Older runners spread out fast runs, avoid injuries

FITNESS CLINIC

May 11, 1993|By Dr. Gabe Mirkin | Dr. Gabe Mirkin,Contributing Writer United Feature Syndicate

Many runners continue to compete in running events as they age. To be competitive, they have to run very fast in practice, but running fast markedly increases an older person's chances of becoming injured.

The best young runners in the world run fast three times a week at most. They should try not to run fast on consecutive days and run more slowly the rest of the time. If an older runner wants to avoid injuries, he probably should not run fast at all. But one cannot be a competitive runner without doing some fast running, so he has to run fast once or twice a week. The best master runners are those who took up running late in life or are genetically immune to injuries. Every injury that you have in your younger days tends to recur when you run fast in later years.

The master runner who wants to compete at a high level could run fast on Tuesday and Thursday and a little longer on Sunday. He probably shouldn't run at all on Wednesday and Friday, the days after his fast runs. He could run a lot of short intervals on Tuesday because they take less than 30 seconds each and allow very rapid recovery. Short intervals would be a series of fast --es of from 40 to 110 yards. On Thursday, he or she could run fewer but longer fast intervals; for example, four quarter-miles and two half-mile repeats.

Thus the recommended training schedule for older competitive runners is: Tuesday, short intervals; Wednesday off; Thursday, long intervals; Friday off; Saturday, slow jog; Sunday, longer slow jog; Monday, slow jog or off. This schedule can be adapted to any competitive sport for seniors.

Do I really need to worry more about having a heart attack because I'm bald?

A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that baldness on the top of the head is associated with an increased risk of having a heart attack. This study does not show that most bald men will get heart attacks. It only demonstrates a weak association between top-of-the-head baldness and heart attacks. It is far weaker than the association of heart attacks with smoking, high blood pressure, elevated blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, storing fat in your belly, or having xanthomas (yellow spots on your upper eyelids).

Hormones can explain the association between baldness and heart attacks. The male hormone, called dihydrotestosterone causes top-of-the-head baldness and also lowers the good HDL cholesterol that prevents heart attacks.

A drug called Proscar blocks the conversion of testosterone (necessary for sexual function) to dihydrotestosterone (which causes hair lossand lowers HDL cholesterol). Future studies will show if Proscar also helps grow hair and prevent heart attacks.

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

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