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Pedal Faster to Ride Better

All cyclists should learn to pedal at a fast cadence, whether you are an experienced racer or a novice recreational rider. Muscle fatigue and damage are caused by excess pressure on the pedals, not by how fast you pedal. Pedaling at a faster cadence with less pressure allows you to pedal longer and harder. However, several researchers have expressed concern that pedaling very fast could decrease blood flow to muscles and thus decrease athletic performance. A study from Kansas State University shows that pedaling fast does not decrease a muscle's flow of blood or ability to extract oxygen from the blood (European Journal of Applied Physiology, March 2006). Once again athletes and coaches find new training and competing methods and years later, scientists tell them that they are correct.

After you have been riding regularly for a time, try to spin your pedals 80 times a minute. In the beginning, you will put so little pressure on your pedals that you will ride very slowly. However, after several weeks of pedaling at a cadence of 80, you will become more comfortable and be able to move fairly well at this pace. As you become stronger, you can maintain this high cadence while using higher gears and pressing on the pedals with more force, so you will be able to ride faster and longer.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: What’s the current thinking on fat restriction?

Almost 50,000 women in the Women's Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial from Harvard Medical School were given dietary counseling to reduce their fat intake to less than 20 percent of their daily calories (Clinical Diabetes, July 2006). This intense dietary counseling did not reduce the incidence of heart attacks, strokes, or cancers even though the women reduced their intake of fat by 8.2 percent.

Their data from the eight-year follow up show that it is difficult to reduce total fat intake, and that dietary counseling to reduce total fat intake does not reduce the risk of heart attacks or cancers. It lowered weight only an average of three pounds and diastolic blood pressure only slightly. However, other studies have shown that reducing total fat intake does lower risk for certain cancers.

The probable reason for these dismal results is that food contains both good fats and bad fats. Most doctor agree that we should restrict saturated fats found in meat, chicken and whole milk diary products, and partially hydrogenated fats found in many prepared foods. However, the monounsaturated fats found in seeds and nuts and the omega-3 fatty acids found in seafood and seeds are healthful fats that should not be restricted.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Will cross-training make me more fit?

Every time you exercise vigorously your muscles are injured, and the harder you exercise, the longer it takes for your muscles to heal. You are not supposed to exercise vigorously again until your muscles stop hurting. You can exercise hard on one day and easy on the next few days, or you can train in two sports. This is called cross-training, and it can make you very fit and help to prevent injuries.

Each sport stresses specific muscle groups. Cycling stresses the upper legs, while rowing stresses your back and upper body. If you cycle and row on the same day, you stress your upper legs and upper body on the same day. To reduce your chances of injuring yourself, you should take the next day off, or at least exercise at a very low intensity. If you cycle on Monday and row on Tuesday, you allow your muscles 48 hours to recover from each sport. Pick two sports that use different muscle groups and do them on alternate days. You can then exercise more intensely in each sport and achieve a higher level of fitness.

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Recipe of the Week

Fall Fruit Curry

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful 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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