Your column on super stomachs has inspired me to get back into shape. Two months ago I had a beautiful baby boy by C-section. Is there any special type of exercise I should do, and when can I get started? Sue W., Bethesda.
A. First, congratulations Sue! Now, let's get to work on your abdominals.
Most doctors today perform C-sections by cutting a horizontal line, right about where your bikini begins. It's a lot easier to firm up the low tummy if you had a horizontal line instead of old-fashioned vertical surgery.
Since it's been two months since you had the baby, you can start taking a new-mothers' exercise class. Sign up at a local rec center or exercise studio. It'll take about a month before you start seeing results, but your hard work will pay off.
And do this exercise every day to add to your workout:
Lie on your back, bend both knees and place your hands flat on the floor. Slightly tilt your pelvis up toward the ceiling. Hold for 10 seconds and then do 10 "stomach crunches" sit-ups by lifting your shoulders off the ground. Add five repetitions each week.
Q. I can't seem to get rid of my shin splints. I just bought new running shoes, so I know that's not the problem. Help! Ron G., Capitol Hill.
A. You don't say how hard, far, and often you run, so I'm going to guess. If you're running more than 15 miles a week, slow down. Maybe you're overdoing it. Also, when you run, stay off the sidewalk. Run on a dirt track, or on grass -- anything but cement. Since you're so close by, try running on the Mall, it's the perfect surface.
Avoid sudden stops and cool down by walking for five minutes after running.
Even though your shoes are new, take them to an athletic store and get fitted for heel lifts or cushions. You might need the extra padding, if you have a heavy pace. If you don't like cushion inserts, try wearing two pairs of socks.
And help get rid of the dull ache in your lower legs by building up your calf muscles. Sit upright on a chair, feet together and flat on the floor. Place a two-pound weight on top of your feet and lift your legs straight in front of you. Hold for 10 seconds, repeat 10 times.
Q. My boyfriend and I both run three times a week, but not together. He says he doesn't like working out with me because I can't keep up. What can I do to improve? Sue H., D.C.
A. Unfortunately, you might not ever be able to keep up with your boyfriend on the jogging trail. But that doesn't mean you're not working hard.
Swimming and biking might be a better match between girlfriends and boyfriends. You need to find an activity that balances speed and endurance (men's strong points) with coordination and flexibility (women's strong points).
Running isn't the best activity for men and women because when it comes to speed and endurance, Mother Nature has given men the edge. Men and women have different muscle structures, skeletons, metabolism rates and hormones. The average man can run faster and longer than the average woman.
When a guy is running at 50 percent of his capacity, a female running at the same speed is working at 73 percent of her ability. So she's naturally going to tire out and slow down long before he does.
The average man is about five inches taller than the average woman. He weighs 20 to 40 pounds more but his body carries 10 percent less fat. And his extra fat is more likely to be found in his abdomen and tummy. The bulk of hers is in her buttocks and legs and that's going to slow her down.
His heart and lungs are bigger, so he can get more oxygen through his body and muscles and he can run faster and longer because his bigger muscles generate more power.
Women's smaller hearts and lungs take in 20 percent less oxygen than men's, so we have less oxygen feeding our smaller muscles. And your legs are shorter, so you have to beat his pace to match his speed.
But don't get too depressed. You may not be able to keep up with your man on a run, but you'll get a chance to outdo him.
Sign up for an aerobics dancing class together. Even though he'll most likely find the aerobics phase easier than you will, you'll be able to outstretch him on the floor exercises because women are more flexible.
And after class, you'll really have a chance to get even! He'll suffer a little more soreness than you will because men have shorter and tighter muscles than women.