With a running program, start out slowly and take little steps


October 27, 1992|By Dr. Gabe Mirkin | Dr. Gabe Mirkin,Contributing Writer/United Feature Syndicate

If you want to start a running program and don't know how, here's a plan:

First, check with your doctor to rule out any underlying health problems that might curtail your exercise agenda. Then start by jogging slowly until your legs feel heavy or begin to hurt, or you start to tire. Stop for one day, even if you've only jogged a few paces. Do this every day and you should be able to work up to the point where you can jog slowly for at least 20 minutes without stopping.

If you're happy with this program, you don't have to go any further to become fit. Exercising strenuously for 20 minutes, three times a week, is all you need for cardiovascular fitness.

But if you want to improve, you need to adopt the same training methods used by competitive runners.

On one day, start out slowly, and gradually pick up your pace. When you begin to feel uncomfortable, slow down. When you recover, pick up the pace again. On the next day, if your legs feel stiff, don't try to run. But if you feel OK, run very slowly and steadily, without the "pickups."

After a few months of alternating days of pickups and slow runs, you're ready for the next step. On Tuesday, try to run fast for 220 yards (half a track length), rest, and then repeat 220-yard runs until your legs start to feel stiff. On Thursday, try to run two to five miles fairly quickly. On Sunday, try to increase your distance so you can run for at least an hour. On the other days, run slowly or, if your legs are stiff, don't run at all.

Dear Dr. Mirkin: When exercising, I can't seem to get enough air breathing through my nose. But I'm worried about inhaling polluted air if I breathe through my mouth. -- B.C., Denver

Dear B.C.: Exercise markedly increases your need for oxygen. The nose isn't made for exercise because its small holes limit the amount of air you can bring into your lungs. When you pick up your pace, you can turn blue from lack of oxygen.

The cross-sectional area in the back of the throat is more than 10 times as large as the two holes in your nose. You can take in more air if you breathe through your mouth.

Pollutants inhaled through the mouth are rapidly cleared from the lungs. Tiny hairs, called cilia, line the tubes leading to and from your lungs. The cilia are constantly moving, sweeping pollutants back up to the mouth where they are swallowed with your saliva and cleared from your body.

Dear Dr. Mirkin: Is there any food that can help a sagging sex drive? -- R.C., Concord, N.H.

Dear R.C.: So far, we haven't found any food that will make a person more sexual.

If your libido needs reviving, see your doctor. The problem could be caused by overwork, depression, lack of interest in your partner, disease, lack of testosterone or thyroid hormone, excessive amounts of prolactin or an infection.

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

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