Inclined treadmill is a good alternative


March 29, 1994|By Dr. Gabe Mirkin | Dr. Gabe Mirkin,United Feature Syndicate

On snowy days, many competitive runners train indoors on a treadmill. Increasing the incline angle gives them a harder workout. All good treadmills have a mechanism that allows you to raise the front part, to simulate running up hills. The incline is necessary for training because running on level ground does not adequately strengthen your upper leg muscles.

Running is a lower leg sport, and the only time that you really stress your upper leg muscles is when you lift your body up

stairs or up hills. Each 1 percent increase in the elevation angle on your treadmill requires 4 percent more energy.

Serious runners often train by doing intervals. They run a short distance very fast, rest and then run very fast again. A typical workout could be to run four half-mile repeats, averaging two minutes each, with a slow one-eighth mile jog between each.

Early in the season, they run intervals at a relatively slow pace and then as they get closer to their important races, they try to run these intervals faster.

Q: Will it hurt me to work out when I have a cold?

A: Most doctors do not restrict people from exercising when they have colds, provided that they don't have fever and their muscles don't hurt during exercise. However, it may be better to stop exercising altogether when you have an infection.

A recent article from Munich, Germany, reported severe muscle injury from relatively minor exercise during an infection. When muscles are damaged, they release enzymes from their cells into the blood stream and they fill with blood from broken blood vessels.

This study reported that blood tests showed increases in muscle enzymes, and ultrasound tests showed evidence of hemorrhaging into the muscles.

You also should not exercise when you have a fever. When you exercise, your heart has to pump blood to your muscles to supply them with oxygen. It also has to pump blood from your muscles to your skin where the heat is dissipated.

When you have a fever, your heart has to work extra hard to get rid of extra heat. Furthermore, some viruses that infect your nose and throat can also infect your heart muscle.

The combination of the extra work and an infected heart muscle can cause irregular heartbeats.

If you're not feeling well, take some time off and allow your body to recover. You won't lose much conditioning unless you take off more than a week.

Q: My aerobics instructor says we need to dance for 30 minutes to get any real benefit, but I'm exhausted after 10. Is there any point in continuing with the class?

A: You should start out by exercising in each session only until your muscles feel heavy or hurt, and then you should quit for the day. Eventually, you should be able to work up to the full 30 minutes.

However, many people injure themselves because they are so obsessed with trying to reach 30 minutes of continuous exercise that they do not stop exercising when they feel pain.

If you can't exercise for 30 minutes continuously in one sport, try to get at least 30 minutes total exercise or vigorous activity during the day.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, you don't have to engage in vigorous exercise for sustained periods to gain substantial health benefits. If you exercise for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds and alternate exercising and resting, you should be able to exercise far longer without injuring yourself.

If you tire early in one sport, you can exercise in several sports, stopping in each when you feel the least discomfort.

For example, go to your aerobic dance class and stop when you feel the least bit tired, even if you have to quit after two minutes. Rest, and then ride a stationary bike until your legs start to feel heavy, perhaps for three minutes. Later in the day, walk for a while until you feel tired. Try for a combined total time of 30 minutes of exercise per day, three to five days a week.

You can count any physical activity that keeps you moving constantly, such as walking, climbing stairs or gardening.

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

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