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Background Before Peaking

Injuries often occur when people start a new exercise program, change to a different sport, or return to exercise after a long break. In the enthusiasm to get started, it is easy to overstress muscles that have not been used before. That's why "background before peaking" is one of the most important principles of training. It takes several weeks or even months to build up strength and endurance for any new sport.

Competitive athletes in all sports use this principle. First they spend many months in background training, working out for long hours, mostly at low intensity, followed by a shorter period of peak training in which they do far less work, but at a much greater intensity. A few months before an important race, they reduce their workload but go as fast and hard as possible two or three times a week.

Start your new exercise program at very 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 to exercise, go 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 at a time. 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.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Would you please explain how vitamin pills could affect lifespan, as you reported in last week's issue?

The issue of vitamin supplements is far from settled. Most doctors take multivitamins themselves and recommend them to their patients. However, I continue to believe that it is better to get vitamins in whole foods than in pills.

Most vitamins are parts of enzymes that start chemical reactions in your body. Each chemical reaction produces end products that are changed by further chemical reactions from other vitamins to other products that benefit your body. When you take a vitamin that has been isolated from the hundreds of other substances found in foods, that enzyme causes a chemical reaction that accumulates a disproportionate amount of its end products. If the substance that acts as an enzyme for the next chain of chemical reactions is not available, you can accumulate end products that may be harmful.

For example, people who take niacin to lower cholesterol show a marked elevation of homocysteine, a major risk factor for heart attacks. Homocysteine levels are raised by a deficiency of B12, folic acid and pyridoxine. When you eat your niacin in whole grains, all of those components are present, along with many others whose functions we may not yet understand.

The study I mentioned last week is in Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: I'm exercising but haven't lost any weight. Am I wasting my time?

Overweight women who exercise regularly are far less likely to have heart attacks than overweight women who don't exercise, according to a study from Harvard that followed 39,000 women for 11 years (Archives of Internal Medicine, May 2008). Exercise helps to prolong life and prevent heart attacks, even if you do not exercise enough to lose weight.

The oveweight but active women in this study (those who exercised for at least 30 minutes, most days of the week) were three times less likely to suffer a heart attack than their inactive peers. Exercise reduces heart attack risk by lowering your blood pressure, cholesterol, inflammation and risk of diabetes.

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Recipe of the Week

Wild Rice-Seafood Medley

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

June 25th, 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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