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Intervals Help You Get Faster

Athletes must run very fast in training to run very fast during competition. However, you can't maintain your fastest pace over long distances, so athletes use a training technique called intervals. They run very fast for a short period, rest by running at a slower pace, and then run very fast again. They repeat these interval sprints for a total of two to four miles, or until they are too tired to continue. A study from the Institute of Exercise and Sport Sciences in Copenhagen , Denmark compared intervals of six seconds versus those of 30 seconds and found that the 30-second intervals gave a much better training effect and faster recovery in competition (American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, December 28, 2006).

When you run very fast, you run low on oxygen to cause lactic acid to accumulate in your bloodstream. This makes your muscles more acidic so they burn and you slow down. We now know that increasing speed and endurance requires you to train so intensely that you build up lactic acid in practice sessions. This helps the mitochondria, the furnaces in muscle cells, to burn lactic acid more efficiently for fuel during exercise.

Very fast intervals that last more than 30 seconds build up so much lactic acid and cause so much muscle damage that you can do only a few of them in practice. On the other hand, intervals that take less than 30 seconds do not cause as much muscle damage, so you can do far more repetitions. This study shows that 30-second intervals cause a much superior training effect than 6-second intervals. People who want to move very fast in sports competitions should do some variation of intervals lasting about 30 seconds in their training to become very fast and help sustain their endurance for competition. This applies to all sports requiring speed, such as running, skiing, cycling, skating, and team sports such as basketball and football.


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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Will a cold drink improve my performance during hot-weather competition?

It may. During hard exercise, particularly in hot weather, you sweat and lose a lot of water and salt. Your performance does not suffer until you lose a very large amount of fluid, about five percent of your body weight or more. However when you lose so much fluid that your performance suffers, you cannot catch up during that competition. That's why you need to take in fluids during events that last more than 90 minutes. If your event lasts more than 2.5 hours, you also need to take in calories and salt.

According to a study from The University of Birmingham in England, cold drinks taste better so you will drink more (Experimental Physiology, September 2006). The researchers concluded that cold drinks also improve endurance during hot weather by acting as a heat sink, decreasing the rise in body temperature and therefore reducing the effects of heat stress. Sports drinks or water?


Dear Dr. Mirkin: Can exercise help a person with congestive heart failure?

Heart failure means that your heart is not strong enough to pump out all of the blood that comes into it. Blood flow slows down and cannot pick up enough oxygen from the lungs. The person becomes very short of breath and retains fluid over the whole body. The only way to strengthen a weak heart is with exercise, but people in heart failure can develop irregular heartbeats and die during any exertion, so any exercise must be done only under strict supervision.

A study from Italy shows that waltzing is as effective as other exercises in healing the hearts of people in heart failure (American Heart Association meeting in Chicago, November 12, 2006). Dr Romualdo Belardinelli showed that dancing was as effective as jogging or cycling for improving their exercise capacity. The participants also slept better, felt better, and had more frequent sex than their non-exercising counterparts. Stress tests showed that their arteries were better able to expand and contract than in those who did not dance. The social interaction of dancing may make the heart failure patients more likely to continue their exercise program. More


Recipe of the Week

Firehouse Chili (with Oatmeal)

Tip: Add a cup of uncooked rolled oats to ANY favorite chili recipe. Oatmeal is not just for breakfast!

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book - it's FREE

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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