In the Spotlight

Five Tips to Start a New Running Program this Spring

black group jogging

Warm weather arrives in March with the first day of Spring. For many Veterans, this is the best time to get outside and hit the ground running. My HealtheVet has five tips to help you put your best foot forward when you're running outside in the heat.

Did you know that exercising regularly affects more than just physical fitness? You might be surprised to discover that exercise makes you more likely to:

  • Live longer
  • Sleep well at night
  • Be in a good mood
  • Control your weight

And it makes you less likely to:

  • Get Type II Diabetes
  • Get some cancers, such as colon cancer
  • Have low self-esteem
  • Get cardiovascular disease

1. Warm-up and cool-down

Always include a warm-up and cool-down as a part of your exercise routine. A vigorous workout can lead to muscle strain and injury if your body does not ease into and out of aerobic activity. Include stretching after your cool-down routine to increase flexibility. Muscles will still be warm and more flexible, which will allow you to move through a fuller range of motion.

Check out these sample stretches (PDF).

2. Wear proper footwear

You might think that your flip-flops are the most comfortable shoes you own - but they are not appropriate for running. For exercising, be sure to have properly fitted athletic shoes with good arch support. Check out this handy guide (PDF) to pick the right pair.

The right shoes will prevent too much stress on your feet and knees and will help to keep you from stumbling and tripping on obstacles in your path.

Just remember to tie your shoelaces!

3. Don't Overdo it

Remember: you're not a new recruit doing physical training in basic training anymore. Get into your running program gradually to avoid injury and burnout.

For many Veterans, starting a brisk walking program may be more appropriate than running at full speed. Begin by taking it easy on your joints and work your way towards finding the point at which you are challenged.

And keep in mind: if you're running outdoors, you always need to run back home! So be careful to pace yourself and don't run too far in one direction.

Megan Simmons, an Exercise Physiologist and the MOVE!® Physical Activity Program Coordinator, advises that "not everyone is a runner. If it's not for you, whatever exercise you choose, have fun with it. Feel empowered through your routine and you'll see the benefits!"

Looking for more tips on knowing how much is too much? Looking for more tips on knowing how much is too much? Check out "When to Stop Exercising (PDF)."

Men jogging

4. Track progress

Male and female running

Setting concrete goals and tracking your progress in achieving those goals can be a great motivator. Keep the goals realistic. For example, do not start your running program by running in a marathon!

As you keep track of your exercise, you will notice your own exercise patterns. With those records, you'll know how much progress you're making - or if your success is dropping off.

If you find yourself losing steam in your running program, try adding some variety. "Mix up your running routine to prevent injury and burn-out," said Simmons. "Consider running three days a week, while the other two-three days focus on cross-training on elliptical machines, outdoor walking, swimming or yoga. Overuse injuries occur often, and cross training is the number one way to prevent these."

If you don't already have a My HealtheVet account, register today. Use the My HealtheVet Activity Journal* to keep track of how much you are running and walking.

5. Drink enough liquids

Running in heat and humidity can put you at risk for dehydration, heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses. The easiest way to avoid heat disorders is to keep your body hydrated. This means drinking liquids before, during and after your exercise.

Don't drink the kind of soda or fruit juices that will only make you more dehydrated. Choose water or a low-calorie sports drink.

Insufficient liquids will not just leave you feeling uncomfortable - dehydration can lead to fainting or muscle cramps.

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Healthy Living Center: Physical Activity

Activity Journal


Updated/Reviewed: March 7, 2017