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Competitive Athletes’ Tips for Your Training Program

Knowledgeable competitive athletes plan their training programs months in advance, using a technique called background and peaking. First they spend many months in background training, in which they work out for long hours, mostly at low intensity, followed by a shorter period of peaking training in which they do far less work, but at a much greater intensity.

A distance runner may run 100 miles a week during his winter background training. A few months before her most important racing season, she reduces her workload to around 40 miles a week, but she runs almost as fast as she can two or three times a week.

In his background period, a weight lifter lifts many tons of lighter weights. As he gets closer to his main competitive season, he takes workouts in which he lifts very heavy weights, but does far fewer repetitions. In his background period, a shot putter lifts tons of lighter weights each week and throws mostly for form, not distance. Then as he gets into his season, he does far less lifting, but with heavier weights. He also spends one day a week throwing as far as he can. You can do the same. Start your exercise program at low intensity and low volume. Gradually increase your workload for several months before you try to run fast, lift heavy or exercise intensely.


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Dear Dr. Mirkin: I've heard that if you build up a lot of muscle and then stop exercising, the muscle will turn to fat. Is this true?

No. When you exercise, your muscles become larger and stronger. Muscles contain protein which is composed of amino acids. The amino acids constantly travel out of the muscles into the bloodstream and then back into the muscles. This happens whether or not you exercise. When you exercise, you drive amino acids into the muscle tissue at an increased rate, increasing the muscle's size and strength.

If you stop exercising, there is less stimulus for the amino acids to return to the muscles, so they become smaller. The amino acids go into your bloodstream, and since your body has no way to store extra protein after it is released by your muscles, it is broken down into ammonia and organic acids that are eliminated in your urine. People often get fatter when they stop exercising because they continue to eat as much food as they did when they were more active. The extra calories that are no longer burned up with exercise are stored as fat. Your muscles get smaller and the fat padding gets larger, but your muscles never turn into fat.


Dear Dr. Mirkin: I run regularly, eat well but am still flabby. How can I tone up and become less jiggly?

Running stresses primarily your lower legs; it does little to build muscle in the upper body or upper legs. Try adding a strength-training program. HOWEVER, with age our skin loses some of its elasticity and you may have unrealistic expectations for your exercise program; no exercise or diet will make skin look the way it did when we were teens. Just stay healthy!


Dear Dr. Mirkin: What causes hot flushes at menopause?

Hot flushes are caused by a down-setting of the temperature-regulating part of the brain. When you have an infection and your temperature rises above 100 degrees, you sweat to cool off. At the time of the menopause, you still sweat when your temperature rises, but at lower than normal temperatures, such as when you go from 97 to 98 degrees. Hot flushes persist for five years in 60 percent of women and for more than 15 years for ten percent.

A hormone called norepinephrine causes a woman's brain to think that her body is overheating, even if it isn't. She then flips open the blood vessels in her skin, giving her the feeling of a rush of heat, and she starts to sweat. Clonidine, a blood pressure medicine, lowers norepinephrine and blocks hot flushes in some susceptible women. We still do not have any good drugs to effectively lower norepinephrine levels in the brain, but here at least is a lead for future researchers.


It's Soup Time!
Most bean soups take a long time to cook, but these new Recipes are Quick and Easy (hint: they use canned or frozen beans).

Lima Bean Soup
Artichoke-Chick Pea Soup
Turkish Three-Bean Soup

List of Diana's Healthful Recipes

June 27th, 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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