Triathlete must restrict workouts for each event


December 08, 1992|By Dr. Gabe Mirkin | Dr. Gabe Mirkin,Contributing Writer

After the final runner crossed the finish line for this year's Marine Corps Marathon, I overheard one winded competitor tell another that his next challenge will be a triathlon. I hope he understands what he's getting into.

The triathlon is a grueling athletic competition combining three events, usually running, cycling and swimming. To compete, you have to be tough enough to train hard for each sport.

Efficient movement in sports depends on the brain's ability to coordinate more than 500 muscles during a very intense effort. The only way to train your brain to do this is to train in that sport intensely.

But each time you train hard, the muscles you use for that sport are injured and require at least 48 hours to recover. To avoid

injury, the triathlete must limit intense workouts to once a week in each sport.

Each triathlon event stresses primarily different muscle groups. Running stresses primarily the lower leg muscles, cycling stresses the upper legs and swimming stresses the upper body. So, it is possible to train intensely in one sport and the next day train intensely in another.

Since running also causes the most muscle damage and requires the longest recovery time, most triathletes run hard on one day and then swim and cycle the next day.

A typical triathlon training program includes one fast, intense workout and one long, less intense workout in each sport each week. The triathlete may run long on Sunday, rest on Monday, swim fast and cycle slowly on Tuesday, run slowly on Wednesday, swim long and cycle fast on Thursday, run fast on Friday, and swim slowly and cycle long on Saturday.


Q: What are the warning signs of frostbite?

A: Frostbite is another term for frozen skin. You will have plenty of warning, so it should never happen to you.

Normal skin temperature is around 90 degrees. When your skin is exposed to the cold, blood vessels in the skin constrict and slow the flow of the blood needed to keep it warm and nourished. The skin turns white and its temperature starts to drop. It slides from 90 to 80, to 70, to 60. When it reaches 59 degrees, your body reacts by opening the blood vessels in an effort to save the skin. The skin turns red and begins to itch and burn.

If this happens to you, get out of the cold immediately. If you don't, the vessels will soon shut down again and your skin temperature can drop below 30 degrees and actually freeze.

If you are unlucky enough to suffer from frostbite before you can get out of the cold, it's best to rewarm the skin in water that is 102 to 104 degrees.

Do not rub frostbitten skin with snow. The rubbing will remove the skin and expose the underlying tissue to cold, damage and infection.

Q: Does a vegetarian diet lower a person's cholesterol level and prevent heart attacks?

A: Being a vegetarian will lower your blood cholesterol only if you also restrict your intake of eggs and dairy products. For vegetarianism to prevent heart attacks, you have to severely limit all sources of cholesterol or saturated fat by sticking to a diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans.

Cholesterol is not found in plants; it is found only in living, moving animals, in meat, fish, chicken -- even ants, worms and snails.

If you are a strict vegetarian and eat only plant foods and no meat, fish, eggs or dairy products, your cholesterol will be lower. If you add just a small amount of eggs, cheese, meat or poultry, your cholesterol will rise significantly.

However, once you have eaten 100 milligrams of cholesterol, the amount found in one egg, eating more cholesterol will not raise your blood level much further.

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

( United Feature Syndicate

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