To build up body, schedule regular training breaks

FITNESS CLINIC

June 29, 1993|By Dr. Gabe Mirkin | Dr. Gabe Mirkin,Contributing Writer United Feature Syndicate

Athletes who overtrain are more likely than non-athletes to suffer from colds, injuries and exhaustion. Athletes improve by stressing their bodies and then allowing enough time for their bodies to recover from that workout before they stress them again.

For example, runners take hard workouts by running a quarter mile at near maximum speed, resting briefly and repeating these very fast runs 12 to 16 times. For the next few days, they run slowly until they feel fresh enough to run fast again.

Most top runners run very fast only once or twice a week. Weightlifters take a hard workout in which they lift the heaviest weights possible. In subsequent workouts, they lift lighter weights until their muscles feel fresh again.

There's a proper dose for everything. If you allow adequate recoveries, you will train well and feel good. If you don't allow enough time for your body to recover, your muscles, tendons and bones will ache, and you won't look forward to your next exercise session. Your lymph nodes may swell and you can develop frequent infections and injuries.

The hardest concept for most athletes to learn is to take days off or exercise at low intensity when they don't feel good.

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Q: Will vitamin pills help prevent heart attacks?

A: A recent study in the American Journal of Public Health says vitamin pills do not help prevent heart attacks or prolong your life. In 1971, the First National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey checked people between 25 and 74 years of age to see if they took vitamin supplements. Ten percent said they took them occasionally and 22.5 percent reported they took them regularly. Twenty years later, the vitamin takers were checked, and the mortality rate for supplement users was the same as for those who took no vitamin pills. Yet six of every 10 Americans believe vitamins will make you more healthy.

I receive frequent reports from representatives of vitamin companies quoting scientific articles that seem to extol the benefits of taking vitamins. Most of the data comes from measuring blood and tissue changes. Recent letters quoted studies that show people who have higher blood levels of vitamins live longer and are less likely to suffer from cancer and heart attacks.

Actually, the people in the study didn't even take vitamin pills. They ate lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which are loaded with vitamins. All the study shows is that plants contain lots of vitamins and people who eat lots of fruit and vegetables have higher blood levels of vitamins and are less likely to develop heart attacks and certain types of cancers.

Q: Does it matter what time of day I exercise?

A: It doesn't make much difference when you exercise. If the only time you can exercise is in the morning or the evening, you should exercise then. However, noon may be the best time for most working people. You will find you concentrate best in the first few hours after you waken in the morning. Then as the morning wears on, you lose some of your concentration. Then you go out to lunch and when you come back, you probably don't do much work. You can correct that by exercising at noon. Several studies show people who exercise during their lunch break are more alert in the afternoon.

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

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