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Repetition Increases Efficiency

Training is specific, so the more you practice your sport, the better you are able to do it. That's why triathletes who compete and train in three sports are relatively mediocre in each sport when compared to those who only run, cycle or swim. (Sports Biomechanics, Volume 6, Issue 1, 2007). In this study, elite cyclists produced significantly more effective force on their pedals than triathletes. They had far less wasted side-to-side motion, and they required less oxygen to do the same amount of work.

Repeating the same motion over and over causes your muscles to become more efficient so they can generate more power with less oxygen. For example, when you run, you use your arms to maintain your center of gravity. When your right leg moves forward, so does your left arm; your left leg and right arm move backward. Efficiency requires that you move your body forward with the least motion wasted going side to side, so that the more energy you use to drive your body forward, the less oxygen your muscles require. The same efficiency is required in pedaling a bicycle. You are supposed to move your pedals through a full 360 degrees, rather than just pushing through one phase of pedaling, and you move your body from side to side as little as possible.

In competitive sports today, the best athletes put in the most time training. Runners usually run more than 100 miles a week, cyclists often go over 400 miles a week, and weight lifters spend many hours each day in the gym lifting prodigious amounts of weights. If you want to compete at a high level, you need to spend a lot of time practicing.


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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Do large portion sizes cause a person to eat more?

Whether or not you are overweight, portion sizes of food are a major factor in determining how much you eat. In a recent study, researchers at Pennsylvania State University in University Park measured how much normal and overweight people ate (Obesity, June 2007). They then fed these people fifty percent larger portions of food at every meal. Both overweight and normal weight people increased their intake of food equally and they continued to eat far more food for the duration of the study.

You might expect that when people overeat, they would eventually reach a point where they feel full and stop taking in too much food. However, this has not been shown to be the case. When people are offered large portion sizes, they continue to eat more food and it doesn't matter whether they were fat or thin when they received the larger portions.


Dear Dr. Mirkin: Should I exercise outside on days when air pollution is heavy?

It's healthful to exercise and harmful to breathe polluted air, so how can you decide whether you are doing more harm than good? The worst time for pollution is when clouds cover the sky and automobiles fill the roads. Automobile exhaust fumes are the principal source of air pollution in most cities, and overlying clouds increase pollution. Usually the sun's rays heat the ground to warm air closest to the ground. Hot air rises, taking large amounts of pollutants skyward. On air inversion days, the clouds prevent the sun's rays from getting through to the ground, so the air near the ground is not heated, remains colder and doesn't rise, causing the air with its pollutants to remain close to the ground.

Air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, ozone, carbon dioxide, and sulfur dioxide can damage your lungs. When you exercise, you breathe more deeply and more frequently so that you breathe in more pollutants. However, you don't retain more pollution. Bicycle riders in rush hour downtown Washington traffic breathe in more carbon monoxide than car riders do, but have lower blood levels of carbon monoxide. So keep exercising, but if possible, try to avoid heavily trafficked streets, and exercise before the heavy morning traffic peak or at least two hours after the evening rush hour ends.


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Recipe of the Week

Green Minestrone

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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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