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Pressure on Pedals Tires You More than Spinning Fast

Experienced bicycle riders know that fatigue comes from how hard you press on the pedals, not how fast you turn them. Novice racers may try to ride with maximum force on the pedals, but they quickly exhaust themselves and often can't even finish the race.

Cycling is a power sport. The number of times you spin your bicycle pedals in a minute is called your cadence, and your power is the product of the force that your feet apply to the pedals time your cadence. A study from Toledo, Spain shows that spinning the pedals too fast slows you down (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, May 2006). Most bicycle riders do best when they chose gears that allow them to pedal at a cadence of 80 to 90.

You want to pedal as fast as you can with the greatest force you can maintain on your pedals, but if you spin too fast, your brain cannot coordinate your muscles so you lose efficiency. Try to choose gears that allow you to spin as fast as you can and still feel some pressure on your pedals. If you have to push on your pedals so hard that your body moves from side to side, you need to reduce the gear ratio and pedal faster. If you are spinning faster than 100 times a minute, you are probably losing coordination. Bicycle computers that show your cadence are available in bike shops and online bicycle catalogs.

When you are going out on a long ride, try to keep a comfortable fast cadence. However, if you are going to sprint or race for less than 30 minutes, you will ride faster by putting more pressure than usual on you pedals, which will slow your cadence by about 10 percent. You can also use this technique to pick up the pace when you want to catch up with another rider.


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Dear Dr. Mirkin: I'm not a diabetic; why did my doctor do an HBA1C test?

When your blood sugar level rises too high, sugar sticks to cells. Once on a cell, sugar cannot be removed and is converted to a poison called sorbitol that destroys the cell to damage arteries and cause heart attacks. HemoglobinA1C (HBA1C) measures how much sugar is attached to cell membranes. A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine (Volume 16, 2005) shows that an HBA1C level below 4.6 percent means you are at very low risk for a heart attack. However, each one-percent increase raises the risk for a heart attack nearly 2.5 times. So people who have HBA1Cs above 4.6 are at increased risk for heart attacks, even if they are not diabetic.

More than 40 percent of Americans die of heart attacks and other blood vessel damaging diseases and 35 percent ultimately become diabetic. That means that all people who have HBA1Cs above 5 should consider losing excess weight by eating less and exercising more, avoiding smoking, and going on a diet that limits refined carbohydrates (foods made from flour or with added sugars), saturated fats (meat and chicken) and partially hydrogenated oils. If your HBA1C is above 6, your doctor may prescribe diabetic medications, even if he or she does not call you as a diabetic. See my report on insulin resistance


Dear Dr. Mirkin: What would cause high blood pressure in a six- year-old child?

Unlike high blood pressure in adults, doctors can almost always find the cause of hypertension in a child: kidney disease, blocked blood vessels, hormone abnormalities, pinching of the main blood vessels, or obesity. Many children with untreated high blood pressure have evidence of heart damage called left ventricular hypertrophy. The incidence of high blood pressure in children is increasing, probably because of the increased incidence of obesity (American Family Physician, Volume 73, 2006).

Whatever the cause, your child must learn how to control weight by exercising more and taking in fewer calories by limiting foods made with refined carbohydrates, saturated fats or partially hydrogenated oils. He or she will certainly need medication, at least until blood pressure is reduced or a cause is found. The drugs with the fewest side effects are ACE-inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers.


Recipes for summertime: chilled soups, perfect for warm days!

Cold Red Pepper Soup
Gazpacho (two versions – one mild, one spicy)
Gazpacho I
Gazpacho II

You'll find 100 recipes, and lots of helpful diet 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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