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Your Fitness Questions Answered

Whether you are a student athlete trying to make the varsity squad, or a weekend warrior trying to reach that next goal, whether you are an elite amateur athlete, or just a person trying to get into better shape, PressBox and Velocity Sports Performance are here to help.

Click here to submit your questions for the experts at Velocity Sports Performance and we'll pick some of the best questions to answer in the paper and on the site each month.

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Is it OK to work out when you’re sick? With cold and flu season underway, is it better to rest up or fight through it at the gym? (Carol)

For the most part, I try to go by the "neck rule.” If your cold symptoms are above the neck, such as runny nose, stuffiness, etc., you can try to fight through it. However, if you are feeling dizzy or lightheaded, you should skip your workout. If your cold symptoms are below the neck, such as a chest cold or body aches, take some time off. These illnesses are harder for your body to fight and require a lot of energy to do so. If you try to push through it, you could be putting yourself at risk, possibly lengthening and worsening your illness. Chest colds and other chest conditions like bronchitis, make it hard to breathe and hard for your muscles to get oxygen, which they need in order to perform.

What is a good workout plan for someone who hasn't exercised regularly in a few years and is looking to start up again? (Eugene)

Take it slow. Whenever you start a new workout, be it cardio or strength workouts, your body needs time to adapt to the new stresses placed on it. Your muscles will feel sore for a few days after, which is completely normal. This is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and occurs whenever your body is placed under stress that it is not used to.

Start out with a couple days a week of cardio, such as a on the treadmill or elliptical machine for about 20 minutes and gradually add in strength training. Start with light weights. You will develop more soreness from weights more easily than you will from cardio, so take it easy. Gradually increase your time spent on cardio and the amount of weight you use as it gets easier to keep challenging yourself and to keep from hitting a plateau.

I like to think that I am in pretty good shape, and I play pick-up basketball at least once a week. I turned 34 a few months ago and I'm really starting to notice that I can't go up and down the court like I used to. Any suggestions on how to get back to my old form? (Sean)

Unfortunately, after we hit 25, our bodies begin to slow down. From this point on, it becomes harder to maintain the shape that we are used to. Workouts that kept you in shape at age 25 will not keep you in the same shape when you are 30.

My suggestion is to get in the gym more than once or twice a week to play ball or hit the treadmill, running faster for a slightly shorter period of time. You have to continue to push yourself harder than you used to in order to maintain your cardiovascular and muscular fitness once you hit 25 or 30 years old.

Questions answered by Liz Paesani, a sports performance coach at Velocity Sports Performance in Baltimore. She is a certified athletic trainer through the National Athletic Trainers' Association and a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

Issue 2.3: January 18, 2007