In the Spotlight
On Your Mark, Get Set, Plan: Tips to Start A New Running Program
Now that warm weather is here, many Veterans are getting outside to hit the ground running. Check out My HealtheVet's top five tips to help you put your best foot forward when you're running outside in the heat.
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)."
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."
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
Learn how to be active in your own way, from My HealtheVet.
Updated/Reviewed: January 13, 2016