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Preparing For Baseball

Parents often ask me what their children can do to prepare for baseball season. It's hard to get in shape in one month, but there are several rules of training to follow. First it's “background before peaking”. Before you can throw a baseball or hit the ball hard, you have to throw and hit easy. If you try to throw hard in the beginning, expect to injure yourself. First you do background training by increasing the volume of your workload gradually for several weeks. When you are ready to start peaking, you decrease your work volume and increase your work intensity. Play easy catch each day and try to hit the ball to a specific place, rather than trying to hit the ball hard. You also have to jog slowly before you can start running fast. Every day, jog slowly for up to 30 minutes.

After a few weeks of background work, you’re ready to start training. The next rule for throwing, hitting and running is “stress and recover”. On one day, throws hard, hit further and run faster. On the next day, take the day off or jog slowly, throw easy and hit short. Continue to have easy days for all three specifics until the leg and arm muscles feel fresh. If you are training properly, this will probably take two days of easy training. Then throw hard, hit far and run fast again, followed by a couple more easy days. On the hard days, you may throw every fifth pitch hard, followed by four easy throws, and hit the ball hard once every five hits, until the muscle start to feel sore. Then you must stop for the day.

Since baseball players almost never run hard more than 100 yards, the running training should be to run 40 yards fast, rest until you recover and then run 40 yards again just short of all-out. Repeat the cycle until your legs start to feel stiff or hurt. If you can do these hard workout days once or twice a week, you can expect to improve dramatically. If you take easy days every day or just play baseball each day, improvement will be minimal. Slow jogging will not prepare you for baseball, and trying to run fast more often than twice a week will just injure you.

Because training is specific, I think children should train for one chosen sport 12 months a year. There are very few kids who are so gifted that they can be very good in several sports. Many children start training in one sport when they are about six years old and specialize in that sport for the rest of their competitive careers.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Will hard exercise cause an early menopause?

Vigorous exercise can cause some women to miss periods, but it does not cause an early menopause. The only known causes of early menopause are smoking, drinking heavily, being severely malnourished or having a severe wasting disease. Each woman is born with about 4 million eggs in her ovaries. Each month, an egg is released from the ovaries; it travels into the uterus, and if it is not fertilized, it is lost with the menstrual bleeding. At the same time, thousands of eggs in the ovaries deteriorate each month. Eventually, at the average age of 52, a woman runs out of her viable eggs and she stops menstruating forever.

Some female athletes have irregular periods or no periods, usually because they do not eat enough food to meet their calorie requirements or because they have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). These conditions can prevent the release of an egg each month and make the woman infertile. However, this has no effect on the time of menopause because the thousands of eggs continue to deteriorate at the same rate, whether or not a woman exercises or has periods.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: In last week’s ezine, you talked about drinks made with fructose, but you didn’t mention fruit; isn't that where fructose comes from?

Yes, but fruits contain so many other important nutrients that we recommend getting at least five servings per day. Whole fruits contain fiber which slows the absorption of sugar/fructose. For diabetics, we recommend eating fruits ONLY WITH other foods, not alone as snacks; this further slows the rate of absorption and helps to keep blood sugar from rising too high. On high-fructose corn syrup, see the comments from Laszlo Pentek.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: I tried to do a century (100 miles) bike ride, but couldn’t finish. How can I do better next time?

Cycling very fast once or twice a week helps you to cycle faster over longer distances. Cycling many miles slowly does not. To increase your endurance, you have to strengthen your leg muscles against increasing resistance, using the same motion that you use in your sport. The best strength training for cycling is to cycling short distances very fast once or twice a week. A good once-a-week workout includes alternating 30 seconds at near maximum pace with 60 second recoveries until your thigh muscles start to stiffen. You cannot cycle very fast more often than twice a week because fast cycling damages muscle fibers and it takes time for muscle fibers to recover. This same principle applies to all sports requiring endurance, such as running, skiing, rowing or skating.

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Recipe of the Week:
Green Bean and Potato Salad

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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