Indulging in one sport can harm body

FITNESS CLINIC

September 18, 1990|By Dr. Gabe Mirkin

Many people limit their exercise programs to one sport -- a mistake. Because of this, they injure the same part of their body repeatedly. Eventually, the injury fails to heal and they may have to give up that sport forever.

Certain sports stress specific parts of the body and are more likely to injure those parts. Most muscle, tendon and joint injuries never really heal completely. As a result, many people spend their lifetimes being injured in one sport and suffering from the very same injury again and again.

To avoid this debilitating pattern, you should pursue another sport that won't stress the injured part.

If you develop tennis elbow, stop playing tennis and try running, cycling or fast walking. Eventually your tennis elbow will heal and you can return to the game. Make sure you don't go back to playing tennis exclusively. Continue alternating tennis with other sports that will not stress the injured elbow.

A runner with recurrent calf pulls or Achilles tendinitis should limit running to no more than three times a week and pedal a bicycle, row, skate or ski on other days.

Many swimmers develop painful shoulders that never heal. No matter how long they rest, the shoulder pain returns as soon as they start swimming regularly again. These people should concentrate on lower body sports, such as running, cycling or dancing.

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Q. When I started dieting, I lost weight. Now, I've stopped losing weight and no matter how hard I try, I can't seem to drop more pounds. What's next?

A. When your weight reduction plan stops working, it's time to increase your exercise program. You can exercise longer or with more intensity. Since you've already lost weight, it's likely you're exercising for the required 30 minutes a day. Increase your workout intensity, but don't exercise intensely every day or you'll probably end up being injured.

I suggest combining two sports that stress different body parts. Try cycling and aerobic dancing. Or swimming and running. Work up to the point where you can exercise for 30 minutes in each workout. Then try to exercise more intensely.

Q. What happens when I catch my second wind while running?

A. The phenomenon known as "second wind" occurs when you are running along very fast and feel so tired and short of breath you think you will just have to slow down.

Suddenly, you feel refreshed and pick up your pace. You call it your second wind, but in reality you feel better only because you slowed down.

When you exercise intensely, your muscles use tremendous amounts of oxygen. If you are exercising close to your capacity, your muscles may require more oxygen than they receive from the blood flowing to them. This is called an oxygen debt.

You try to bring more oxygen to the muscles by breathing rapidly and deeply. In spite of this, you still may not be able to take in and use enough oxygen to make up your deficit. Lactic acid begins accumulating in your muscles and they start to burn and hurt.

So you slow down, even though you may not realize it. You are working just as hard as you did when you were running at a faster pace. Not only are you bringing in oxygen to meet your present needs, you must also use some of the oxygen to make up for the debt that you incurred when you were running faster.

Eventually, you will catch up on your oxygen debt and feel revived. You will pick up the pace or, as you call it, your "second wind."

Dr. Mirkin is a practicing physician in Silver Spring specializing in sports medicine and nutrition.

New York Times Syndicate

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