Take It to the Courts

Even if you’re a rank beginner on the tennis court, those backhand and forehand swings can help you become more fit. Tennis can add variety to your regular workouts. It increases your cardiovascular endurance, strengthens your arms, shoulders, legs and abdominal muscles, and, on top of all that, it’s a ball. 

Spending big bucks on an expensive racquet or tennis clothes isn’t necessary. Opt for a basic racquet, which should  cost under $50. But invest in a good pair of tennis shoes with lots of cushioning. Then, learn the game from a friend, sign up for lessons at a local Y or enroll in a college course.





Keeping Fit

Be Kind to Your Shins

Shin splints are injuries that cause pain in the front (medial) of the lower leg along your shin bone (tibia). They can be caused by a muscle strain, a stress fracture, inflammation of the tissue between the lower leg bones (tibia and fibula) or a buildup of pressure on the muscle on the outer part of the shin.

Shin splints are likely to occur when you begin performing a routine activity on a harder surface than you’re used to. For example, if you’re used to jogging on a soft track and move to pavement, or you begin a new activity, such as jumping rope, on a hard surface, you may risk shin splints. Using shoes that are worn out or have inadequate cushioning also can cause shin splints.

Prevent shin splints by selecting soft workout surfaces when possible and strengthening the muscles in your lower legs before you begin any activity that requires running or jumping. Also, stretch your shins before working out. If you suspect a shin splint, see your doctor for treatment and to rule out a stress fracture or other problem. In most cases, a shin splint disappears after a week or two of resting the leg as much as possible.

Ask your doctor about continuing exercise with a nonweight bearing activity such as swimming or cycling while you’re healing. Anti-inflammatory drugs or icing can relieve the pain. Your doctor may recommend a change of shoes, shoe inserts or a change of the duration and intensity of your workouts.

Fitness & Your Feet

Your feet take the brunt of most of your activities. For example, when a 150-pound jogger runs three miles, the cumulative impact on each foot is over 150 tons. If you want your feet to continue supporting you, take steps to protect them from these common problems.

Common Foot Problems

*CORNS AND CALLUSES. Thick layers of  dead skin cells that protect bones in your feet from repeated friction and pressure.
• Prevention: Wear properly fitted shoes.
• Treatment: Don’t cut off corns or calluses. If they give you problems, see your doctor or a podiatrist (foot doctor).

*ATHLETE'S FOOT. Caused by a fungus that thrives in warm, dark places.
• Prevention: Wash your feet daily and dry them thoroughly. Change socks every day or more often if damp. Alternate shoes to give each pair time to dry thoroughly before being worn again. Sprinkle foot powder on your feet and in your shoes. Wear waterproof sandals in public locker rooms to protect your feet from the fungus.
• Treatment: Try an over-the-counter athlete’s foot preparation or consult your doctor.

*BLISTERS. “Bubbles” in the skin caused by active exercising in ill-fitting shoes.
• Prevention: Wear shoes and socks that fit well. Wear thin, slick, wicking socks under your regular ones. Apply duct tape over any potential blister.
• Treatment: Don’t puncture or drain a blister. Apply a moleskin “patch.” Cut away the part directly over the blister. If a blister breaks, apply antiseptic and a bandage. Go easy on the area until it heals. If the area becomes infected or excessively painful, see your doctor or a podiatrist.

*HEEL PAIN. May result from a bruise to the heel, exercising on hard surfaces, heel spurs or wearing shoes without adequate cushioning. Heel pain also can be caused by medical conditions such as gout or arthritis.
• Protection: Buy comfortable shoes with lots of support and cushioning.
• Treatment: Use over-the-counter heel inserts for comfort. Consult your doctor or podiatrist for advice and to rule out a medical problem.       

Doctor Advice

Experts recommend that you see your doctor before beginning a fitness program — especially if you’re over 40. But how many of us follow that advice? Most of us just begin the program. Then, if some aspect of our health slows us down (hopefully not with a heart attack), we usually just quit.

Do you fit in any of the following categories or have another health problem?

• overweight
• a smoker
• inactive
• a family history of heart disease
• easily fatigued
• diabetes
• a prior injury
• asthma
• exercise-induced headaches
• bunions
• osteoporosis
• a poor lipid profile

If so, you can significantly improve your health with exercise. Yet you’re also most likely to become discouraged because of limitations from your health problems.

A visit to your doctor may seem like a big inconvenience, but your doctor’s advice may be what enables you to stick with an exercise program and, ultimately, become healthier.

Stay Injury-Free This Spring

Sports may go on year-round, but for many people spring or summer is when they rejoin the ranks of the active after laying off for the winter. If you’re unaccustomed to regular activity, it’s unsafe to simply leap into action after months of rest.

Fortunately, it’s a simple matter to prevent many common sports injuries. Take the following precautions to avoid problems this spring:

• Be sure to warm up. Muscles are tight when cold and more prone to strains. Exercise lightly at first, and be sure your fitness regimen includes a warm-up.

• Add variety. You wouldn’t want to watch the exact same news program every day. Likewise, exercise can be boring if it’s too repetitive. It can also lead to overuse injuries. Alternate activities for optimum mental and physical health.

• Take lessons. Many injuries are caused by poor technique or improperly adjusted equipment. Taking lessons can help minimize these problems
• Change your intensity. If you had an intense workout one day, take it a bit easier the next. Plus, give your body one day of rest each week.

• Listen to your body. If you have pain, especially in your joints, see your doctor.

How Should You Handle Post-Workout Pain?

After strenuous exercise some mild soreness is commonplace, especially if your fitness level is low. But with proper stretching and warm-up, a person usually can work through this discomfort, and after a few days, it should diminish.

Muscle strains, however, are a more serious matter. “Pulled muscles,” as they are commonly known, require rest, ice to reduce swelling, gentle stretches and often treatment with non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Many of the latter can be purchased over the counter, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve).

If you feel you need more than an icepack to counter your soreness, know that there are two types of nonprescription pain medicines. Medicines such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) work solely on the pain. Anti-inflammatories, including the NSAIDS and aspirin, work on both pain and inflammation. In some cases, a combination of acetaminophen and ibuprofen is most effective in stopping post-workout pain.

When using any of these medications to treat sports injuries, follow the directions on the package. Be sure to take them with plenty of water, and avoid taking them on an empty stomach.

If the pain doesn’t improve with over-the-counter medication, rest, ice, stretching or massage — or if it hinders your normal activities in any significant way — then it’s definitely time to consult a doctor or trainer. One of the most common causes of chronic athletic injury is for a patient to downplay the amount of pain they’re in or ignore it entirely. If you’re experiencing chronic exercise-related pain, it may be time to change your workout, switch to a new type of exercise or modify your equipment.

Overcome the Setbacks

Whatever your exercise program, be aware that you’ll encounter setbacks along the way. But especially if you’re just beginning a program, you may not know how to deal with them. Maybe a sore muscle will discourage you from working out for several days. Maybe you’ll be too tired after a hard day at work. Or maybe you’ll talk yourself out of going because you’re just too mentally tired to think about it.

It’s what you do when you encounter these setbacks that matters. Handled properly, they’ll just be temporary. But if you’re not prepared for them, you may let them bring your program to a halt.

These setbacks don’t have to be program stoppers, though. If you’re prepared for them, you can take steps to prevent them. Or when they occur, simply accept them and take up your program again after a short break. Expect the following setbacks:

  • Physical fatigue. This usually means you’re taking it a little too vigorously and should give your body a rest. Resume your workouts in a day or two.

  • Aches and pains. You probably won’t escape these when you’re working out hard. When this happens, try a variety of activities that use different muscle groups. If you injure your calf running, for example, you can still swim. You’ll be challenging your cardiovascular system but not overstressing your leg. If aches and pains seem extreme, reduce the intensity of your workout or see your doctor.

  • Mental fatigue. This may indicate that you’re bored with your routine or suffering from undue stress. Reassess your fitness goals and look for a variety of ways to make your routine more interesting.


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