Recent Exercise Q&A

Q: I’ve read lots of articles that recommend weight lifting for runners. What are your recommendations?


reA: I do a lot of total-body strength conditioning, even during my racing season. The program I follow was developed for me by Phil and Jim Wharton, who wrote The Wharton Strength Book. Their book is easy to follow, and the exercises they recommend don’t require a lot of equipment. They explain how many sets to do and how much weight to lift.

The most important muscles to work on are your stabilizer muscles, which include your hips, glutes, lower back, and inner and outer thighs. You also need to strengthen your lower abdominals. If these muscles are strong, you’ll maintain good running form even when you become tired. As you draw closer to your big competitions, back off on the frequency and weight load of your strength workouts.

–Jen Rhines, winner of three consecutive NCAA outdoor track titles in the 5000 from 1994 to 1996


Hanging Tough

Q: I’m a 54-year-old man with Parkinson’s disease. I’ve run for 10 years and finished several marathons. Parkinson’s has affected my right side in such a way that my right foot lands flat My left foot lands normally. Is there anything I can do to correct this?


A: Parkinson’s is a neurological disease that results in muscle rigidity and slow movements. Tremors are usually present as well. Physical activities that involve smooch, rhythmic movements–such as running–can help people stricken with Parkinson’s to maintain mobility.

For a runner with Parkinson’s, stretching is mandatory and should be done regularly. As for correcting your foot landing, I suggest you see a podiatrist or other qualified professional for a computerized gait analysis. The results of this consultation and test will determine if a supportive device such as an orthotic might normalize your running gait.

You should also see a physical therapist about exercises you can do to correct your foot-strike imbalance. Changes in your running pattern are inevitable, but running will help. I commend you for continuing with it and wish you the best.

–Randy Schapiro, M.D., neurologist at the Fairview University Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minn.


Down to the Bone

Q. I’m a 58-year-old man and have been running 30 to 40 miles a week for 26 years. I’m a vegetarian and don’t eat any dairy products. Recently I had a bone-density scan and was told I had osteoporosis of my spine and hips. I thought running increased bone density. Why do I have this condition?


Unfortunately osteoporosis (a significant reduction in bone mass) can even occur in runners, and the exact causes of this disease are hard to pinpoint. The good news is that your years of consistent running have probably spared you from even more bone-density loss.

I recommend that your family physician, internist, or endocrinologist examine you to discover possible causes of your osteoporosis, such as thyroid or parathyroid disease. Your doctor can start with simple blood tests to determine the levels of your thyroid and parathyroid hormones and the calcium and phosphorous in your blood. Urine tests can detect a high level of excreted calcium.

If no specific cause is discovered, I’d recommend that you keep running in order to stimulate your bones to absorb more calcium, and supplement your diet with calcium, vitamin D, and a prescription drug called alendronate (Fosamax), which has shown to be effective in building bone mass.

Warren A. Scott, M.D., sports medicine specialist in private practice in Soquel, Calif., competitive runner since 1969.

After completing the Chicago Marathon in October, I’m finding it hard to break out of the 11:30 pace that i ran to finish in just under 5 hours. I ran much faster in shorter races before the marathon, but lately I haven’t been able to motivate myself to speed up. What do you suggest?


I’ve confronted the same motivational crisis after my marathons, and find that two tricks work particularly wen. First, I take a break. Fora couple of weeks, or maybe even a month, I relax and relish the fact that I’ve finished a marathon. I mn when I feel like it, and go to the gym to maintain my fitness.

Second, I set a new goal. By the time I’ve finished the “relaxation phase” of my marathon recovery, I’m usually eager to start training again for another race. Perhaps you’d like to set a marathon PR. Or maybe it’s time to focus on shorter distances. Look at a calendar, find a race, and figure out what you need to do over the next few months to reach your goal. Start a training log, as it provides tangible, daily proof of your progress and will help motivate you.

Running partners can also be great motivators. Try to find someone with similar abilities and goals; he or she will help you return to your speedier, pre-marathon training pace. If you’re still faltering, register for a few local races and bring along family, friends, and co-workers. These races will motivate you to train by giving you small, measurable goals to achieve.

Take advantage of every running resource around you–clubs, online logs, training programs–and you’ll likely find the motivation you seek.

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