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Coming back from a deployment can definitely be a real change of pace, most notably being the change from a very active and intense lifestyle to one that’s much more inactive and sedentary. As the days fade into weeks or months, you might look into the mirror and realize that you hardly recognize the man or woman who is staring back at you.
It’s at this point that you may want to take action to regain your healthy military physique, but it’s also possible that you might want to address your floundering fitness for any other number of reasons. Above all, however, having a healthy and physically fit body is key to allowing you to be there for those who depend upon you – and to let you play a crucial role in adjusting back to civilian life.
Top 5 Fitness Tips for Veterans to Get Back Into Shape After Military Separation
1. Create and Maintain a Healthy Diet
When you’re deployed, it’s fairly easy to stay in shape. After all, the regular physical training (PT) and the lack of snacking between meal times found during deployment can help keep you in good shape. However, once you’re back in a civilian setting, it can become much easier to gain unwanted weight.
That’s why it is important to have a set healthy diet that matches your current lifestyle. If you remain fairly active in day-to-day life – either through work or regular fitness – a more relaxed diet might suit you. However, the average lifestyle requires a little more thought about what you eat. Try to cut back on carbs and sugars when possible, and focus more on vegetables, fruits, and proteins with every meal.
2. Work Out (But Don’t Go Overboard)
One thing you may notice as you transition back to civilian life is those new aches and pains in areas that you never noticed before. In addition to the potential weight gain you may be experiencing, the muscles you used once while deployed will start to get weaker and potentially go back to where they were at pre-deployment levels.
A good way to prevent this is through a gentle strength-training program with lots of stretching exercises thrown in for good measure. Just don’t go too gung-ho when working out. The main goal is not to reach those combat-ready fitness levels once more, but instead a limberness and flexibility that will allow you to do household chores or physical activities without sending you for the ice pack or hot pad when you get home.
3. Gradually Add Cardio Into the Equation
Once the muscles that saw daily use have been worked back into shape, it can be beneficial to add cardio back into your workout routine. Depending on your current fitness level, how this is implemented may vary. If you have become very inactive lately, without any walking or running, simply start by going for walks. If you already go for walks, though, feel free to start adding in some running.
You should try to increase the duration and the intensity of your cardiovascular activity by about 10% each week until you reach your desired fitness level. That said, if you have gained enough weight that you cannot walk or run comfortably without joint pain, then it’s not a bad idea to consider swimming and other low-impact cardio options to help you get your heart and lungs back into shape.
4. Remember That Basic Health Is Key
Certain routines that you practiced before you joined the military may have eroded away while deployed. Simple habits like brushing teeth, showering, shaving, and immediate care for injuries may be difficult to acclimate to. However, all of these are key to staying healthy. Setting routines for daily flossing, brushing twice a day, and a daily shower are all basic things that can lead to better overall health.
Furthermore, if you are struggling with depression after returning home, these tasks could be simple wins on days when you have little to no energy. Knowing you can check brushing teeth and showering off the to-do list can be just the satisfaction you need on tough mornings to help you power through it and get through the rest of the day.
5. Keep a Clean Mental Space
Many veterans are surprised to realize that when they come back from their deployment, they’re not the same person they were before they served. During your deployment, you were steeped in a completely different place for months, and you can’t necessarily just flip a switch and be the person you were before you deployed. Many veterans struggle with PTSD, and some do not know how to seek the care they need.
Some people turn to illicit substances to dull the pain, but this is just a bandage – and a harmful one, at that. If you are struggling with substance abuse disorder after you return from your deployment, don’t be afraid to seek out help. A quick search of Tricare rehab coverage could show you where and how you can get help. Doing so could be the first step you need to get things back in order.
As a veteran, serving others is something that comes naturally to you. You’ve dedicated a significant portion of your life to helping those in need, but now is the time to finally start taking care of yourself. If you’re struggling with your physical or mental health after separating from the military, then these five tips can be just the ticket to help you regain control of your well-being.