How to stay the course when training for a marathon.

I’m a marathon-enthusiast. I want to know whether exercising with ankle weights will help me run faster and longer.

– Monu A.

I advise against ankle weights for runners. They won’t help you run faster or longer. In fact, they would be counterproductive as they increase the risk of injury.

With ankle-weights, you have to raise your legs with more force than without them. This forceful raising works more on your quadriceps muscle, which is in front of your thighs.

The quadriceps muscle is balanced by the hamstring muscle on the back of your thigh. While the quadriceps lift your knee, the hamstrings lower it.

When you practise with ankle weights, your quadriceps will be strengthened and could become too strong for the hamstring muscle. This can result in your hamstring muscle getting injured.

In sports, training has to be specific. If you want to run fast in a marathon, you need to run fast during practice. Ankle weights will slow you down, so you won’t be prepared to run faster during the actual event. Nor will you be able to run longer by practising with ankle weights —you’ll only tire your legs. To run longer, increase your time-span daily in the run-up to the marathon. All the best.

I have fibroids in my uterus, and have a severe flush out during my periods for 2 – 3 days. I do yoga regularly, am vegetarian, and drink 1.5 litres of water daily. I’m 47 years old and weigh 55 kg. Please advise on how to balance my hormones with naturopathic treatment.

– Geetha

Fibroids are made of fibrous and muscle tissue, and may occur due to an over-reaction of the uterus to estrogen, the female sex hormone. First, please check whether any medicine or supplements that you may be ingesting, including contraceptive pills or hormone replacement therapy, contain estrogen. If so, stop taking them and consult your doctor for alternatives.

Since heavy flush outs can cause anaemia and weakness, tiredness or light-headedness, have two black dates (in the morning) and two green betel leaves (one in the morning and one in the evening) daily.

The heartening news is that fibroids shrink after menopause as estrogen levels fall. Meanwhile, continue to do yoga and drink 1.5 litres of water daily. Three small changes suggested in naturopathy are:

Avoid wheat and milk as much as possible.

Eat cooked banana flower mixed with a little curd — it helps increase the level of the hormone progesterone, which balances estrogen.

Add turmeric and cinnamon to as many dishes as possible.

I also recommend a healing visualisation practice twice a day. Sit comfortably with your neck supported. Release all tension from the toes and relax them. Move upward — ankles, calves, knees, stomach, reproductive system, and so on — thinking “release and relax”. Now, visualise a stream of golden light entering through the crown on your head and filling every part of your body. Visualise this golden light dissolving all the fibroids in its healing energy. Silently seal this inner action with the thought, “I am healed”. There will come a time in the following months where you will feel a different sensation and know I have healed. May you have this beautiful experience soon.

I’m 172 cm tall and weigh 90 kg. Please give me a plan to reduce my weight to 75 kg. Also, I suffer from pain in the area from my neck to shoulder to left hand. Please suggest a remedy.

– Pravinkumar

It’s simple: let go of old, health-robbing habits and let in fresh, health-nurturing ones.

Eat low-fat foods. Have oil-free, ghee-free, butter-free food. Make a thick tomato puree in thse blender with garlic, ginger, and salt. Cook cauliflower in this puree. Cook masoor dal with water, haldi, hing, jeera, and salt. Make dry-roasted rotis. Chop cabbage, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, capsicum, apple, and add salt, pepper, and squeeze half a lemon. Voila! A low calorie-meal heralds in a slimmer you.

Snack on cucumber, carrot, guava, boiled, un-skinned sweet potato. Have sugar-free beverages.

Walk daily. Make the 30-minute brisk walk as much a revered ritual as a bath. This will not just help burn fat but send health-enhancing oxygen to cells in your shoulder, neck, and hand.

Exercise your neck. For two weeks, do these three exercises five times each daily.

Slowly tilt head forward as far as possible. Then move back head as far as possible.

Keeping shoulders still, tilt head to your right shoulder, then to your left.

Slowly turn your head from side to side.

Continue these exercises and add one more: Hold light weights — say, 5-pounders in each hand — and keeping arms straight, shrug your shoulders up and down smoothly.

Avoid bending your neck for long periods over desk-bound work. Keep your chin parallel to the floor and bring your books or computer monitor up to your eye level. Before sleeping, float into a meditational trance by doing the 8-8-8 breath — inhaling, holding, and exhaling to a count of 8. Relax more, worry no more — and learn to take on challenges, not burdens.

The writer is co-author of the book Fitness for Life.

Queries may be sent to life@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on November 15, 2012)
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