September usually means back to school and regular work hours. The last few months before the snow flies are probably the most determinant of the season and there are plenty of obstacles to overcome.
- School or work starts. This means that your perfect lifestyle which consists of training, eating and sleeping with a few distractions (for the lucky a calm part time job) to sufficiently exercice your intellectual aspirations are to be forgotten. Reality kicks in quite quickly and you need to adjust to school and the homework. For our elders eh.. veterans, work and the regular schedule will resume and may consist of long hours for many. The trick here is to keep it in balance. You will probably do less hours and more intensity but that should not mean less recovery. It's safer and almost always better in the end to ease off on the training load and not overcommit elsewhere than to try and do everything. Doing too much only works for so long and things usually breaks down at the most critical part of the year, where it actually counts. September colds and unusual fatigue are the most obvious symptoms although they are not necessarily related.
- The weather changes at this time of year and so should your clothing and preparation. From now on you should always put more thought in preparing your workouts. A fresh morning can quickly turn into nasty hypothermia if you approach it like in the summer. Rain comes and goes in a more unpredictable fashion and it can be cold. If you are not ready with clothes for the pre, post and in between workout, you may end up with unnecessary colds, hypothermia or just miserable and unproductive workouts. Bring warm dry clothes in the car and something like a sleeveless vest and arm warmers or a light lifa as a backup during practice. This becomes a need for those epic workouts where impaired judgment from extreme conditions can all too easily lead to minor annoying injuries and exhaustion.
- Daylight is getting shorter, and eventually it will be dark after school or work. Planning ahead is critical as leaving for a 2-hour rollerski at 4:30 will could lead to dangerous cyclepaths full of wet slippery leaves and no means of seeing or being seen. Once again safety first. Plan workouts in the morning or during the day if possible and if not then, bring the right equipment. Some activities like urban runs are more adapted to nighttime.
- The last point to take into account is motivation. Now that you have done all this summer training it's time to use it. That accumulated base will carry you through the intensity sessions. Remember to train despite the rain and the dark because soon enough that airborne humidity will freeze.
According to some French XC Ottawa alumni, winter will be here quicker than last year (some unscientific theory about bear tracks and crazy squirrels, hope he is right) so don't despair, and keep it up.