughout the day, which usually turns into better choices the next day. I haven’t quite kicked my pizza habit but I can keep it balanced with an otherwise healthy diet – a necessity with all of the impending food-centric holidays fall and winter offer!

Speaking of all those holidays, they’re full of fun, family and friends, but can be a big drain on your time and energy. It’s important to find time to take care of yourself and get exercise. I know how those busy days and pressures of family gatherings feel so I set a bare minimum amount of time I need to spend on running and make sure, for my sanity, that I get that time on my feet. It’s usually recommended to spend at least 30 minutes on exercise, but my bare minimum is only 20 minutes. It’s not ideal and of course I usually want to do more, but I know I can always find time to fit in a 20 minute run, relieve a little stress and clear my mind… and maybe earn an extra piece of pumpkin pie.

It’s pretty clear that running is my favorite extracurricular activity, but it doesn’t have to be everyone’s. Even if you’re into hockey or gymnastics or hiking, running can still be a great exercise to incorporate into your fitness regimen. It’s a great and easy way to build endurance for fall and winter sports, and can help identify muscular weaknesses. You don’t need a team, a gym membership or anything fancy – just some shoes and a place to run!

If I’ve piqued your interest, check out these local resources for more motivation:

  • Cranford Cove Tea Tavern (823 10 St. in Greeley) – Free running group open to all levels meets on Thursdays at 6:30pm (discounts on post run beers!)
  • Bells Beginners – 10 week training programs for new runners – find them on Facebook for meeting dates and times.
  • Runners Roost Fort Collins (2720 Council Tree Ave. in Fort Collins) – Free running club open to all levels meets on Wednesdays at 6pm

Written by
Heather Utrata, Greeley Ice Haus