Try upper-body training between running sessions


February 22, 1994|By Dr. Gabe Mirkin | Dr. Gabe Mirkin,United Feature Syndicate

Looking for an activity that gets you respect and serves as a training routine that's complementary to most sports that stress primarily your legs, such as running, cycling, skiing, skating or dancing? Try hitting a punching bag. You can buy an air-filled punching bag at most sporting goods stores. They are supported by floor stands or are hung from frames that attach to your wall or ceiling.

People who exercise in just one sport get injured frequently. Exercise injures individual muscle fibers. That's why you feel sore on the day after you have had a good workout. Exercising when your muscles are sore markedly increases your chances of injuring them; waiting until the soreness disappears markedly reduces your chances of injuring yourself. Cross training means to alternate sports on successive days to stress different muscle groups. Cross training prevents injuries by allowing your muscles at least 48 hours to recover. Hitting a punching bag is an excellent upper-body exercise that you can alternate with any lower-body exercise.

A punching bag also helps to improve your coordination. When you hit the bag, it bounces backward, hits the board above and rebounds toward you. Try to hit the bag at the exact time that it comes toward you. If you hit it too early or late, it will not bounce rhythmically and you will miss it. Start out by hitting the bag lightly every other day until your arms feel heavy or you feel tired.

Q: I've played the guitar for years. For the past six months I've had a pain in my arm that seems to be getting worse. Are there exercises I can do to strengthen the muscles? -- E.B., Baton Rouge, La.

A: Musicians should follow the same rules as athletes to treat repetitive motion injuries. When you move your muscles repeatedly with the same motion, your muscles feel tired and start to hurt. If you stop using your muscles when this happens, the pain goes away. If you keep on using them, the pain becomes more severe. If you continue using your muscles, you will injure them and the pain will continue long after you stop exercising. Then, to allow time for healing, you have to stop using your muscles for several days.

The treatment for all repetitive-motion injuries is to stop using your muscles when they hurt and to correct the cause of the pain. You need to stop playing your guitar until the pain goes away, and then work with a doctor or therapist who will analyze your motions to see if a brace or specific strengthening exercises will help you prevent further injury.

Q: Please help me explain hypothermia to the kids I coach in ice hockey. -- S.W., Akron, Ohio

A: Hypothermia is an abnormal drop in body temperature. If you dress properly and exercise vigorously enough, it shouldn't happen to you. Your body will send you a set pattern of signals when your temperature starts to drop. With a one degree drop in temperature, your speech becomes slurred. This in itself is not dangerous and occurs often when people stay out in temperatures below 35 degrees, but it can serve as a warning that you are losing more heat than your body is producing. To protect yourself, you can produce more heat by exercising harder or you can conserve heat by adding more layers of clothing.

If you don't do either of these things, your body temperature can continue to drop. At three degrees below normal, your fingers will become clumsy and you may have trouble coordinating your hands. Seek shelter immediately. If your temperature drops five degrees, your legs become uncoordinated and you will stumble and can fall and have difficulty getting up. At this point, your body temperature will continue to drop rapidly and you risk dying. Fortunately this rarely happens to healthy people who can find shelter, but if your clothes are wet and the weather is cold, you may not be able to reach shelter.

Try to get out of the cold as soon as possible, dry yourself, change clothes and cover yourself with warm blankets. If a team member gets this cold and can't walk, emergency treatment is needed. Their temperature could be below 94 degrees and they could develop an irregular heartbeat with rewarming. Doctors usually rewarm people in a warm bath while monitoring them with an electrocardiogram.

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

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