Back-to-School Running: How to stay motivated and set a running schedule for fall

After a calm summer vacation, perhaps spent travelling in an RV or relaxing on a dock, September can loom large with all of its many responsibilities. Yes, once Labour Day goes by, it can feel like there’s a new boss in town, as fall takes over with work, school, and extracurricular activities (whether you have kids or not) dictating a more rigid schedule.

“I’ve always joked that the beginning of the year isn’t in January, the beginning of the year is in September,” says retired teacher and Run Ottawa member David Dazé.

So how does one get back into a regular running routine during this hectic season? Here are some tips from three Run Ottawa members.

The First Priority: Prioritize

Dazé, who used to teach at Monsignor Paul Baxter Catholic School and organize its cross-country running program, says he always had to “plot it into his schedule” or his runs wouldn’t happen. Planning your running days and routes is a must.

The same advice goes for young runners who are returning to school. “I balance school with a lot of early morning runs to start the day during the week,” says 17-year-old Breton Perras. “On weekends, I try to get out to keep up with my training goals.”

Perras, who starts Grade 12 at Longfields-Davidson Heights Secondary School this September, is one of Run Ottawa’s youngest members. He ran the Scotiabank Ottawa Halfmarathon at this year’s Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend and is now training for the National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association (NCSSAA) cross-country season.

“Running is one of my number one priorities along with school work. When fall starts to get busy, I need to prioritize things as much as possible in order to keep my running goals on track,” he says.

And there is no harm in setting your fall running schedule early! Heather Gordon, a teacher and marathoner, made her weekly schedule in early August: two days of the week are musts—rain or shine—and every Sunday she and her running partner choose a third day based on weather and other obligations.

Make it a Team Effort

Even with a running plan in it place, it’s easy to let yourself slide.

While training for his half-marathon, Perras began to run with his cross-country teammates. Not only would his faster running partners push him, but it kept him more accountable to his scheduled runs.

Gordon, who teaches Grade 6 French immersion at Rockcliffe Park Public School, feels the same way and looks to her students to keep her in check. “I tell my students in the first week of school what my running goals are for the year.”

Heather Gordon Amanda Beaubien

[Amanda Beaubien, Heather Gordon]

This season she has been training for the 2019 Army Run’s Normandy Challenge (5K and 10K).

Her teaching colleague Amanda Beaubien became a running partner almost two years ago, and the pair train together every week. They developed a schedule where they run right after work before they go home—a trick that keeps them running more regularly.

“If you get wrapped up in your home life, you’re not going to go outside again to run,” she says.We bring all our stuff and we run from the school.

Find and Make the Time

Staying organized and motivated to reach training goals or races can be tough, says Dazé. He’s been training for the 2019 Army Run’s Commander’s Challenge (5K and a half-marathon), which has helped him build up momentum for the fall.

But when he was working as a teacher and his kids were getting into activities, he had to improvise. One of Dazé’s tricks included overlapping his kids’ activities with his runs.

“When my kids were younger, maybe 10 or 11, they were taking martial arts,” he says. “I would take them to the studio and then while they were doing their onehour lesson, I would go for a run.

I would always try and combine the two. One of my kids had dance on Saturdays, so while she was doing her practice, I‘d go for a run and then pick her up.

Making that running schedule, enlisting the attendance (or attention) of others, and sticking to the plan can all go a long way as September madness takes hold. Don’t give up and good luck running and training this fall!