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Vicky Hallett and Howard Schneider
Washington Post Health Section
Tuesday, November 18, 2008; 11:00 AM

He's a veteran reporter, digging up the latest fitness news. She's an irreverent columnist with a knack for getting people off the couch and into the gym. No exercise question is too odd or embarrassing for them to answer.

This Story

Vicky Hallett and Howard Schneider are the MisFits, The Post's fitness writers. They were online Tuesday, Nov. 18 at 11 a.m. to take your questions.

The transcript follows

Discussion Archive.

MisFits Archive.

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Howard Schneider: Just to set the mood, here's a little precautionary note from the American Council on Exercise:

SAN DIEGO, Nov. 18/PRNewswire/-- The average American will consume 3,000 calories and 229 grams of fat this Thanksgiving, owing in part to a traditional Thanksgiving meal packed with as many calories as 5.5 McDonald's Big Mac hamburgers or 15 Supreme Tacos from Taco Bell. The American Council on Exercise (ACE), America's leading authority on fitness and one of the largest fitness certification, education and training organizations in the world, suggests a balance between limited caloric intake over several days and committing to a fitness regimen to stay healthy and trim through the holidays.

Remember that's 3,000 calories in one meal So starting looking ahead - take it easy this weekend, keep your workouts, and enjoy And remember, don't treat those calorie counts on favorite treadmill as gospel It's an estimate, as we explain in

today's column...

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Boston: I used to be a size B but somehow my body changed permanently after delivering a baby. Any recommendations for sports bras for big breasted women? Even though I lost all my pregnancy weight I'm very uncomfortable in my old sports bras and I'm having trouble finding a nice comfortable bra that doesn't seem to squish me.

Vicky Hallett: Is it going to be another bra day with the MisFits? Howard looooves these. But I can already tell you what the big breasted chatters are about to type: Buy Title 9 bras! (Also, Moving Comfort has fans.) Anything I'm forgetting, ladies?

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Weird Pains, Va.: Hi Misfits! This weekend I was outside running when I got this sharp pain in my chest, on my sides, feeling like it was under my ribs. I had to stop running it hurt so bad. The same thing happened to me yesterday while on the treadmill. My first thought was dehydration, then as I call it "misdirected gas", but I'm not so sure. I'm no professional runner but I've been running for a couple of years and never experienced pain like that. When I did some "online medical research" muscle strain came up as a possible symptom, but I don't know, it doesn't hurt to the touch. Am I just crazy or full of gas?

Vicky Hallett: We aren't doctors either, but I think you're right to worry about weird pains...Are you sure it wasn't what's technically known as "cramps"? Eating a banana can help -- which is why they always seem to have so many of them at post-race festivities. Regulating your breathing can help, too. But whenever you're feeling incredible pain, always slow down or stop. It's definitely a sign that something's up.

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Yoga feedback: Does anyone have any experience with Try Yoga in Bethesda? They also have a Tenleytown branch called Hot Yoga (which is what both branches do). Any experience with them or with hot yoga generally would be appreciated.

Vicky Hallett: I've talked to the owner but never taken a class there. Hot yoga isn't really my thing -- I get sweaty enough as it is. But maybe some chatters have feedback?

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Sports bras: OK, since we've started a bra chat -- I recently lost a lot of weight. Good bras for A cups? Preferably not expensive.

Vicky Hallett: Get thee to Target! If you're little, you can get away with the cheap stuff more easily. And they have tons for under $10.

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Anonymous: Howard, I loved your article this morning on tools that measured calorie burning.

To me, it is no coincidence that our Americans are simultaneously suffering from an inability to manage our money and an inability to manage our weight. Both tasks require the simple (yet not so easy) practice of establishing and following a budget.

I have never trusted a calorie counter on a machine, and if I do read it at all I usually remove the largest digit and assume the lowest two are the accurate count, ha. Anyone working out up to an hour a day doesn't really need to be consuming more to replace what they 'lost' in a workout, except perhaps a few fruits and vegetables. Major endurance activities require more replenishment, but your body usually steers you to the food it's craving after that (protein, whole grains, fruits and veggies).

Think of exercise as putting money into a savings account and continue to eat within your normal budget, and you will likely reap reward.

washingtonpost.com: Burning Lots of Calories? That Could Be an Elliptical Illusion. (The Washington Post, Nov. 18, 2008)

Howard Schneider: Well maybe in 20 years we'll be thrifty and skinny like the Japanese...

My analogy from economics involves capital investment: you get fitter and stronger only after convincing the body that your level of activity warrants the investment of energy needed to build and maintain new capacity...When you tell the state government you need a new road, you have to sell them not just on short term demand, but long run need in the context of initial construction and maintenance over time...

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Motivation: What do you do to get motivated? Looking in the mirror should be motivation enough for me, but it's not. I had a baby 3 months ago and I'm not expecting to be back to my pre-pregnancy weight for awhile. I gave myself a goal of July 1, 2009 to lose 35 pounds. It doesn't seem like it should be that hard, but day after day goes by and I don't do any exercise. I am pretty tired, but I need to get some exercise in or else I'm going to be very unhappy with myself next year at the beach. I keep convincing myself every night that I'm too tired tonight, but tomorrow I'll do it. After all, I've got until next summer.

What do people do to motivate themselves?

Vicky Hallett: Good timing! In today's Express, I have a piece on ways to get motivated for exercise over the winter. I'll get a link in a sec, but here are some highlights:

-Schedule it. Don't decide each morning if you're going to exercise. Have it planned out -- and if you can pre-register for a class or arrange with a friend to meet at the gym, even better.

-Get a more immediate goal. While 35 pounds by July of 2009 seems like forever, Christmas is just around the corner. Maybe try to log a certain amount of mileage on the elliptical or bike by then.

-Even if you don't feel like it, put on your workout clothes. If you get that far, you're likely to at least do something...

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washingtonpost.com: What's My Motivation?: Winter Workouts (Express Night Out, Nov. 18, 2008)

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Anonymous: I've seen ads for a disc that purports to make crunches/sit-ups more effective. One places it under one's bum, and the disk enables a slight backward tilt to the crunch/sit-up -- or so it would seem from watching the perfectly fit, trim actress perform on the ad. My question: could I simply use a folded blanket or very firm pillow for this purpose? Do I really need a special piece of plastic? I am not a supertrim actress; instead, I am someone who is out of shape and overweight and determined to do simple (but disciplined! argh!) things at home to reverse that. The treadmill will be my friend again, and I'd like to add some calisthenics or toning to that.

Thanks for your insights.

Howard Schneider: Howdy...Yea, ditch the plastic. There really is no need to be buying equipment that works with one and only one exercise. Most of the infomercial-type items provide little real benefit. My suggestion would be to focus on the treadmill and aerobic exercise until you drop some of the weight and feel you are back on track. If you want to supplement that, do it with a more complete resistance training program -- either with handheld weights, or resistance bands/tubes. There are plenty of videos and books that will instruct you. Point is: you need more than crunches alone to get back in shape. Watch enough TV and you'll see gizmos for the abs, gizmos for the butt, gizmos for the shoulder, biceps, etc...Ignore it all.

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Cold Weather Biking: I think I am looking for validation in my decision to stop commuting by bicycle while it is so darned cold. Even if I could move in all the clothing needed to keep even marginally comfortable, my nose runs like a faucet when out in the cold, leading to really massively embarrassing horking at stop lights. So what's a girl to do??

Howard Schneider: That's what sleeves are for...

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Fitness First Member-to-be: I've waited for months for the Arlington Fitness First to open, and finally I hear they are being inspected this Friday. Do you guys have any knowledge of how long the inspection/certification process generally takes? Can I hope to hit the gym as soon as I'm back from Thanksgiving? I'm dying for this place to open, as I simply cannot motivate myself to do any outdoor exercise lately.

Vicky Hallett: I know! Our offices are just down the street, so I keep popping my head in to see what's happening. And it's going so slowly. The manager originally told me they'd be open the last week of October...Maybe ask Santa and see what he can do to hurry it along?

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Reston, Va.: Yes, Title 9 is where it's at. I have the same size issues and the ones I buy are Moving Comfort but they have lots of choices. I'd say you should give them a call because you can get great advice over the phone. The website is good but you'll want to try a few styles and they give you recommendations, like which ones have straps that adjust, which ones run big/small, etc. It makes all the difference.

Vicky Hallett: It's like I have ESP.

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Arlington, Va.: I went to join a gym a couple of weeks ago. I went ahead and ponied up the money, and then the gym required an "assessment" -- basically wanting to get me to buy personal training time. I wasn't going to bite, and I didn't, but something came up that bothered the heck out of me.

My primary reasons for the joining the gym are weight loss, toning, and overall fitness. At the assessment they told me that I needed to get down to 116 lbs to be healthy. I'm 5'5", late 20s and my weight loss goal is about 10 - 15 lbs, down to 125 - 130 to be balanced with more muscle. I haven't weighed 116 lbs since I was a freshman in high school. I was an extremely athletic person (at least ten miles per day year round) at the time, and I weighed around 130 pounds. I'm mostly bothered by the fact that they are promoting a standard and weight that I frankly believe would be unhealthy to achieve. Based on online information that I can find, the closest I've been able to come is 117 lbs for my height -- with a small frame (which I am not; I was definitely the genetic recipient of "child-bearing hips" as my mother would say). I've already paid a membership fee and I like the gym, but these kinds of pitches bother me. Especially since as I've read reviews, I've come across at least one other similar complaint. I just don't like the idea that they're promoting what I consider to be unhealthy ideals.

Any thoughts? Is this a common problem?

Vicky Hallett: You're 5'5" and they want you to be 116 pounds? Is the gym run by Lindsay Lohan? That's a completely ridiculous standard. If you like everything else about the gym, I guess just avoid their personal trainers like the plague. But asking people to try to attain Hollywood figures isn't a good way to keep them motivated. I wonder if this place can stay in business...

Howard Schneider: The fact that you had that reaction should tell you something. I have come to believe that we know more about ourselves than we let ourselves easily believe. We know when we are overweight. We know when we are comfortable in our own skin. We know when we are working out too little/toomuch/justright. Your probably have a good idea of a workable, healthy weight...Trust it...Besides weight alone is not the big issue -- it is body composition. If you have good strong hips, and the muscle to support them, then forcing you to starve yourself and spend there hours on the treadmill will only cause you to cannibalize muscle tissue...

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Bras: I'm a DD, and have had good luck with bras from Lane Bryant. They are, however, pricey. (I think they're around $40, but you can get them for less when they're on sale.) I just think of it as an investment for my boobs. It's not like I can go without a sports bra when I work out.

Vicky Hallett: With the economy the way it is, I'm betting there's a sale on the horizon. Not that your boobs aren't worth full retail price!

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Washington, D.C.: I've been feeling a weird pain when I jog -- it's above my back hip. If you put your hands on your hip, it's where your left thumb would be. I thought it was just a side stitch so I kept jogging, thinking it would dissipate. It didn't. Are there muscles there I could have pulled? It doesn't feel like a sprain. I'm confused, and I don't want to stop working out -- I finally got in a good groove.

Vicky Hallett: All sorts of things can cause hip pain -- maybe you've overdone it, are wearing the wrong shoes or have unequal leg lengths. Check out this site for other possible culprits.

And good luck figuring out how to make it better.

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Tucson, Ariz.: What is the best way to gauge heart fitness? Karvonen Method or the standard formula 220-age? I work out at the Y and it makes a big difference in the cardio goals I need to reach, especially in sprints on machines.

Howard Schneider: Howdy Tucson...Kind of conflating two things...220-age is a formula for determining maximum heart rate. Karvonen is a formula for determining training zones -- a formula which has maximum heart rate (along with resting heart rate) baked into it. In other words, you'll need to know your max. to use Karvonen. The question is whether 220-age gives you a good estimate of that maximum. The answer to that is not necessarily. Check out our article next week on heart rate monitors. There are several formulas for estimating MHR, and physiologists say none of them are magic: the only way to get a real fix on it is in a lab. There is one test you can do on your own -- but it is only recommended for people who are in good shape. That's to run a mile as hard as you can and see where the heart is at the end of that -- that's your maximum. You can also use your peak heart rate during any intense workout as a good proxy as well...

Once you know the max, Karvonen lets you set training zones...Here is a piece on the

arguments in favor of it

The best and safest way is to feel your way into this. If one method of setting training zones seems too hard or too easy -- it probably is. In that case, try another...

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Sports Bras: I have had excellent luck at Dick's sporting goods -- they have a good range of sizes and prices. And have Moving Comfort, designed by and for women.

Vicky Hallett: Strange but true that you can buy bras at a store called Dick's.

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Annandale, Va.: Hello, MisFits! I am a mid-20s, 5'5 female, about 148 pounds. I'm active 3-4 times a week. I do a combination of cardio and weight training in group exercise classes. I would consider myself in about average shape, but even at my most fit, I've never really been a runner. I can more than keep up in spinning and other cardio classes, but I cannot run a mile for anything.

I know it takes some time to condition the body to do something different (and thus, more difficult) but I find myself getting really discouraged when I can't jog for more than 60 seconds at time without getting winded and having to stop. Then I don't want to do it again because I feel like I can't keep up with where I want to be.

Any words of advice or encouragement to get through this mental and physical hurdle?

Vicky Hallett: You need to read "The Courage to Start: A Guide to Running for Your Life" by John "The Penguin" Bingham! When he started, he could only run for 30 seconds. So you're already ahead of him -- except that now he's done 40 marathons and a bajillion other races. His message is all about being slow and steady and giving your body time to get used to it. Really inspirational guy.

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D.C.: What do you guys recommend as a post-exercise meal? I work out for about an hour and 15 minutes three times a week and by the time I get home, I feel like eating a horse.

Howard Schneider: Horse is good. With fava beans and a nice Chianti... You will get a lot of different advice on this. Hardcore weightlifters insist on extra protein soon after working out. My sense is that this is important if you are operating at a really high level. For the rest of us, the importance of the post workout meal depends on length and intensity. Anything over an hour (assuming it is reasonably intense) will take a good chunk out of the glycogen/glucose stored in your muscles and liver...That needs to be replenished, which means carbs. My personal faves are cereal, toaster waffles and chocolate milk...

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re: You're 5'5" and they want you to be 116 pounds?: That's terrible. It sounds like they want to set an unrealistic goal so you'll keep paying for a trainer.

Vicky Hallett: Yep, stay the heck away.

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Washington, D.C.: I don't have a lot of time to spend at the gym at any one time -- not more than an hour. Usually I do a half hour on the elliptical, 15 minutes of weights for my arms and 15 minutes of stomach-related exercises. Should I be doing a different combo to maximize the effects?

Howard Schneider: An hour is plenty - but don't get stuck in a rut. Try cardio other than the elliptical, since it is not weight bearing. Get on the treadmill -- even if it involves walking at an incline (in the event you can't or don't want to run). Mix it up with the stationary bike or rowing machine...Give two sessions a week totally over to resistance training. Worry less about the arms than the gluteals and the back, along with the abdominals -- those are the muscles that keep us upright and moving...

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5'5 and 116!!!???: Wow! I am 5'5, go to the gym around 4-5 times a week, run marathons, eat healthy and I am a size 4 or 6. I am about 130 and I am happy with my weight. I can't imagine trying to get down to 116. I wouldn't be able to have the energy to exercise. That gym should be ashamed of itself!

Vicky Hallett: I think we're all in agreement about this one.

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speaking of Santa!: Would you two be able to suggest any neat gift ideas for my husband who's looking to lose weight and exercise more? He likes snowboarding (I've given him a season pass to a local resort already), golf, baseball; he's not really into the gym scene. I want to help him get motivated and give him something or somewhere fun to go too. Any thoughts?

Howard Schneider: Just in time...Check out our gift guide upcoming next week. I'll be reviewing heart rate monitors -- which, if your hubby is at all gadget minded, will let him know just what that snowboarding trip did for him (and don't mind the spikes in his heart rate when he fall...that doesn't count). And Vicky will be reviewing some "experiential" gift ideas, which will include....

Vicky Hallett: I don't want to give too much away, but how about rock climbing training, mountain biking trips or hip hop dance classes? (Or maybe not that last one?) There will be a ton of ideas next week.

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Goal setting: I just read your answer about scheduling exercise and had a bit of an epiphany. I want to set myself a goal for the number of miles I ride on my stationary bike each week, but am not sure of what a reasonable number is. I typically ride about 3.5 miles in 15 minutes on medium resistance; this doesn't get my heart rate up too much, but is better than nothing. My problem is that I'm not consistent with my "rides"; that's what I'd like to work on.

Would a good goal be, say, 20 miles a week? I don't want to be too ambitious, but I don't want to sell myself short either. (And yes, I realize that 20 miles on a bike is not that much -- but it's better than nothing!)

Vicky Hallett: Start with a goal you know you can meet, because there's nothing more frustrating than setting yourself up for failure. So sure, start with 20. Then try to add a few miles each week, so you're up to 30-35 by the end of the year. Gotta reach a little bit, right?

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Re: calories: Don't forget our 'calorie' is really a misnomer, they are actually kilocalories.

Howard Schneider: Good point but we don't want to get too geeky talking about raising water temperature (a calorie technically is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water one degree...the calories we measure in human physiology is actually a kilocalorie)...My understanding BTW, is that the early efforts to gauge human energy involved shutting people in a room and measuring the change in temperature in water that was somehow sealed around it...We've come a long way....

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D.C.: I always get confused with the calories as well. Yesterday for example, I was on the bike for about 30 minutes and burned about 500 calories which seems really really high for such a short workout. I wasn't even pedaling that fast; it was sort of like a warm-up.

And even then, I ignore it because when I get home, I drink or eat something and all the calories that I lost, I've regained.

Howard Schneider: A thousand calories an hour is a lot...-- that's like an hour run at what for me is a pretty intense level...Unlikely you got that on the stationary pedaling at a light level.

But what's up with the calorie defeatism at home? It is okay to eat after you workout...The issue is keeping things in balance over the course of a day/week/month....

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Harrisburg, Pa.: I've just been diagnosed with a partial tear of my Achilles tendon. Up until then I was running an average of five miles a day with occasional 9-10 milers. I know my age, 56, was a contributing factor as was my avoidance of stretching. The orthopedist says to rest for four to six months instead of surgery, for which I'm grateful. The problem is what to do to maintain my cardio shape. I haven't run in four weeks and I'm already feeling it. Suggestions, please!

Howard Schneider: That's a rough one. Sorry to hear about it. First thing is to press your doc on what you can and can't do, and what the recommended physical therapy plan ought to be. Complete rest for half a year seems like a lot -- there ought to be things you are doing in the meantime...The Mayo Clinic has some good background...

In the meantime, ask your doctor about lower impact alternatives: swimming should be fine; what about biking (low resistance)? What about the elliptical? Is walking for an extended period of time out of the question?

Given where you are starting, you are probably going to face some amount of de-conditioning since those lower body muscles are the big ones, and using them helps aerobic conditioning... But talk to your doc and try some of those alternative activities...

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Washington, D.C.: Howard: Thank you for taking the question last week from the woman with rheumatoid arthritis. I've had RA for 25 years and also can no longer do a push up. One suggestion for the poster is to try a modified push up on a ball (to take some of her weight) and place her hands on hand weights that are parallel to her arms. This position mimics a hammer bicep curl, which I am still able to do years after I could no longer do a regular bicep curl (which requires you to be able to rotate your wrist). I'll bet the poster has rules from her rheumatologist to determine if the activity is advisable. Rheumatologists are not exercise specialists, so he/she may not be able to recommend specific exercises to her.

The real reason that I am writing is to address Howard's suggestion that the poster try rehab. I know Howard is not a doctor and does not play one online. Please be aware that, unfortunately, body damage from many autoimmune (and other) diseases like RA is permanent and irreversible. Rehabilitation is not an option. Given the millions of Americans with permanent physical limitations, it would be great if you could publish some articles that address fitness for this group. Perhaps articles on finding trainers with experience creating modified programs or specific classes aimed at those with physical limitations.

Howard Schneider: Good point on the damage done. In the case of my (minor) shoulder issue, the therapist said that there was not much to be done, and that eventually the two bones would fuse -- which will end the pain but mean a small lost of range of motion.

Anyway, the rehab suggestion was more to introduce the idea that arthritis -- rheumatoid or osteo -- should not dissuade people from exercise. The research points consistently in the other direction -- that it helps and should be pursued.

Here is the operative conclusion from the

Arthritis Foundation:

Can I exercise with rheumatoid arthritis?

Yes. Not only can you exercise, but you should! While exercise may be the last thing on your mind when you are tired and your joints ache, exercise may be just what you need to ease pain and improve your energy level.

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Alexandria, Va.: I always hear conflicting advice on working out when you are sick. Now that we are in cold/flu season, is it okay to work out, cardio or weights, when you feel you are getting sick, or when you are sick?

Howard Schneider: No -- unless you want to get sicker. A nice walk, maybe. But exercise of any intensity lowers your immune system -- you'll see lots of articles about this in runners world and bicycling and other magazines that focus on endurance sports. They always caution that when you come back from a long workout, to keep the vitamin c flowing, wash your hands, and take other precautions because you are more vulnerable. Likewise, if you are already sick, you'll only prolong recovery if you run yourself down. Let energy flow where it is needed...

Besides, why risk infecting your whole belly dancing class. That'd be sad.

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re: Cold Weather Biking: I'm trying to commute by bike through the winter (in Minnesota!) this year, and here's my thought: my face might look silly and snotty, but dude, anyone laughing at me is in a heated vehicle. By some long johns and go get 'em!

(Also, I carry handkerchiefs!)

Howard Schneider: This one touched a nerve...

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Cold Weather Biking: A balaclava (covers your whole head except your eyes) will cut down dramatically on your runny nose. They're available at any bike store. Plus, there's the added benefit that you'll look like a ninja on a bike -- very intimidating.

Howard Schneider: And carry a sword?

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Vienna, Va: Hi fitness gurus, I started mountain biking regularly this past summer/early fall and the combination of fear, adrenalin, and physical exertion has improved my cardio quite a bit. However, with the winter settling in, I can't bike as much. Any recommendations for exciting work-outs that bump up the heart rate?

Howard Schneider: How about hooking up with one of the climbing centers and learn something new? Or take up ice-skating? I took up aikido a year ago and it has opened my eyes in a number of ways -- great cardio and all the spinning has stopped making me nauseous...

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another sports bra question: I have been wearing Champion brand for years, with no problem until last summer when my sweat on the top edge of the bra caused chafing. Not really a problem in cooler weather due to less sweat. Any suggestions? I also get chafing on my legs if a seam touches me, if I have been sweating a lot.

Vicky Hallett: Have you tried using Body Glide? It sounds naughty, but it's just anti-chafe stuff that's very popular with athletes.

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Sports Bras: Bare Necessities was having a sale on sports bras. I am large-chested and find I can only run in the bras with separate cups (no wires) and a clasp. So much more comfortable!

Vicky Hallett: Who doesn't love a good deal?

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breathing deep?: Hi MisFits! Does deep breathing have any health benefits other than stress reduction? I always feel kind of righteous after I spend 5-10 minutes on deep/yogic breathing exercises, but am not sure if that's warranted.

Vicky Hallett: Stress reduction has all sorts of health benefits associated with it -- you're less likely to have a heart attack, gain belly fat and be mean to others. I'd say that alone is worth it.

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Madison, Wisc.: I've recently started running on the treadmill at my gym and can do about 4 miles at a pretty slow pace, around 5.0 to 5.5 mph. If I try to go any faster than that, my heart rate spikes way too high and I can't sustain it for very long. I'm looking to improve my endurance at higher speeds so that I can get a longer run in on my lunch breaks, and for general fitness.

You guys are always talking about doing intervals, so I'm wondering what you think of this. The treadmill I use has a "speed interval" setting. If I set it for 30 minutes, it will start out with three minutes of slow/moderate walking, then 13 1-minute runs at around 7.2 mph (this is just the setting I tried last time), with 12 1-minute walks at 3.5 mph, and then 2 minutes of cool-down walking. The runs are pretty challenging for me, but the walking is really slow. If I try a higher setting, I can't make it through all the 1-minute runs without lowering the setting. Is this going to help me get faster, or would I be better off adjusting the speed manually? Thanks!

Howard Schneider: You are on the right track, for sure...Your getting a sense of your anaerobic threshold -- the point where your system (in its current condition) cant produce enough energy through its oxygen-dependent aerobic system to do what you are asking. Anaerobic work can't be sustained for long, but working at that level both makes your aerobic system more efficient and stronger, and lets you work longer anaerobically.... So keep it up...Just know your limits and respect them...

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Washington, D.C.: This might be more of an ethical than fitness question, but: a new personal training gym just opened near my house and sent out a coupon for a free session. I'm too cheap to pay $30 a month for a gym membership (instead I head to the park), so there's no way I'm going to pay $50 an hour. Would it be wrong to take the free hour with a trainer?

Howard Schneider: Absolutely not....and don't sign anything while you're there. Take all the literature home and think about it...

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Anonymous: Maternity exercise pants question -- does anyone know where to find pants for cold weather outdoor activities? I really don't want to wear my husband's ski pants for running, snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing etc., and I haven't found anything yet that will work. I live in Colorado and spend a lot of time outside, so sentencing myself to the gym for the next 6 months isn't appealing. Yoga pants are not going to cut it for 0 degree days.

Vicky Hallett: It's getting late, but can any chatters help our mom-to-be?

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Re. Weird pain: The same thing happened to me a few years ago. I had been running for years with no problems and then was hit with a blinding pain in my lower abdomen. I saw my doctor, who said it was some sort of irritation. It wasn't a very precise diagnosis, but I followed her advice and took a full week off from running (though I did bike). Rest got rid of the pain. I still get the occasional hint of this problem, in which case I scale back on running and focus on my breathing. Do see your doctor, just in case.

Vicky Hallett: Sometimes just taking a break can do wonders. Glad it worked out for you.

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Harrisburg, Pa.: What are some exercises to deal with a shoulder impingement problem? I'm doing inner and outer rotation exercises, avoiding shoulder presses, lateral raises and others which seem to stress my shoulder, but are there any shoulder exercises I SHOULD be doing?

Howard Schneider: Depends on how serious a problem. I am trying to focus on things that focus on how the shoulder works with the torso. For example, taking a light weight, I hold it out to the side then rotate across the body and down to the opposite foot. At my therapists suggestion I am also using 3 to 5 pound weights in a series that includes what are basically uppercut and then cross-body punches (the latter are done without extension, with the arm kept at 90 degrees). The aim is to strengthen the shoulder and rotator cuff muscles without generating the tension that overhead resistance causes.

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cold weather bike commuting: Bike gloves are specifically made with soft patches on their backs for wiping your nose...

Howard Schneider: Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow....(but don't ride your bike then, runny nose or not)

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Foot: Whenever I run or even walk quickly, the joint connecting my foot to my leg feels like it's going to break, to the point that I have to stop immediately. Even walking quickly to cause to catch my train causes this. I am 25 and not overweight FWIW. My question is: should I start with new running shoes or by going to the doctor?

Vicky Hallett: And by the joint connecting your foot to your leg you mean your ankle? I'd see a doctor.

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cold weather biking cont'd.: you can get a re-breather of sorts that heats the air you intake so your lungs don't hurt.

Howard Schneider: Isn't that what Kevin Costner had in Waterworld, or were those actual gills?

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Richmond, Va.: I just ran my first marathon on Saturday, and one thing I know for sure is that I want to do some exercise OTHER than running for a while. I plan to run twice a week, and I have a core strengthening class once a week, but I'd like to do something else to fill in the gaps. I'm not a cyclist or much of a swimmer, and my YMCA's aerobics classes are not at convenient times -- any suggestions?

Howard Schneider: Rowing? Climbing? Martial arts?

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Tried Hot Yoga.: I tried Hot Yoga in Bethesda a while back and had mixed feelings. I liked that I really sweated and felt that my muscles felt more loosened up but I thought it wasn't a great class for a beginner as I found it hard to follow the moves because I thought it went too fast and the instructor I felt was more interested in just going through the moves as opposed to making sure that the people did them correctly even though it was obvious I was a beginner. Needless to say I didn't go back because I felt that I may hurt myself not knowing what I was doing and having no help from the instructor.

Vicky Hallett: Hmm. Not an encouraging report from Try Yoga in Bethesda. But you could always, um, try it for yourself.

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No Longer Biking To Work Guy: Winter weather is in the air to our west. I would like to remind all the active people here to go and get a pair of YakTrax to stay on your feet and not your glutes when we get some ice.

Marshalls at Landmark usually has them for $12 or so which is a great deal. They make a great present too.

Vicky Hallett: Consider it an investment in your butt, right?

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Silver Spring, Md.: I really need to lose about 25 pounds to get back into shape. The problem is twofold. I can't run because its very painful on my knees and when I'm on the elliptical machine for longer than 30 minutes, my feet start to feel like their on pins and needles. I even bought new cross-trainers because I thought it was a shoe problem. I work out four to five times a week, doing mostly cardio and some weights. What can I do to avoid problems on the elliptical machine?

Vicky Hallett: Have you tried wiggling your feet around and picking them up and moving them a bit while you're on the elliptical? Could fix the pins and needles issue.

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just a happy report: Lost 25 lbs since July 1st, from 170 to 145, which is a healthy weight for a 5'7" 47-year-old woman. I used a mix of more exercise (bought an elliptical -- half an hour on that equals an hour on my old exercise bike), less food, and better food choices (broccoli rather than mac N cheese). I was able to enjoy small luxuries (the occasional wine or dessert) and never felt that deprived. I never thought I'd be back at this weight so soon. Am wearing a suit to work I last wore in the previous century. (Now my only problem is all my clothes either are too big or are a decade out of date!) Hang in there folks, it will happen. Slow and steady wins the race.

Howard Schneider: Congratulations!!!! And with that we have to sign off... Vicky is hungry and just asked me to lunch, but only vegetables so I said no. I want some horsemeat...tune in next week and we'll talk holiday gifts....

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