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Footgear for Walkers: A Few Steps Behind

By Vicky Hallett
Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Q Appreciated your advice on how to buy running shoes. Is there a parallel specialty world for selecting the correct walking shoes (for those of us who have long ago seen our last running day)?

-- Kathy

AWalkers' World sure sounds like a nice place to visit, and you don't need a spaceship to get there. The smart way to pick walking shoes isn't all that different from the running shoe rules I explained two weeks ago: You still want to think about finding that comfortable fit (give your longest toe a finger-width's room to the end of the shoe), and keeping your pronation in check.

In fact, if you're like Lea Gallardo -- she's a runner turned walker, too -- you'll ditch walking shoes in favor of the running variety. The owner of Metro Run & Walk, a local chain, Gallardo says walking options have been around for decades, but they leave something (well, several things) to be desired: "Walking shoes are all white leather -- they're not breathable -- with a semi-curved last [shape] and no stability built into the medial side of the shoe," she complains.

Maggie Spilner, author of "Prevention's Complete Book of Walking," is less negative. She finds walking shoes lower to the ground and less apt to trip you, and their beveled heels give your foot a steadier plant. But even Spilner readily admits that her favorite pair is, in a word, ugly.

Your best bet, in any case, is probably going to be a running specialty store. The staff there will have a better sense of gait analysis and fit than a sporting goods behemoth. And many of the specialty stores (including Metro Run & Walk) stock both running and walking shoes, so you can find just the right pair, whether you're planning to conquer the mall or a marathon.

I've been trying to get back into strength training after about a year of focusing on cardio, and have run into an unexpected problem. I'll work out at or below my previous level (never pressing to muscle failure) and have no problems during the workout or immediately thereafter. But about 36 to 48 hours later, I am in major pain. How can I figure out the right workout level if my body is not giving feedback for a day and a half?

-- Anonymous

Your body is giving you feedback, all right. It's just not the kind you were hoping for. Such are the joys of delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. As someone who samples new exercise routines for a living, I feel your pain.

Like so many things in science, DOMS is still a bit of a mystery. "We don't know the mechanism that causes it," says Stephen Roth, a kinesiology professor at the University of Maryland at College Park.

Whatever the instigator, what's happening is that damaged muscle has summoned help -- in the form of inflammation -- to repair itself. So you're thinking, "I'll take an anti-inflammatory," such as ibuprofen or naproxen, right? Turns out that's controversial, says Roth, because several studies have shown that those sorts of drugs can decrease protein synthesis. "You may feel better, but [you're] prolonging the muscle adaptation process," he says.

The better solution is to cut back on how often you're lifting. Twice a week is plenty for the recreational exerciser, says Roth, who guesses you may be overtraining.

Also think about what kinds of exercises you're doing. There are two types of contractions, concentric and eccentric. When you're doing a biceps curl, the lift up toward your shoulder shortens the muscle; that's concentric. On the way back down, you're lengthening the muscle; that's eccentric. While people tend to think more about the former, it's the latter than brings on a worse case of DOMS.

What exercises are best for gaining upper body mass? I have always been extra lean. I know most people would say that is not a problem, but I like to have a bit more bulk. I work out on dumbbells and on machines three days a week for an hour each. I eat more and drink milk with soy protein every day. Any suggestions on what I need to do better or differently?

-- Praveen

Lots of folks want a bigger chest -- guys as well as gals, says Rob Kreider, a competitive bodybuilder who trains clients at the Definitions studio in Georgetown. And as long as you're doing it without surgery or steroids, why not? Just be aware that your genetics will affect the end result.

"None of it's rocket science," says Kreider, who credits three things for molding his Incredible Hulk-like shape: "You need to rest properly, eat properly and don't overtrain." And, of course, lift efficiently, which is why he much prefers dumbbells to machines -- the more muscles involved, the better.

Here's his suggestion for a weekly bulk-up routine: To grow, you need to work to muscular failure. But pick a weight that's light enough that you can still manage eight to 12 reps per set. Aim to do two sets, with a breather of about a minute and half in between.

On Day One (perhaps Monday?), Kreider suggests you focus on your "push" muscles. So, for your chest, do a bench press with a bar, an incline fly with dumbbells and push-ups. For your shoulders, he recommends dumbbell presses and side lateral raises. And give your triceps some love with parallel bar dips or bench dips and overhead dumbbell extensions.

Two days later, it's time for the "pull" muscles. Get your legs busy with barbell squats, leg presses, walking lunges and lying leg curls. Finish it all up two days after that with a focus on your back and biceps: one-armed dumbbell rows, pull-ups, cable rows, bicep curls and dumbbell hammer curls.

Remember that logging hours in your bed is just as important as spending time in the gym. "Without sleep, the body can't adapt and grow," Kreider reminds.

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