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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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Watching the Baltimore marathon recently has gotten me excited about trying to run a marathon.  What’s the best way to start training and how much time should I allow to prepare for the race? ( Michael - White Marsh)

The best way to start training is to join a group, such as Team in Training. They provide you with a workout program, coordinate your runs and give you plenty of people to run with. I ran my first marathon through the Team in Training program and loved it.

If you aren’t up for a group effort, here are the basics. Your base mileage should be about 20-25 miles-per-week before you start your program which needs to commence at least 16-18 weeks before the race. You should run no less than three times per week.  One of those runs should cover a long distance. From that point on, you will gradually build up your mileage (no more than 10 percent each week) until your long run reaches 20 miles. About four weeks before the race, you should begin to taper your training for the big race.

I’m a woman in my 30s and my arms are skinny. I’d like to add more tone and definition – what do you suggest? (Lisa - Catonsville)

The first thing you should do is start lifting weights. Below are some exercises that target the muscle groups in your upper arms to help you shape up. You should perform these lifts in three sets of 10 repetitions, three times a week.

Don’t worry, you will not get “big,” as most women believe they will if they lift weights. Women do not have enough testosterone in their system, nor do they ingest enough calories to get "big.”

Side-arm raises: Hold two dumbbells, arms down and together. In a controlled motion, raise your arms to the side so that the weight is no higher than shoulder height. Slowly lower the weight back down to starting position, repeat nine more times for one set.

Bicep curls: Hold a dumbbell in your hand, palm up, and hand by your side. Keeping your elbow against your side, slowly raise your hand toward your shoulder, and then slowly lower it back down so your arm is tight. Repeat nine more times for one set, then switch arms.

Tricep kickbacks: Holding a weight in your hand, lean forward placing your hand on a chair or table for balance (back should be flat at all times). Keep your upper arm in line with your body while you reach back with your hand.  Slowly lower and repeat nine more times for one set, then switch arms.

What kind of exercise regimen and diet should I go on to gain muscle mass? (Edward - Reisterstown)

Muscle mass and strength are not the same thing.  You train differently to build size than you do to build strength.

To gain size, lift three to five sets of 10 reps and somewhere in the neighborhood of 65-85 percent of your one rep-max (1RM). Your 1RM is the amount of weight you can lift for that exercise one time. This should not be done without proper supervision and guidance. Rest time of about 90 seconds between sets is also important.

After you gain size, you want to turn that size into strength. After completing the above regimen for about four weeks, follow this one. To build strength.  You should be lifting greater than (or equal to) your 1RM no more than 6 times, at 3-5 sets.

Lifting isn’t going to get you anywhere if you don’t have the diet to support it. You need to increase your caloric intake and your protein intake to help rebuild those muscle fibers that you tore down in your workouts. You should eat 5-6 smaller meals a day to keep your metabolism up.  After your workouts, you should consume a meal that is high in protein.

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 1.28: November 2, 2006