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Background and Peaking

Knowledgeable competitive athletes plan their training programs months in advance, using a technique called background and peaking. First they spend many months in background training, in which they work out for long hours, mostly at low intensity, followed by a shorter period of peaking training in which they do far less work, but at a much greater intensity. A distance runner may run 100 miles a week during her winter background training. A few months before her most important racing season, she reduces her workload to about 40 miles a week, but she runs almost as fast as she can two or three times a week.

In his background period, a weightlifter lifts many tons of lighter weights. As he gets closer to his main competitive season, he takes workouts in which he lifts very heavy weights, but does far fewer repetitions. In his background period, a shot putter lifts tons of lighter weights each week and throws mostly for form, not distance. Then as he gets into his season, he does far less lifting, but with heavier weights. He also spends one day a week throwing as far as he can.

You can apply these principles to any sport or fitness program. Start your exercise program at low intensity and low volume. Gradually increase your workload for several months before you try to run fast, lift heavy or exercise intensely. If you are just beginning a new exercise program, start out at a relaxed pace until your muscles feel heavy and then stop. For the first several days or weeks you may be able to exercise only for a few minutes. If your muscles feel sore the next day, take the day off. Increase the amount of time gradually until you can exercise 30 minutes a day at a relaxed pace and not feel sore. You may progress rapidly to the 30-minute goal, or it may take you two, four, six weeks or more. No matter how long it takes, don’t get discouraged. Exercising too much or too hard, too soon will set you up for injuries.


Dear Dr. Mirkin: My daughter refuses to wear a bra when she runs. Won’t this cause sagging?

Women can wear bras when they exercise if they want to, but there is no medical evidence that exercising braless will harm them or cause breasts to sag. A breast is made up of skin on the outside, fat underneath and muscles under that. Breasts are held in place by skin and small ligaments that go from the skin to muscles underneath the breasts. The intermittent stretching that occurs during exercise does not stretch out the skin or ligaments. A breast is composed mostly of fat, so when a woman starts to exercise, she loses fat from her breast as well as the rest of her body and they become smaller and may appear to sag. Sagging is determined to some degree by heredity. All women develop some sagging as they age and those with the largest breasts are the ones who are most likely to develop sagging.

Many women with small breasts prefer not to wear bras when they exercise. However, women with large breasts may need them to feel comfortable. If a woman wants to wear a bra, she should choose one that is loose enough to let her breathe comfortably, and tight enough to keep the breasts from bouncing and the bra from riding up or twisting during exercise. The bra should not have bones or wires that dig into the body, or rough seams or hooks that rub against the skin.


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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Will taking boron help to build stronger muscles?

You should always be skeptical of articles in sports magazines about pills that make you a better athlete. There are no non-prescription pills that will grow stronger muscles. The only two types of pills that can make you stronger are hormones such as testosterone or growth hormone, and beta agonist derivatives used to treat asthma. These drugs are banned by the International Olympic Committee and are available legally only by prescription.

Several studies have shown that lack of boron weakens bones, but there is no data to show that extra boron makes bones stronger. One study from the US Department of Agriculture showed that boron pills increased blood levels of testosterone in post-menopausal women, but it is illogical to conclude from this study that boron pills make athletes stronger. Giving testosterone to athletes causes them to recover faster from exercise so they can train harder and grow larger and stronger muscles. However, the USDA study did not measure the women's strength, athletic training or muscle size. In spite of this, articles appeared in sports magazines claiming that boron pills make you stronger. If you want to grow larger and stronger muscles, don’t look for pills; lift heavier weights and then allow enough time for your muscles to recover before you lift heavy weights again.


Have you tried Diana's cream soups made with oatmeal? The results are amazing and you can make endless variations. Try:
Incredible Creamy Clam Chowder
Carrot Soup
Asparagus Soup

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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