Ask the MisFits

Vicky Hallett
Washington Post Health Section
Tuesday, February 24, 2009; 11:00 AM

No exercise question is too odd or embarrassing for Post MisFit Vicky HallettShe was online Tuesday, Feb. 24 at 11 a.m. ET

The transcript follows.

MisFits Archive.


Vicky Hallett: Ok, people, it's the end of an era. In case you missed last week, here's the news: Howard's been named the Jerusalem bureau chief. That means no more chats, and no more columns with references to Health section editor Frances Stead Sellers as the "Princess of Peas" (He really wrote that. I think.). Howard will have MisFit emeritus status, but I'm getting paired up with someone new. Soon. I think. I'll keep you posted.

Anyway, in the meantime, bear with me if I can't get to all of your questions. I'm just one person: Victoria Claire Hallett. (That's for you, mom.) And let's get this show on the road.


Cherry Blossom Training: Hi! I'm training for the Cherry Blossom 10 miler in April, but am a wuss about the cold so most of the training is being done on the treadmill. How does that translate to running on the road?

Vicky Hallett: You and me both, Cherry Blossom. Howard and I ran it last year, and I am a HUGE wimp about exercising in the cold, so I did almost all of my training indoors. And I managed to finish! Not with the fastest time ever, but for the longest I'd ever run, I was pleased...And I beat Howard. So that felt good.

The main thing to keep in mind with treadmill training is that you need a 1.0 incline to mimic flat land. You'll be really hurting in an outdoor race if you don't get used to at least some incline.

You might want to think about some outdoor training though, even if it's just to figure out what you should be wearing on race day to make sure you're comfortable. Last year's cold rain was pretty icky...


Washington, D.C.: Hi Guys enjoy your knowledge,

Besides a healthy diet and exercise...... What supplements or what can be done to increase REM sleep? I am fascinated about what it does for you -- practically everything. In short I am in search of more HGH.

Thanks for the info in advance.

Vicky Hallett: Have to admit I don't know much about this. Seems like the best thing to increase REM sleep would be to increase sleep overall, not to take a supplement. Any chatters have advice?


Washington, DC: Hey Vicki! How was the wedding? Congrats! From the last chat, Howard mentioned an article in the Health section about the reluctance of men to go to the dr from last you have a link to that? Thanks! Want to Live a Bit Longer? Speak Up.

Vicky Hallett: Amazing! Exhausting! And full of cardiovascular exercise -- we danced all night. (Thanks for asking!)

And here's that link you were looking for. No need to send a thank you note...


Squats: I am a healthy 29-year-old male who just started doing squats. I know they get a lot of praise for how good they are for you. But can you explain why they are so good for you?


Vicky Hallett: Well, for starters, they work a whole bunch of muscles (quads, hamstrings and glutes) and you can do them anywhere without any equipment. Yay for body weight. And if you do manage to do them with an upper body movement -- say a dumbbell press -- you really get the whole body involved. The more muscles you use, the more calories you burn. They're also a functional movement. In life, it's helpful to be able to squat. You know, lifting things, going to the bathroom...



Philadelphia: I read that one can lose weight steadily with an hour of exercise a day on a stationary bicycle. Yet, I see some people pedaling like mad while I am older and I don't pedal as fast. What are the coloric or weight value differences between fast, moderate, and slow pedaling? Are there general guidelines regarding times at average speeds where I can calculate what should be considered a good workout for weight loss purposes?

Vicky Hallett: Don't confuse going fast with working hard -- so much of the quality of a work out comes from the level of resistance. They might be speed demons, but that doesn't mean they're pushing themselves as hard as you are. But, really, don't worry about them! Focus on what you're doing and what your goals are. And try to keep elevating them and improving, not comparing yourself to other people in the room.

And if you're looking for specific calorie counts from your workouts, your best bet is getting a heart rate monitor.


Arlington, Va.: Vicky, I wanted to follow up with a couple of comments on a post last week from someone who has problems with odor while working out at the gym. First, if you are wearing workout clothes made a from a wicking fabric that is polyester, those fabrics sometimes have odor problems despite regular washing. I find that sometimes I need to presoak them in soapy water before putting them through a regular wash cycle. Also, if you put them in the dryer, use low heat, not high. Second, you might to do an extra "wash cycle" on yourself when you shower. Lather, rinse, then repeat for the sweaty areas. And use a real soap, not a body wash or body bar that's marketed more for moisturing skin than cleaning it. Good luck!

Vicky Hallett: All good advice for our stinky chatter from last week! There are also a few detergents meant specifically to get out sweat stench (Penguin Sport Wash is one), so that's another option.

Fellow gym goers will thank you for clearing the air.


Boston: Hi Vicky,

I have noticed something recently when I work out. When I do the stationary bike for 30 minutes (which I consider a moderate workout) I sweat a ton. But when I do the treadmill for 30 minutes running, which I consider a heavy/difficult workout, I'm not sweating that much. Does that mean anything? Or do I just have weird sweat? (I alternate between treadmill, elliptical, and bike for my workouts).

Vicky Hallett: With running, you're letting your body parts air out a bit more than on a bike (which lets sweat pool, and perhaps gives you the dreaded wet butt look). I don't think you have weird sweat. And as for how hard you're working during each exercise, I'd trust your perception of exertion over the amount of perspiration on your brow.


I nominate: Dana Milbank. Or one of the dough-y sports reporters.

Vicky Hallett: One thing's for sure: He'd do great workout videos. I'll pass on your advice to the powers that be!


RE: Squats: Yes, I am convinced. Would not want to go through life without using the bathroom!!

Your help is appreciated, as usual! Keep up the great work.

Vicky Hallett: You'll really thank me if you ever end up in Bulgaria.


Arlington, Va.: Re: odor issues

Also, throw in a scoop of Oxyclean when washing gym clothes. It works wonders for removing odors, sweat stains and the grey grime from socks. Thank you Billy Mays.

Vicky Hallett: "Grey grime" has a lovely ring to it, but I suppose I'd want to get rid of it too.

perfume!: While we are on the subject of body odor, please don't think it's a good idea to go to the gym with any kind of perfume - from soap to deoderant to after-shave to hair products. Are you listening MEN? The last two nights at the very small gym that I frequent, I had to leave early because two different men had so much perfume I could not breathe. It was bad enough when they were wandering around trying to figure out which machine to pretend to use, but once then got on the treadmills, and started to get warmed up..... GAG ME! Please save the perfume for your date after your shower.

Vicky Hallett: Hmm. I've got to disagree with you on the deodorant thing. But certainly, no dabbing on cologne before hitting the treadmill...


Heartland: I hope you can answer my question today, as there's a sale that's about to end! Do you think metabolic testing is worth the cost? I work out regularly, but I'm curious as to how many calories my body really needs. I'm trying to lose weight and get in better shape, but otherwise I'm not training towards a specific goal. Is active metabolic testing worth it for a relatively fit, fairly active individual without big training goals? Thanks!

Vicky Hallett: I think it depends on how much those sorts of things motivate you. For most people, it probably wouldn't be worth the price (even during a sale -- and I love a good bargain). You know you want to lose weight? Then you'll have to eat fewer calories and burn more calories. But some folks just love their data and that's what gives them a kick in the pants. Are you one of those folks? Then it could make sense. Just don't forget there are other, cheaper goals you could work toward instead.


More on Squats: Squats are a great leg-strengthening exercise that helps in lots of outdoor activities and sports: running, hiking, bicycling, and skiing, just to name a few.

Vicky Hallett: Right, if going to the bathroom gets boring, there's always hiking. (Good call!)


San Francisco: What's gym etiquette on chit-chat, specifically, at 5:30-6:30 a.m. or thereabouts. Most people at my gym at that hour (and I'm there nearly every day) are focused on working out. Great. But then a couple of women (usually) hunker down on neighboring cardio machines and kibbitz loud enough to penetrate rap music on my iPod. I get that dirty looks don't work and aren't particularly good manners either. I'd like to point out that these gals would be better off saving their oxygen for a more intense workout, but I'd never really say that; it's none of my biz -- though the content of their conversations isn't my biz either! Especially at such an early hour, it seems reasonable to expect my fellow gym-goers to shut up.

Maybe no question. Just a rant.

Vicky Hallett: Yeah, I'd say they should be more aware of the fact they're being annoying. But there's not much you can do...And because gyms tend to be noisy places, they might not have much choice about their volume level if they actually want to understand each other.


DC HomeGirl in Boston : So it's wicked cold here, and I'm doing my elliptical an hour a day instead of powerwalking the bike path for 10 my question--is it okay to walk/elliptical through minor aches? Or do I need to baby them.

Vicky Hallett: Do you mean soreness? Or pain? If doing elliptical is causing the latter, see if you can get someone to check your form or if taking more time between exercise sessions makes it better.

Also, just have to note that I'm impressed: You powerwalk 10 miles a day in nicer weather? Whoa.


perfume: I meant the perfume that has Madison Avenue has insinuated into deodorants. Some of them are just vile. It is possible (albeit sometimes difficult) to buy unscented deodorant.

Vicky Hallett: Yes, vile deodorants are a no-go at the gym. Just didn't want to discourage people entirely!


Falls Church, Va.: Hi, A while back I asked for advice finding a sports bra for my newly-large (due to having a baby) chest. I found a couple of great ones at Lululemon Athletica: the "Ta Ta Tamer" bra and "Let Me Hold Those For You" tank. These have helped me resume cardio -- yay! Just thought I'd share if anyone needed a similar product.

Vicky Hallett: They certainly win in the name department. And speaking of Lululemon, there are a bunch of fun events going on in the Georgetown store this weekend, including a free hoop dance class (perhaps Michelle Obama will show up?) and a cupcake soiree where they're giving away an eco-couture wedding dress. I meant to mention that during "Wedding Week" last week, but I guess I got caught up in my own wedding...Anyway, details are here:


DC: Congratulations on the nuptials, Vicky! Saw the very cute picture of you both in the NY Times wedding section! Weddings/Celebrations: Vicky Hallett, Jeffrey Miller

Vicky Hallett: They didn't give my dad the photo credit! But thank you for all the warm wishes...And I'll see you next week.


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