Running: Advice from a U.S. Olympian


Serving Your Country, Serving Yourself Series: An Olympian’s Guide to Starting a Running RoutineWhat if you could better represent and serve your country by making healthy decisions?

I had the honor of representing our country as a long-distance runner in the Olympics. Maybe as you watch the Olympics now, you feel proud as our national anthem plays, and emotional as you hear the athletes’ backstory and how hard they worked to achieve success. As military spouses, you too serve our country every single day. In this three-part series, I’ll outline how you can take your service to the next level.

Taking care of ourselves should be our number one priority. If we are healthy in mind and body, then we can better serve others. And if we serve our families, co-workers, and neighbors better, then they can serve their families, co-workers, and neighbors better, too. There is a huge ripple effect.

The healthy decisions you make are in fact the secret to better serving yourself and your country. Going out for a 20-minute run in the morning, having more nutrient-rich food on hand in the house, and snuggling into bed 30 minutes earlier at night can make you more productive, a better spouse, friend and mom. Today’s ingredient in the recipe for success is starting a running routine.

Start a Running Routine

While coaches around the world know that becoming a better runner also makes you better at other sports, scientists have taken it even further and discovered that running makes you better at just about everything. It builds strength, conditions your heart and lungs, and creates a positive chemical and hormonal shift.

Running releases endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and growth hormones faster and in more abundance than any other form of exercise—hence, the term “runner’s high.” Endorphins, which are released by your pituitary glands, and dopamine both make you feel happy and euphoric. Growth hormones repair and rebuild damaged muscles. And serotonin boosts your mood, ups your energy, aids your sleep, and gives you a healthy appetite.

So lace up your running shoes! Get out the door, go for a run, and feel good about yourself as you do. Take pleasure in knowing that giving yourself this time is the least selfish and most altruistic part of your day.

Getting started:

If you’re new to running, or if you want more structure, these two workouts are perfect for you, and they only take 20 minutes.

Workout 1

  • Go to your local track.
  • Start your watch and try running the straight-aways and walking the turns.
  • Complete as many laps as possible in 20 minutes. It’s that simple.
  • Do this 1-3 times a week, with your goal being to run more and walk less each visit.
  • Once you’re running for the entire 20 minutes, start counting your laps. Your new goal is to try and run faster (more laps) in the 20 minutes, or to run longer if you have the time.
  • Stick with this program, and after 30 days, I guarantee you will be hooked.

Workout 2

If you would rather hit the road or trail, use the same 20-minute time frame and use objects that you encounter en route as markers to gauge your distances. For example, run to a light post, tree, or street sign ahead of you, and then recover for a minute afterwards. Once you’re running for the entire 20 minutes, try running harder to the objects ahead. If you have kids, pull out the jogging stroller and make it a family affair.

What is your biggest obstacle to lacing up?

Stay tuned for the next two ingredients in my recipe for success in the coming weeks.