Efficiency of movement essential in triathlons

FITNESS CLINIC

October 12, 1993|By Dr. Gabe Mirkin | Dr. Gabe Mirkin,Contributing Writer United Features Syndicate

To compete in triathlons, you have to train for three sports: running, cycling and swimming. If you train too much, you won't be able to compete effectively. Training too much tires your muscles and prevents you from training at near-maximum intensity at least once a week in each sport. You need to train intensely to improve your coordination at fast speeds so your muscles will be more efficient and you will have greater %o endurance.

Some triathletes with an extraordinary ability to take in and use oxygen can't compete well in events in which they have poor form. They waste so much energy by overtraining that they can't train intensely in three sports. As a result, despite their superior conditioning, they are beaten in competition by people who have lower levels of fitness but better form. Efficient movements in a sport depend on the brain's ability to coordinate more than 500 muscles in a very intense effort. The only way to teach your brain to do this is to train in that sport at a very intense level.

You can't train intensely every day. If you did, your muscles would tear and you wouldn't be able to train at all. The best way to train in three sports is to alternate them. Since running is much harder on your muscles than swimming or cycling, you should run on one day, and swim and cycle on the next. Run hard on Monday, swim hard and cycle easy on Tuesday, run easy on Wednesday, swim easy and cycle hard on Thursday. Run moderately on Friday. Try to take one fast workout every other day.

Q: My husband had a heart attack two years ago. Can you help me persuade him that his exercise program is important? I'd like to keep him around. -- F.V., Lincoln, Neb.

A: Scientists have known for a long time that a regular exercise program can help to prevent heart disease. A recent study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology demonstrates that exercise can also treat heart disease.

The study showed that exercising three to four hours a week prevents further obstruction in the arteries leading to the heart, and exercising five to six hours a week unblocks the arteries that are already obstructed.

Men with angina, the heart pain brought on by exertion, were followed for one year. Forty-five percent of men who did not exercise developed chest pain earlier when they tried to exercise (a worsening of their condition), compared to only 10 percent among the men who exercised. Only 6 percent of the nonexercising men had a reduced incidence of chest pain during exercise, compared to 28 percent in the exercising group.

This study shows that the vast majority of men with arteriosclerotic plaques blocking the arteries leading to their hearts should be in a supervised exercise program. Another study published in Circulation showed that an exercise program markedly strengthens the heart muscles of men between the ages of 60 and 82.

A supervised program of walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or dancing will improve the quality of your husband's life and may help him live longer.

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

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