Is coffee bad before workout?

Q and A

September 02, 2005|By Gailor Large | By Gailor Large,Special to the Sun

I must have my cup of coffee before I exercise each morning. No java and I can't function. Recently, a gym-buff friend told me that caffeine before a workout is bad for you. It dehydrates you and falsely stimulates energy, he says. What do you think?

While those with high blood pressure should stay away from coffee before a workout, studies have shown that coffee drinkers have better stamina and less muscle soreness than nondrinkers.

That said, caffeine is addictive, and if you're able to get your day started without it, more power to you. If you can slowly wean yourself off that morning fix, you will find you don't really need it at all.

There is the famous claim that apples are more effective at waking you up in the morning than coffee. While we can't confirm or refute that, we do know one sure source of morning energy: exercise itself.

I see other gymgoers doing the back-extension exercise, and I'd like to start, but I always feel "on display" when I try. I inevitably end up giving up because I don't know the proper form and feel self-conscious. Please give me some guidance.

Unless you have weak abdominal and back muscles, I would suggest using weight to improve the workout (try a 10-pounder to begin). Start on the hyperextension or "roman" bench with your feet tucked under the foot pads. Your hips should be at the top edge of the bench. You will need to keep your torso straight, which means tightening those ab muscles.

Holding the weight across your chest with crossed arms, bend forward at the waist. Then, from the hanging position, slowly lift yourself back up using your back muscles. Remember to keep your abs contracted. Stop the motion when your body forms a straight plank.

By the way, you should never feel awkward trying a new exercise. I don't think the other gym members will stare simply because a machine is new to you. If anything, they'll probably offer help.

I just read your answer to the reader who recently asked, "Is it a mistake to listen to music while running?"

You say, "Running outdoors alone, lost in thought, is one of the most satisfying mind-body exercises you'll find ... [but] there is no reason to force yourself to run in silence."

I beg to differ. The most important thing I learned when I ran with the Howard County Striders was to NEVER, EVER wear headphones while running.

When you run while "plugged in," you become distracted and can be vulnerable to personal attack or to an oncoming vehicle. Whether you are on a neighborhood street or busy thoroughfare, you want to have your wits about you. You can run in a noisy area and still have the clearest thinking of the day.

You make an important point. Listening to music can distract you from your surroundings, which is why it's always a good idea to run with a buddy and, if you do use headphones, make sure not to blast your tunes at high volume.

Do you have a fitness question? You can submit questions via e-mail to fitness@baltsun.com, or online at baltimoresun.com / healthscience, or in writing to The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278.

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