Here Are the Pros and Cons of Seasonal Changes to Workouts

fall running
University of Wisconsin-Madison Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) midshipmen compete in a grueling leg of the Urban Adventure Race on the UW-Madison campus as part of the 43nd Annual University of Wisconsin-Madison NROTC Fall Invitational here, Oct. 24, 2015 (U.S. Navy photo)

Depending on where you live and how old you are, the change from the summer to fall is one of either strong dislike or pure joy. If the cooler temperatures open more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors through social events or exercise, that is a good thing. It can be an entirely different situation for those living up north.

However, if the loose summer schedule tightens during the transition to the fall as school is back in session or work schedules get more intense, you could find it difficult to do as many things as you did during the summer.

For many parents of younger children, the return to school can open time in your day for activities you may have missed during the summer. For parents of older children, watching them leave for military service or college can put a damper on the upcoming season.

As you can see, it depends.

Here are some ways to take advantage of the seasonal change that could prove to be a seasonal habit that you can follow for years. Beware, there are also some potentially bad habits we must deal with as the days get shorter and cooler.

Set a Seasonal Goal (or More Than One)

One way to avoid a potential downward trend is to make a goal for the change of season. You may have more time to train, or maybe you are getting serious with school or work after an easy summer. Regardless, set multiple goals and make the time to accomplish work, school, physical training or health goals during the fall.

Making a routine as quickly as possible when life changes is a start in the right direction. The most important thing when the seasons change is to find something you look forward to doing each day or week that may not be a year-round activity.

More Time to Train (or How to Deal with Less)

Find smaller chunks of time when you can burn off some stress as you strive toward new goals, especially if you are going from a summer of free time to limited downtime in the fall. Make the time, even if the potential activities are only social or sporting events.

On the flip side, if you have more time to fit into your day, it is easy to fill it with useless activities. Instead, consider reading, regularly scheduled exercise and being productive. Of course, no one is a robot, so enjoying some downtime and easy days of nonproductivity can also be useful for your overall health and wellness.

Weather Is Great for Outdoor Activity (but Not Swimming)

If you spent the summer avoiding the heat and humidity, the fall season may be the best time to mix in a cycle of more outdoor training like calisthenics, running, rucking or other cardio events.

As the days get shorter and the nights get colder, the open water swimming or outdoor pools of the summer may require wetsuits. You may need to find indoor swimming facilities. Obviously, you can still get outside as the weather dips toward freezing temperatures, but it will require heavier clothing, discipline and some mental fortitude.

Open Schedule or Busier Work and School Schedule

Every child with a busy fall schedule usually has a parent whose schedule has changed dramatically. Take advantage of this new time available during school hours with exercise, more work hours or starting a new side gig.

However, if you are now busier in the fall than the summer due to your student or work situation, finding a balance between a busy schedule and adding exercise can be a challenge. The goal is either to start a plan or work to maintain as much useful activity as you can each day. Work off steam from long days of work or study to keep yourself healthy and energetic. Consider shorter, more intense workouts some days and easy walks on others to give yourself a good balance of exercise and stress relief.

Fall Temptations

If you are not careful, fall sporting events can become weekend-long social activities full of relatively sedentary behaviors. Though it's fun to attend games, the constant snacking, sitting and drinking can quickly take away your strength and conditioning gains and undo your progress.

If you continue this behavior through the fall and winter spectator sporting festivities, feasts and flu season, getting back to work or school on Mondays can be a brutal transition after a weekend beyond moderation. Have fun, but if you have military service goals with timelines, you may want to take your life a little more seriously to see success.

Training Changes

You may not have as much access to training facilities in the summer as you now do in the fall. If that is the case, a summer that was full of calisthenics and cardio training can start to transition into more lifting.

This type of periodization training is a great way to diversify your fall and winter training program from an endurance and muscle stamina focus to a strength, power, speed and agility focus.. Regardless of your facilities situation, focusing on other elements of fitness can help you be a more well-rounded athlete, especially if you are working to join the military or other tactical professions.

Think of the change of season as a chance to reset yourself. Like a computer needs a "reboot" from time to time, so do our mind and bodies. Looking to and thinking about the future will help you navigate a healthy change of seasons from fall to winter then from winter to spring again, especially if you have changing goals that bring focus to different parts of life.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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