Runners look for perfect plan

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- For anyone who wants to start a running plan, there's no time like the present. 

In order to reap the benefits of an effective session, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends running and walking four miles in a 45-minute span, said Arletta Thompson, an exercise physiologist at the health and wellness center. 

An effective way for active duty servicemembers to jumpstart a running regimen is through squadron physical training, Ms. Thompson said. 

One important factor to consider before beginning a running program is selecting the right shoes, Ms. Thompson said. Individual running pace, running surfaces and posture all affect the selection process. 

Selecting proper footwear is one way to reduce the risk of shin splints and other injuries commonly associated with running, Ms. Thompson said. Stretching after a run while the muscles are still warm will also help minimize injuries. 

Also, runners need to keep a watchful eye on their eating habits, Ms. Thompson said. Runners should eat several times during the day using the food pyramid as ground rules for maintaining healthy habits. Runners are also advised to stay away from dietary supplements containing ephedrine and other stimulants because the after-effects of using these products are currently unknown, she added. 

The best times to run change with the seasons, Ms. Thompson said. During summer months, it's best to run in the early morning or late evening. In the winter, the best time to run is midday. Running at night is acceptable during all seasons as long as the runner wears proper reflective gear. 

For beginners, starting slowly, stretching and drinking plenty of water is the suggested norm, Ms. Thompson said. Intermediate and advanced runners also need to monitor their fluid intake and are also recommended to use fitness drinks. 

But for all runners, beginners and advanced, the biggest piece of advice Ms. Thompson offers is to wear proper shoes at all times. 

"If you want to do an activity right, get the right equipment, because you wouldn't have somebody work on a jet with the wrong tool," Ms. Thompson said. "It's the same way when people are running. If you're not wearing the right kind of shoes, you're not using the right tool."