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Safety Shapeup Tips

Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 19, 1998 – The DoD initiative "Operation Be Fit" focuses on improving physical fitness activity opportunities and encouraging greater participation in fitness activities by service members, their families and DoD civilians.

Here are some of its guidelines to help you improve your performance level, reduce injuries and give you the best workout ever!

  • Stretch before and after exercising. Proper stretching can mean the difference between agony and enjoyment. It increases the range of motion of your muscles, reduces injury risks and improves your performance, among other benefits.
  • Increase your mileage sensibly. Avoid doing too much exercise too soon. A general guideline is to limit any increase in your weekly distance to 10 percent or less of your previous week's total. Exercise is not a contest -- its quality is often more important than quantity.
  • Every so often, incorporate a relatively easy week into your schedule. You don't have to increase your mileage every week to continue to benefit from your efforts.
  • Don't subject yourself to consecutive days of very intense exercise. Always follow a relatively hard day of exercising with an easier day. If you walk or run considerably farther than usual on a particular day, either take the next day off or decrease the duration and intensity of your next workout.
  • Treat all injuries immediately and properly. As a general guideline, rest, ice, compression and elevation -- "RICE" -- should be the basis of treatment for most minor injuries.
  • Don't ignore sudden acute pain. See a physician, preferably a sports medicine specialist, if your acute pain does not respond to self-treatment within a reasonable period of time. Pain is your body's early warning signal that something is wrong.
  • Limit your total weekly mileage to a sensible level. Too much exercise substantially increases your chances of suffering an overuse injury. Listen to your body. Pain and chronic soreness are excellent indicators that you probably are doing too much.
  • Replace your running shoes periodically. Proper footwear significantly minimizes your chances of being injured. Record your mileage daily and replace your shoes once the cumulative total exceeds about 500 miles.
  • Don't let pain change your natural pattern of movement while exercising. If you alter your normal foot plant while walking or running in an effort to accommodate pain or discomfort, you may excessively stress your joints and adjacent tendons, ligaments, and muscles. Refrain from exercise until the pain no longer interferes with your natural running mechanics.
  • Vary your training modes. Give your joints and muscles an occasional break from the "same old grind" by adding other forms of exercise to your workout such as cycling, swimming, stair climbing, cross-country skiing and rowing.

Reprinted by permission from the American College of Sports Medicine Health & Fitness Journal, July/August 1997, Volume 1/Number 4, author Dr. James Peterson.

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