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Awkward Running Form

Many people look terribly uncoordinated when they run. Telling them to change their form will just make them more uncoordinated. If a coach criticizes a team member for poor running form and doesn't correct the underlying causes, the person is likely to become self-conscious about how he or she looks, and run even more slowly. Coordination usually improves just with repeated practice in the chosen sport.

Running form can improve markedly if you can correct muscle imbalances and structural abnormalities with appropriate exercises and perhaps mechanical devices. A coach can videotape the athletes while they run, then review the tape in slow motion to analyze the mechanical defects. For example, leaning forward during running is often caused by weak back muscles, which can be treated with exercises to strengthen the back. Pointing the toes out is often caused by weak lower leg muscles and can be corrected by doing exercises to strengthen the shin muscles. Leaning back on the heels after foot plant can be caused by excessive rolling-in motion of the feet or weak calf muscles. Treatment often includes special inserts in the shoes and calf strengthening exercises, such as toe raises while holding a heavy weight in the hands. Holding the shoulders up towards the ears during running is usually caused by weak shoulder muscles, which can be corrected by shrugging the shoulders while holding weights. A low knee-lift is often caused by weak quadriceps muscles in the front of the upper leg. The quadriceps can be strengthened by pedaling a bicycle, skating, or running up hills.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Will fasting before a big event improve my endurance?

No. Fasting became popular because of a study that showed rats can run further after fasting than after eating. But rats are different from people. In rats, fasting increased the rate that a rat's muscles use fat, to preserve stored muscle sugar. In humans, fasting does not cause muscles to burn more fat. After fasting, human muscles continue to burn primarily their own sugar. Fasting for 24 hours uses up the same amount of muscle sugar as running for 90 minutes.

How long you can exercise a muscle depends on how much sugar, called glycogen, you can store and how long you can keep glycogen in that muscle. When a muscle runs out of its stored glycogen, it hurts and you will have difficulty coordinating it. Every time that you move a muscle, some of the stored glycogen is used up. Every time that you eat, some of the food can be stored as glycogen in that muscle. When you go for a long time without eating, you use up glycogen without replacing it. If you fast before a race, you will start that race with reduced stores of glycogen in your muscles and you will not be able to compete at your best.

It is nonsensical to claim that fasting increases endurance by causing muscles to burn more fat and less glycogen so that muscles can retain their stored glycogen longer. When you start with less glycogen, you still use it up faster and run out of fuel earlier. You can increase your endurance by markedly cutting back on exercise in the days before your competition and eating as much or more than usual. If the competition lasts more than two hours, you should also eat and drink during the event.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: What can I do to motivate my husband to exercise?

Find an exercise program that you can do together. Several studies show that one way to encourage middle-aged people to exercise is for them to do it with their spouses. In one study, almost 50 percent of married men who exercised without their wives dropped out of exercise programs while only 29 percent of those who exercised with their wives quit. If your husband has high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or a paunchy abdomen, you are more likely get him to exercise in a program that you do together. Try to find an activity you will both enjoy and can do equally well.

Cycling is a good choice for many people, but not much fun if one person is a much stronger rider than the other. If you like each other, try riding a tandem bicycle. You will always be together and you both can get a good workout because the amount of work you do depends on how hard you press on the pedals. If you press with twice the force, you do twice the work, but you’ll always stay together. Many areas have tandem bike clubs, which make riding even more fun.

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How could cooking influence evolution?
What’s the best treatment for bedwetting?
Can you sort hype from facts on health foods?
How can you prevent muscle cramps?
What are prions?
How important is washing vegetables and fruits?

Listen to my answers to these questions and lots more in Hour 234 of the Dr. Gabe Mirkin Show

Browse through the complete list of shows and topics; you're sure to find some that interest you.

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RECIPES
Stay warm with a full soup pot!
Red Pepper Soup
Cuban Corn Chowder
Incredible Creamy Clam Chowder

List of Diana's Healthful Recipes

June 26th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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