Fresh Fitness Tips: I’m answering your fitness questions!

by Erin Kurdyla, Fresh Fitness Tips, SELF Magazine

Sirenjess wrote: What causes muscle soreness? Is it okay to work through muscle soreness?

Answer: The pain and discomfort you experience 24-48 hours after exercise (called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS) is caused by tiny tears (sounds scary but it’s not) in the fibers of your muscles. It happens most often when we exercise more, exercise harder, or when we try something new that our muscles are not used to. So, listen to your body. If you are sore take it easy (you may want to take a day off), or try a lighter workout until the soreness is gone.

Wired wrote: Hi, I’m trying to run my very first 1/2 marathon, I’ve never done it before. I usually run on a treadmill and never over 5 miles. For a novice like myself, can you suggest a training schedule? Thanks, K

Answer: What a great goal. A marathon is an awesome distance which is on my goal list as well. I hear, the key is putting time on your feet. You have to get used to logging miles. Ultimately you are going to need to do about 20 miles total a week. Most training plans include one long run each week which will get longer as your training progresses (starting at about 3-4 miles and working up to about 10). It’s also important to include 2-3 rest days, 2 easy runs, and 1 tempo run (which involve speed changes as you run). And of course don’t forget to include stretching. Hope that helps, Good Luck!

Sarayael wrote: I don’t know if this question has come up before, but could you recommend a good Pilates DVD to do at home? I really like the workout (because it offers so many different types of ab/core exercises) but can’t afford to take a group class right now. Thanks!

Answer: The Winsor Pilates DVD series is great (as suggested by another reader). You might also want to try any of the 10 Minute Solution Series, including Pilates on the Ball, Slim and Sculpt, or Rapid Results Pilates.

Kgulliksen wrote: I am wondering how you find the time to get out and exercise at night. Do you go after the kids are in bed or do you enlist your husband or a sitter to watch the boys. I could use some new ideas of what to do with my boys so I can get out and exercise without them. Thanks!

Answer: I get my evening workouts in because my husband and I make a great tag team. On most nights I do the bedtime routine and my boys are in bed by 7. When my husband walks in from work, I go. I workout while he eats dinner, plays with the baby, and helps clean up. Then he gets in his workouts. I also schedule one night a week (right now it’s Monday) that is MY day to take a class. That way he tries to be home early on that day or schedule meetings other nights if he can. And recently, since we (my husband is also doing a triathlon) started training for the bike, swim, and run we did have a babysitter come over after the boys were in bed so we could get in a work out together. Hope that helps!

MargiB wrote: Hi Erin, I love using the tear out cards from SELF to do my strength workouts at home. I have about 9 or 10 total body workouts saved that I mix and match with. I get bored easily so instead of doing 2 sets of 8 moves I do 1 set of 16 moves. Does it make a difference if I do 1 set of 16 moves compared to Self’s recommended 2 sets of 8 moves? Which way would give me a better overall workout?

Answer: Mixing and matching the workouts is fine. But keep in mind, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends performing one set of 8-10 exercises for ALL the major muscle groups 2-3 days a week. They also mention that multiple sets of each exercise may yield greater benefits if you have the time. So you decide for yourself.

Otionfrost wrote: I heard that when you do ab exercises (i.e. crunches), you should do it until it hurts (and then go on for a little bit more) in order to get any results. If this is true, then why do some work out programs/instructions/etc. tell people to do a specific number of crunches (for example, “3 sets of 10”)? Which way is better?

Answer:  First things first, nothing should ever “hurt”. It may feel uncomfortable because its hard work, but it should not be painful. Also, remember that your body can’t lose fat in one set area, so crunches alone will not give you that six pack. If you want to flatten those abs then combining cardio and proper nutrition are the way to go. As for crunches, doing a small number of controlled movements using proper form is best. That’s because chances are after about twenty reps you’e core is tired. And when your body is tired the tendency is to cheat and use bad form. So slow down the pace, use good form, and make the one’s you do get in really count.