Exercise Q&A

Q. I'm going to Colorado this month and I plan to do some hiking in the mountains. I already have a waterproof windbreaker and great hiking shoes and socks. I haven't bought a sports bra yet, since I cannot decide what to get. I have some old ones (at least seven years old). They are more like sturdy tank tops than anything, but they are fairly comfortable.

A. Outerwear hogs folks' attention when they plan for adventure travel, but the stuff closest to the skin often matters the most. Who wants a wedgie in the wilderness, right? Seven years is a long time for any piece of fabric to maintain its shape, and while your worn cords might have gotten increasingly comfortable over the past decade, bras that are that well-used probably need to head into retirement — even if you're not worried about frightening off the wildlife with your added bounce.

Of course, if you're more Kate Moss than Pam Anderson, even a not-so-sturdy tank top will do for a leisurely hike. But if what you're carrying up top is more substantial, this becomes a more critical issue. "Breast movement isn't bad; it's the flopping that's a problem," explains Tomima Edmark, founder of HerRoom.com, an online intimate apparel company.

Edmark's site offers the innovative "Bounce Test" feature: Videos that show a 36D model running in each of the "high-impact" bras for sale, so women can see how much movement to expect. Edmark's standby suggestion is the Enell 100, which uses compression and encapsulation to make for a sturdy bust. Plus, wide straps and wire-free cups mean less chafing and jabbing.

For flatter gals, those comfort features will make the most difference. Same goes for wicking. Some even come equipped with antimicrobial linings, and a little stink-fighting might be nice in the woods.

Q. Could you offer any common-sense advice to a recreational runner who logs about 15 to 20 miles a week? — I am trying to shave off some precious minutes for an upcoming 10K and have so far despaired of most of the advice that I have encountered. Is there any consensus that I am overlooking? I'm not trying to add miles, simply to run my existing regimen at a faster pace.

A. The consensus, I'm afraid, is that you're being lazy. "He wants results without work," says Adina Wadsworth, president of the Washington Running Club.

Catholic University's men's cross-country coach Mark Robinson suggests tacking a few miles onto your weekly running schedule. Upping to 30 miles a week (only an extra 1.5 miles a day) will boost your endurance and speed, he says.

Or swap one of your shorter runs for a track session targeted to interval training. That's less fun than a leisurely jog, but it'll give you a better sense of your pace. Notes Wadsworth, "We have a saying: The only way to run faster is to run faster." At the very least, says Wadsworth, you should try fartlek.

The term is Swedish for "speed play," and it's basically unstructured intervals. When you feel the moment is right, turbocharge for a minute or two before resuming your regular pace.

Another tip from both experts: Get a buddy or two. "You're pushing, encouraging and supporting each other," Robinson says. "So it's less drudgery." Speedy pals will get you chasing after them, while slowpokes can boost your confidence so you'll dash even faster.

The final advice from Robinson is to go into race day with a firm pacing strategy. "People often pick numbers because they sound good, not because they have a connection to the speed they've been training for," he says. Keep it reasonable, and you'll be a lot happier crossing that finish line.

Q. I am 131/2 weeks pregnant and finally have some of my energy back. I am already overweight but was doing some exercise before I got pregnant (swimming and yoga). I have a history of miscarriages so have not really been very active for the past two months. What are some good exercises that I can do to try to minimize my weight gain (doctor's orders) but not put too much stress on my body?

A. That baby bump is no reason to dump your regular exercise routine, provided you get the all-clear from your doctor, advises Constance Bohon, a D.C.-based obstetrician. Yoga and swimming are ideal activities when you're preggers: You'll get that wonderful weightless sensation in the water along with some cardio, and yoga will keep you from tottering as your center of gravity changes and will strengthen key core muscles.

What you'll want to avoid are sports that might have you falling over, which is why biking is on Bohon's list of no-no's. Anything with heavy weights, or that you're not accustomed to, might also cause problems because you won't be certain of your own limits.

Bohon also prefers walking to running. "In pregnancy, the uterus weighs a lot more, and jogging puts extra strain on the ligaments around it. So that can start to drag the uterus down," she says.

As for prenatal-friendly strengthening moves, keep it simple, says Marissa Lysaght, whose Aveo Fitness in Arlington, Va., caters to moms-to-be. She'll often have clients hold a medicine ball directly in front of them, do a squat, curl in the ball to work the biceps and then press it up. Or, Lysaght will have clients get on all fours and then extend opposite arms and legs to challenge their midsections.

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