Autumn, fall, shoulder season – whatever you want to call it, this time of year is most definitely not my favourite. Yes, the leaves are pretty colours and you can finally reacquaint yourself with those chunky knit jumpers you stashed away at the end of spring. But for me, that doesn’t quite cut it.
Having lived in wet west coast cities all my life, the shoulder season is usually something to be endured. There’s no snow on the mountains, or at least, not enough to play in. Sunshine seems like a distant memory and the rain is just relentless – particularly where I currently live in Vancouver. Or should I say, Raincouver.
My natural instinct is to curl up on the couch, put Netflix on and pray that the rain will stop. This, however, is a dangerous path to take. I work from home all day, and if I don’t force myself to go out, I quickly morph into Boo Radley. There is only so much time I can spend inside, staring pitifully through the window, before I start to become strange.
After a while I come to realise that the weather isn’t getting any better, so I have a choice to make – commit to watching an entire season of New Girl in one sitting, or get out and do something. For the sake of my physical and mental health, it’s better if I choose the latter. So, here’s how I stay sane in the shoulder season.
Hiking is something that can be enjoyed whatever the weather. It can be difficult to persuade yourself of this when it’s lashing down with rain. But once you’re out there, it’s not actually so bad. In fact, hiking in the shoulder season has its own rewards – the trails are quieter, the scenery is more dramatic and the sense of achievement is even greater. Just be sure to invest in some good waterproofs, including hiking boots, a Gore-Tex jacket, trousers and gaiters.
Indoor climbing/bouldering gyms tend to get busy during the colder months, and with good reason – it’s a great activity to do when the weather is miserable. You can hone your skills all winter, strengthening your muscles (and the skin on your hands) in time for outdoor summer climbing. If you’ve never climbed or bouldered before, never fear – most gyms offer a beginner’s course, and you can usually rent the necessary gear.
When it comes to surfing, it really doesn’t matter what the chances of precipitation are – you’re going to get wet anyway. So dig out a warm wetsuit, wax your board and keep an eye on the swell. When the conditions are good, you can surf come rain or shine. If you’re a beginner, lots of surf schools operate throughout the year and will take you to the best spot based on the conditions and your ability.
For years I was a fair-weather runner, as I just didn’t feel compelled to go road running in the rain. But then I discovered trail running! There’s something so fun about squelching your way through a forest, sloshing through muddy puddles and hopping over slippery tree roots. You won’t break any personal bests and you’ll probably end up splattered in mud. But your lungs will be full of fresh air, and ultimately, that’s the aim of the game.
New to trail running? Check out my Beginner’s Guide to Trail Running.
Imagine the scene: you’ve been ripping down the trails for an hour, you’re caked in dirt and your butt is soaking wet. Oh, and there’s a great big smile on your face because that was…So. Much.Fun. Sure, wet riding takes a bit of getting used to (hello slippery wood features and sneaky trees roots). But I love how quiet and magical the forest is at this time of year. Then you get to go downhill and the adrenaline kicks in, making it the perfect antidote to a grey autumn day.
I try to keep up my yoga practice all year, as I find it balances both my body and mind. When the days start to get shorter and the temperatures start to plummet, the thought of a cosy yoga class becomes even more appealing. This makes the shoulder season a great time to fall in love with your practice.