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Knee Injury Plagued Cyclist asks:

I rode in a century bicycle ride about 5 years ago...I was 30 miles from home and started having serious knee pain. With no other way to get home I rode on. I think I messed it (my knee) up pretty badly because to this day it still hurts if I ride a bike, especially up a hill. I went to a doctor and he said it was illeotibial something or other. I was given some cortisone shots (they don't feel so good either). If I lie on my side and lift up my leg I get this sharp pain on the outer part of my knee. It sort of feels like the "connection" is loose in there. I have been exercising but nothing makes the pain go away...Does this sound like surgery will help, or can I exercise it away , or should I just forget riding a bike?

Gypsy replies:

Aren't those knees the pits. Advice in retrospect is often useless advice, however as I state in my column on injury "An Ounce Of Prevention is Worth A Pound of Pain" some info may help in the future toward the prevention of injury. The R.I.C.E. formula is a good one to use. If you have a lot of swelling icing (avoid heat) will alleviate the pressure. Ibupropin does help bring swelling down, but care should be taken not to partake in alcoholic beverages when using it, since it can be hard on your kidneys, if taken too often. Regular aspirin will have a similar effect as long as you are aspirin tolerant. Generally treatment for non chronic knee problems are solvable with rest, ice, containment and elevation. You may have wrap your knee for a while when you do work that requires its use. Stay away from high impact exercise. If you must do exercise, row a boat or swim rather than run or ride a bike for a while. There are special inserts for shoes that will limit pronation (the lateral turn when you lan d on the outside of your foot). These inserts should be used only with low heeled, lace-up shoes and a stiff heel to keep you from rolling over the insert. Cross trainers of a good tennis shoe type has helped me with my stance quite a bit. When you are no longer in pain, start exercises for your vastus medialis (the muscle that pulls your kneecap toward the inside): Sit on the floor with your knees straight. Keep your legs far apart. Pointing your toes,rotate outward until you feel a slight resistance (not a lot of stress). With a relaxed foot, slowly raise and lower leg. You can sit against a wall or desk for balance, if balancing on you hands is too stressful. If this is painful stop doing it until the pain is completely gone. Avoid exercises such as squats and lunges. Leg presses, curls and extensions without weight to begin with are much more beneficial.

Well now for the question of surgery. I am not a doctor. If your pain is severe or continues, you should see a doctor!! If you cannot move the injured part. You should see a doctor!! If the injury is not healing-You should see a doctor!! Having said this I have to say that you yourself must evaluate the seriousness of your injury, because an operation is a serious and personal decision. Having accepted your injury you must come to some working it out terms. Many doctors are super cautious (often more due to fear of lawsuits than real concern for their patient). They will tell you to stay away from exercise programs and will quickly suggest operations for injuries that with time and patience can be worked through in other ways. Your mental attitude plays an important role in healing. For even if you decide to have an operation there will be after affects. You must recuperate. You must face the possibility that the operation will cause you pain and suffering for a long time to follow. You may nev er get back to your former physically active state again. You may still have to give up cycling and running for a long time if not for good. Check out other ways. There are sports therapists, holistic clinics that have a broader spectrum of healing ways than the doctors of the old school. My own experience (with myself, children, personal training students, other trainers) has shown me that we play a major role in assisting our healing processes. Patience and persistence may be the key to final healing, but you must decide which path to take.

One thing that might be of interest to you is some info I received from a nurse friend of mine with whom I box. She told me her grandfather, who had some severe knee injury found glucosamine (a vitamin supplement) was very helpful in curing his knee ailment. I have since read some thing about glucosamine and am passing this on to you just in case you are interested. Even should you decide to go for surgery, this may help you afterward through your rehabilitation. People have found with glucosamine sulfate that they no longer have pain and take it three times a day. Reports from Europe in the early 1980's showed athletes taking glucosamine for their damaged knee cartilage had no symptoms and resumed full training after 5 months of treatment. Twelve month follow ups found all the athletes back to normal. This was a study of 68 athletes and 52 of the 68 showed good results, giving some hope for those who have chronic patellofemoral stress syndrome of the knee which keeps them in constant pain. Tendons, ligaments cartilage and spinal discs are made of chains of sugars (glycosaminoglycans and strings of proteins (collagens). The two form a strong, flexible and resilient material. Glucosamine sulfate supplies our body directly, which gives us the structural base for colagen to stick to. It seems to vary with different people as far as how long it takes for recovery. It seems it must be taken regularly for a fairly long period of time (14-28 weeks), however the results are good and the body tolerates glucosmine well. With ibuprofen at taken orally for a length of time the seems to be some adverse affects, whereas glucosamine has comparatively less problems. There is some evidence that show if you take 1-5 grams of vitamin C per day along with the glucosamine (powerful antioxidant) you will have good results. If you take it before surgery you may be saving yourself lots of money. Check out some holistic and alternative medical practitioners. I would always recommend getting other opinions before embar king on surgical procedures.

Fearing Flab at Fourteen asks:

I am fourteen years old. I am five feet four inches (5'4'') and weigh 134 lbs. With bathing suit season fast approaching, I am wondering what can be done about the flab on my inner thighs and my stomach. Do you have any advice for me?

Gypsy replies:

There are many ways of getting your abdominals into shape. Crunches of varying sorts are always a boon to getting a stronger firmer abdominal section, which will contribute in the end to a stronger more flexible back. When doing a crunch, keep the movements small and intense for best results. Also, always breathe forcibly out on the crunch itself. If you do this regurlarly (every other day is good or three days a week) you will find your belly getting bathing beauty firm. You will also note your back strengthening, giving you a stronger more erect posture. The confidence of your stance will draw as much attention as the beauty of your body. Check out my article on backs, Back to Back or "I Don't Think I'm Ever More 'Aware' Than I Am Right After I Hit My Thumb With A Hammer"

Regular sit-ups are also good for abdominals. I recommend keeping the knees bent. This will cause less tension on your back. Leg lifts while lying flat on your back is another method of tightening stomach muscles. Bring your legs up pointing to the ceiling and slowly lower them until you feel your back start to rise off the floor. Then hold your legs out for 4-6 seconds and raise them back to starting position. Do this as many times as you can, increasing the number each day you do them. Also watch for the next (June-July) muscle of the month. It will be on abdominals.

As for those inner thighs: Lying on your side doing single leg lifts or getting on your hands and knees and doing leg extensions will get the job done. For inner leg toning, lie on your side with one leg extended on the floor and your other leg bent. The foot is behind your knee. Support yourself with one arm on the floor in front of you. Bend foot up toward shin and slowly lift your leg as high as possible. Hold it there (2-3 seconds) then, with control, slowly lower it back down. Do this for 10 repititions, rest and do it again. Repeat on opposite side. Flutter kick (like swimming classes teach you) can be done by lying on your stomach on the floor, lifting your legs and kicking. Make sure you point your toes and kick about 5 or 6 times. If you go to a gym you can use their leg extension machine or sit on a chair in your house with your legs extended out in front of you. To catch more of the inner thigh keep your toes pointed toward each other when doing extension (pigeon-toed). Since you are fo urteen and probably still growing, I would warn you to be careful using any extra weights. You will tone just fine without them and you can pull muscles so easily during growth spurts. If you feel you can contend with weights, despite my warning, work with light ones. You would be surprised how much toning you can get from 1/2 lb weights. Also try some regular aerobics. Ride a bike, roller skate, jump rope, play basketball, dance and enjoy your summer. I teach a step aerobic class and I find young people can handle a 20 minute step program easily. Doing stair steppers are fine, but can be hard on the knees. I prefer treadmills. Stationary biking is fun if you have a movie to ride into, so, weather permitting, take a bike ride.

Hope this was helpful.

Sleepless and Itchy in Colorado asks:

HELP!!!!!!! I think I'm losing my mind. Sleep still escapes me. I don't think I can stand this much longer. My days are very long with these sleepless nights. Oh, by the way I have itchy, crawly skin. >ANY SUGGESTIONS!!!!!! And oh yes, that Melatonin does not work at all for me.

One would think after experiencing menopause for 12 years that one would be having less symptoms, but there is still a lot to be learned. I need a coping mechanism: One short of doing myself in.

Gypsy replies:

I know how you feel. When I first entered menopause, I found it confusing and disturbing. It had been a long time since my hormones (since puberty and baby making) last played tricks on me. Getting info and talking to other women was very helpful. As you have probably discovered, info on menopause is few and far between.

After reading and talking to others, I began to understand that menopause is a time of transformation. From being a potential mother to my journey toward being a wise old woman (or at least modestly aware). When realized that what was happening was perfectly natural and that the struggles were just new adventures to embark on with the anticipation that the outcome was going to be wonderful. (Definitely portraying the positive side of any adventure helps you go on). The years before and just after menopause are referred to as climacteric. This can span from the mid-thirties to the early 60s, which include premenopause, climax years and post menopause. Each stage has special needs and offers new challenges.

The emotional uproar of adolescence, turbulent changes of youth, hormonal changes in pregnancy (being a young mother was quite intense for me) and now the flashing, flooding hormones of old wise woman ways are just another progression. In fact, I found myself feeling like a pubescent elder through this menopausal experience. Learning to blend and integrate these new emotional changes was my secret to sanity.

Collecting info on depression is very helpful. Laying around doing nothing is helpful. Indulge your depression for a few days. Get help if you can't pop out. After two weeks call a local hot line or contact feminist therapists. If you find you are angry-cherish it until it blows over. Get some sunlight. If you can't get 15 minutes of sunlight a day, try sitting next to florescent lamps (6-8) for 30 minutes upon waking. Sing the blues or dance to them. Get a massage. Do some aerobic exercise thirty minutes a day. As far as sleep- Sleeping less will not hurt you. In fact while we sleep, a depression-causing substance is produced and used. Stay up and do something constructive. Read a good book . Watch an old movie. Talk to another friend who can't sleep. I had trouble sleeping when I was a teenager. The doctor told my mother that I would sleep when I needed to. I did! Aping joyfulness is not fooling yourself, but more of a reminder of how to be happy. Smile and laugh with your whole face. Breathe deeply. You will find yourself feeling happier. Try non-drug therapies. The problem with many anti-depressants is the side affects when withdrawing. Experiment with herbals. Drink some oatstraw tea. Try infusion of garden sage. Skullcap infusion or tincture can help to replace lithium, prozac, and other antidepressants. Drugs can lock away your mind better than an institution. Let your mind exercise and learn to cope with your new changes just as ones body must learn to fend for itself, because in the end it is you who must do the coping. Take walks, dance and sing. Do not worry about what others think if you are making yourself feel better. I also found that bathing in a bath of aloe mixture or some of the over the counter anti itching bath treatment (I use a product called Aveeno once in a while) can be very helpful.

Indulge yourself. You deserve it. I hope this was helpful.

Tense from Tendonitis asks:

I read with interest An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Pain. I'm a 48-year-old relatively new weightlifter (3 years) and long-time runner/cyclist (25 years). I've been dealing with a frustrating elbow injury lately. My guess is that it's tendonitis; it's the area on the outside of my right elbow. I have full range of motion and can even continue to perform the movements that I suspect caused the problem (curls, press-downs, "Pec-Deck" exercises), but with some pain during an exercise. What really hurts is doing something like lifting a paint-can from a counter top to an "arms-length-high" shelf or any other activity that causes a reverse-curl movement, especially when the movement continues above shoulder-height. Any suggestions/advice for how to rehabilitate, where to look on the Web, etc.? I'm an exercise addict and would like to lose as little conditioning/strength as possible, while at the same time allowing the injury to heal.

Gypsy answers:

When you work out or do athletics regularly injuries are apt to happen. Most injuries are minor and can be self treated. However, the key to knowing when to treat yourself and when to see a trainer, physical therapist or doctor is what is important to your healing. Listening to your body is an essential first step. See a doctor (or health practitioner of choice) if pain is severe or continues, if you cannot move the injured part or if the injury does not seem to be healing. For self-treatment following the R.I.C.E formula (rest, ice,compression and elevation), information you probably ran across while reading my column "An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Pain" Icing after exercising can help tremendously. If you have swelling, do not apply heat. Be careful icing. 10 minutes on 10 minutes off three times will reduce swelling. What you describe does sound like tendonitis. Tendonitis is caused by tearing of some of the tendons fibers. There is swelling and tenderness. It is often caused when lifters do too many repetitions of the same lift. It occurs in elbows, shoulders, knees, wrists and hands. Elbow tendonitis can be caused by athletic activity. It can also occur or be exacerbated by things such as opening a jar, lifting and carrying heavy luggage, pulling on a stuck door or as you found lifting a paint can from the counter top.

The damage to the outside (lateral) indicates damage to the tendons that straighten your wrist. You tore the tendons because the force on them was greater than their inherent strength. The trick is to strengthen your tendons once they have healed. In the meantime stop doing any other activity that causes pain to that area. You do not have to give up physical activity. Cycling is fine. Try jogging, basketball or anything else that doesn't cause pain. Do exercises (after you are healed:Oh! I know how hard it is to be patient with this) to strengthen the muscles around the wrist and elbow. An exercise to treat what is often referred to as backhand tennis elbow is: Sit in chair next to table. Place your forearm on the table, palm facing down, with wrist and hand hanging over the edge. Hold a one pound weight in your hand. Slowly raise and lower hand by bending and straightening your wrist. Do exercise 10 times rest a minute then do 2 more sets. If you feel any pain-Stop! Do it later. As the exerc ise gets easier,increase the weight in your hand.

You can tell if you have tendon damage in elbow, if it hurts to bend and/or straighten your wrist. It could also be a pinched nerve, a damaged joint or a torn ligament if it continues to occur. Be sensible. It is frustrating not being able to do as much as you would like, but better take care immediately, rather than injuring yourself more by overworking the original injury. In the end patience and persistence are your best psychological aids. There are some good reference books on injuries. As far as the WEB-the last time I browsed for health and fitness info, I found very little, but that was a while back. Maybe I'll try again or one of my readers could possibly be of help.

Learning in Long Prairie asks:

I am writing a research paper on weightlifting and was wondering if you would answer a few questions for me. I am focusing on the psychology of lifting weights and typical training programs.

I haven't been very successful in finding very much information on the psychological effects of weightlifting. Any other information having to do with lifting weights would also be helpful.

Gypsy replies:

Does lifting weights affect one's mind? How?

The mind controls the body and the body in turn can affect your mind. Remember the woman who lifted a truck off the back of her child when he was pinned underneath. Her mind demanded that she act in such a way to save her child. Likewise our body when it is strong and flexible will help your mind to function at its best. An out of control body will take over your mind. It will cause you to feel lethargic and depressed. When I started lifting, I was in an abusive and tense work situation. Lifting helped me relieve the tension I was feeling and as I got stronger, I became more confidence, which in turn allowed me to better handle my work situation. Men have been weight lifting a lot longer than women. For a long time resistance training was the best kept male secret of the century. Now with more women getting into lifting, we find out that women too feel empowered and confident from being stronger and feeling younger- What a surprise!. Since I started lifting, I bicycle and kickbox. I have since ch anged my profession and I am now a personal trainer. So lifting has changed my life quite a bit. If you read my column called "Just When I Think I Know Where It's At...Some Body Moves It" you will find more info on body control.

How does lifting weights change one's attitude?

Check out my column I Feel Good! DA DA DA DA DA DA...You Know That I Should!

Are psychology and bodybuilding related in some way? How? What has any research shown?

In the past thirty years there has been psychological research which has opened our eyes proving that the mind/body controls our embodied mind. Your mind has two parts-subconscious and conscious. It takes both parts to assure that a strengthening program will work. The left hemisphere controls logical sequences, numerical calculations, words (their meanings) and speech. This is the side of your brain that knows you've messed up. "Like what a duh! I tried to lift something the wrong way and hurt your back." In other word it wants just the facts, maam. Your right brain deals with complete pictures, puts puzzles together, intuits, creates and is artistic. "Perhaps I ought to be careful and lift with my legs. Then I won't hurt by back." It works out the substance of the details, even though you may not be consciously dwelling on them. Your left brain tells your right brain the facts-"I'm weak, I'm flabby, I'm out of shape. Your right brain checks out these facts and works out a process to achieve an objective. So you use your brain power to make a conscious decision to change and then you allow your subconscious brain power to ensure the change comes to light.

The Magic Power of Self-Image Psychology by Maxwell Maltz (Englewood Cliffs New Jersey: Prentice Hall 1964 and Robert Ornstein the Psychology of Consciousness (New York:Harcourt Brace Jonvaovich 1977 and You Can If You Think You Can (Englewood Cliffs New Jersey: Prentice Hall 1976) may be references you might like to check.

Does motivation help when lifting weights? How? What type of motivation?

Absolutely, motivation is helpful. From self-motivation-preparing yourself to do what you have to do (why it's important, what benefits will be coming) or outside motivation, such as a trainer or friend saying you can do it, lifting becomes a motivational loop. Finding a good gym where the people are helpful and reassuring can motivate one to achieve strength, endurance and flexibility. Unless you are really good at self-motivation, I recommend a good gym, good friend or competent trainer. I feel so good after I worked out that even though I may be tired I remember how good I feel afterwards My motivation comes from my memory of previous experience. Having a mental picture of what you want to be and going for it is also motivational.

Any other information having to do with lifting weights would also be helpful.

There are many good books on weight lifting. One of my favorites is Getting Stronger by Bill Pearl and Gary T. Moran.

Vulgarity Impaired writes:

I read the column, essay, whatever you want to call it, and I want to know what the hell does "MotherFucker" have to do with feeling good about yourself and excercise! Please respond soon!

Gypsy replies:

When I was in college I took a course in Child Behavior. In my class, as it turned out, I was the only one who had any children. This included the professor. I sat and listened the first two weeks of class to the yet to be parents. They saw a mother's role as "the always understanding, gentle nurturing, always smiling and doing what the children asked with joy and love in the mama's heart". You know the Mary Poppins theory of child raising. As we know Mary Poppins is a wonderous fantasy and the reality of child raising is much cruder and pragmatic than pretty pictures in children's books. I finally raised my hand and my voice at some point, informing these children who had not yet tended to children themselves that children shit in their pants and it doesn't smell of roses. Children scream, cry, throw fits of tantrum, want their own way whether it is good for them or not. You are given the task of nurturing, teaching, morally guiding and in general preparing the next generation to be stonger, smarter and more productive than the generation before. Motherhood has gone through many changes of attitude. Our language reflects much of our societies attitudes toward this important, yet often maligned ("I'm just a mother", as opposed to being a doctor a CEO or something more important) and under appreciated (I have heard mother's called mother-fuckers by their own children. My own teenagers have come up with more colorful ones such as psycho bitch from hell and the wicked witch from the west. Let us not forget how our children often find us dense and not with it). So along with the feelings we have for our mothers and our children for their mothers such as Mother Nature (nurturing) Mother love (loving) Mother of Invention (creative), we also have Motherfucker (she cannot understand me, but insists on meddling in my affairs).

Lady Macbeth said something to the affect of "I have loved the babe who sucked me, but I would pluck my nipple from its boneless gums and bashed its brains against the wall, if I had so sworn to this as you have done." How does a mother explain the great passion she feels for her child. With strong words. Did I get your attention. I did with the class I took In Child Behavior. I take mother seriously and passionately. How about you?

As far as feeling good about yourself and exercise: We wonderful mothers with all our abilities and insights are all but human. We want the respect and appreciation our profession deserves. We feel a good start is that our children and society accept us as human beings with the human frailties of body and mind that we share in common with other working women and men. Then gyms will provide child care so that mothers can strengthen and exercise their bodies. Trainers will gear their teaching skills and economic demands toward women who need be in great shape and who need the endurance of Atlas for seeing to the needs of the future. They need a health and fitness program as much as the women who are CEO's and had a stressful day at the office. Try full time child-raising (we are not counting day care time, where one's child is being nurtured by another care taker). I have done both and found child raising at times as stressful as trying to get a year end report out before a company meeting. More s o, because there is the element of being responsible for another human being, rather than some pieces of paper. So mother fucker in and of itself is just an element of recognition. Also as I said, it's quite an attention getter. Got you, n'est pas!?

Unexpectedly Pained writes:

As I sit here writing to you, I am recuperating from a sudden lower back strain. I am discouraged and at my wits end. My back has suddenly given way four times over the last fifteen years. This last Friday, it didn't give way, but I recognized the feeling, as if someone had just taken an axe to my lower back. This time I took it easy and went to bed. During the night I had two "spasms" and was barely able to walk the next morning. Maybe I overdid it by taking a long nature walk and pushing myself too hard. I've been to osteopaths, MD's and chiropractors. Nobody seems to have answers for me or any guarantees that I will be able to improve my situation. I am looking for meaning and wisdom in this experience. I want very much to be healthy because we just bought some land and my husband and I want to literally build a stone house. I am 42 years old. As I said, I am seeking answers. I just read your article and am able to identify with the sudden unexpected handicap, when your lower back suddenly gives way, refusing to allow you to move. Can you recommend any good books on the care of the back? Any other ideas?

Gypsy replies:

Besides my column on backs, (Back to Back...), I believe if you read my column on injuries (An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Pain), you will get some more info on general injury and how to prevent and strengthen after such injuries. As to specific lower back pain, depending on causes, whether serious (crushed disk, broken bone, a bone out of place, a tumor) or usual more mundane reasons (strained muscles or ligaments that support the bones of your back or arthritic joints) strengthening the muscles, after proper rest time is your best bet in allaying further back problems. Most lower back pain is caused by weak or inflexible back muscles. Certain exercises will help deep curvature style back problems, while other exercises will help rigidity. Strengthening your stomach muscles (abdominals) will contribute to a stronger back. Back care is an overall commitment through good posture, nutrition, relaxation and sensible, but invigorating exercise.

Hans Kraus' book "Backache, Stress and Tension" (Simon and Shuster and Thomas Fahey's "What To Do About Athletic Injuries" (Butterick) are two fine resources for the prevention and care of injury.

You may benefit from a holistic approach. Check it out. Take it easy. Perseverance and patience are the surest way toward healing. Trying to rush the healing process will be counterproductive. Listen to your body. Stay strong.

Body Image writes:

Could you recommend some talk groups or information regarding body image on either email or WWW?

Gypsy replies:

Of course I recommend my article, located in The Gift Of Youth called Just When I Think I Know Where It's At, Some Body Moves It. This is a light weight introduction into body image talk. Some books you might want to pick up for a more thorough body image resource are: Beauty Secrets: Women and the Politics of Appearance by Wendy Chapkis; The Obsession:Reflections on the Tyranny of Slenderness by Kim Chernin and Rita Freedman's Body Love: Learning to Like Our Looks-and Ourselves. There are also some short films such as Killing Us Softly about the advertising industries penchant for objectifying women and an Austrialian made film that shows how women's body image has beenimposed upon by the ad industry and sexist proclivities of our society. I have not really gotten into the chat lines and the last time I surfed the net for health and fitness issues concerning body image I came up with zilch.

If any of our readers know of other resources, especially on the Internet, please write and advise.

Bike Racer writes:

I am in my third week of going to the gym religiously every day for about an hour. It is only 3 minutes from my house and because of the convenience, I feel that it will be easy for me to keep up. Until I joined the gym, I was trying to walk 3 miles a day, but with the horrible weather we have had in the northeast, it was becoming impossible to walk easily. I am glad I joined the gym, because it has opened up a whole new world for me. I feel a lot better in just less than 3 weeks, firming up my body, greater endurance and with the vegetarian diet, lost 7 pounds. I want to try to lose a pound a week until I do the MS150 bike ride in June.

I was looking at a weightlifting magazine yesterday and hate the way women body builders look like men. Can you lift weights and not look like that? I really am not looking for that "look", but would like to have all my muscles defined and not have the mid section sloth that I have developed of late.

I was on a high doses of a steroid, prednisone, for a life threatening attack of ulcerated colitis 5 years ago and developed moon face, and fat deposits on the shoulder area and belly, which is a classic side affect of the medication. It took quite a while to lose the weight, but I never lost it completely and still have residual areas of fat deposits in the same areas. Hopefully, I will be able to lose this unsightly blubber with exercising. I feel I am on the right track. I only hope that when I return to my job in Feb. that I will have the stamina and can stick to going to the gym on a daily basis. I have a high stress teaching job and know that at the end of the day I am really tired. I hope that the exercise will help to reduce stress and invigorate me. I don't want to lose the momentum.

Gypsy replies:

RE: Gym close to home.
This is a smart thing to do. I noticed that it does help having a gym close by. I too attend a nearby gym. Rain or snow (yes here in Minnesota we wonder if global warming is a bad way to go), I walk to the gym. Even if the car won't start I can still use my boot treads to get me there.

Sounds like you are sensibly dieting-Keep it up till you reach your goal. Remember, however, that dieting alone cannot create muscles nor firm them up, even if your diet does allow you to lose body mass. Dieting the wrong way can actually lead to muscle loss. Crash dieting, that is almost always followed by binge eating, can result in a greater proportion of body fat composition, even at a reduced weight. You will find on such a diet, that you will be composed of spongy fat despite a smaller sized body. Check out Fatty-Fatty Two-By-Four Can't Get Through the Bathroom Door.

RE: Professional Bodybuilding Women
I know what you mean about the body building women, though what gripes me more than the masculine look is the pandering to "Playboy Look" of body women body builders. If I want to see naked all-the-same-look, air-brushed women, I am an adult and can pick up those magazines any time I wish. Most of the women that look like men are taking anabolic steroids. This is done in competitve body building to satisfy the judges. They make the women look unnaturally muscular and cause developments such as lowered voice, facial hair, genital malformations and oversized muscles. In competitve athletics many things are done in order to win. Some people are willing to take the short term risks (steroids if used carefully do not necessarily have long term effects) for the glory of victory. This is true of both male and female athletes. In order to be "overly muscular", without steroids, a woman would have to work out with extremely heavy weights, twice daily with a six hour rest period between workouts. If you tr ain 3 to 4 days a week, using lighter weights and doing 3 sets of 10-12 reptitions on each body part, you will gain muscle definition and hardening. If you haven't done so, check out my article in The Gift of Youth on body control called Just When I Think I Know Where It's At, Some Body Moves It. I think you will find it informational as well as fun reading.

RE: Stress and Exercise
Exercise does relieve stress. So does making sure you take time out in your day when you can just lay back and think of nothing. Sometimes the problem with adding a new program to an otherwise busy life can produce just the opposite effect. If you find yourself running to the gym, because you just have to meet this schedule, you may be doing yourself a disservice. Setting priorities is important. I have talked myself out of a few personal training jobs by advising the women, who had high activity, high-tension days, to use the time they would be pumping to just sit back and relax. We women work hard and have great endurance, but even we can be pushed over the limit. Another good article to check out in The Gift of Youth is Whatever Shall I Do - Wherever Shall I Go. It is about stress and may will be of some help or just give you a good laugh. I prescribe humor as a wonderful relaxant.

Meaningful Spirit writes:

I am trying to start a "meaningful" pub on a local BBS, which potentially will contain many different themes, all pertaining to the enlightenment of mind, body and spirit. Your page listed "for more spirituality talk, please feel free to contact me"....so I contact you, in hopes that you might have yet another avenue in which to direct my feet, that through my words on a screen I might save someones soul through inspiring words. Thank you.

Gypsy replies:

My own point of view about our spirituality is wrapped up more in how we attempt to behave, rather than what our words seem to say. When I behave in a mean, petty or too righteously judgemental manner, I feel as if I have betrayed my spirituality. When I nurture my love for those around me and act in a thoughtful kind way, then I feel as if I have redeemed myself with the universe. I have trouble believing in an angry sky god, who thinks women are second class people, that people of different races, religions or nationalities are somehow inferior and thereby deserve no respect or worse yet such people ought to be eliminated or homosexuals are somehow not human and do not deserve the compassion that other citizens of our world enjoy. But a joyous spirit! A loving spirit! A spirit of love and trust. A spirit of life! Now there's something I can believe in. As a Navaho proverb says: "May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day."

Meaningful Spirit writes again:

The words you returned to me were wonderful, full of meaning. I ran across an "apache wedding prayer" on the internet:

now you will feel no rain,
for each of you will be shelter to the other.
now you will feel no cold,
for each of you will be warmth to the other.
now there is no more loneliness,
for each of you will be companion to the other.
now you are two bodies,
but there is only one life before you.
go now to your dwelling place
to enter into the days of your togetherness
and may your days be good and long upon the earth.
I am not married, but have a loving boyfriend and we plan to marry as soon as we get our finances together and our minds following one direct path, which will be very soon! The above touched my soul. There's something in that kind of prayer that is much different from the structure prayer I learned growing up in a Catholic household. I still hold my structured prayer sacred, but find a refreshing pleasure in this kind of unstructured, "real-man" prayer. If you know of a place I can find more of this, some avenue I have not ventured upon, please direct my feet in its way. I would be eternally grateful. Please continue to write. Your words are inspiring.

Gypsy replies again:

Good luck on your future nuptials. May the Fates be kind and the Furies be merciful for you and your husband to be. I enjoyed the Apache prayer. I think you might enjoy "A Grateful Heart" edited by M.J. Ryan and billed as daily blessing for the evening meal from Buddha to the Beatles. Then there is one of my old favorites "The Prophet" by Kalhil Gibran. Also besides my column on spirituality in the Gift of Youth (Jews for Jesus: Orange Jews for Jesus...) catch my column on marriage (Elementary, My Dear Watson! Love and Marriage = Horse and Carriage).

Midlife Lifter writes:

I am new to the WWW and just read your page about how you began using weights as you entered menopause. In the last two weeks, I have joined a gym and as a 51 year old woman who has been taking estrogen repalcement for about a year and a half. I am trying to permanently lose 25 pounds before June, when I will do the MS150 mile Bike Ride. I have done it 3 times before successfully, but feel that I really need to make it easier on myself by cross training and doing the ride at a normal weight for my height and frame size rather, than my overweight self. I am sticking pretty much to a vegetarian diet and hope that with weight training every other day and the 40 minutes or more on the lifecyle step, bike, and treadmill machines alternate days,that it will get me in shape.

My question to you is how did you get in shape and if you have some pointers to help me other than what you mentioned. I have high cholesterol for which I take medication and am hoping to reduce the cholesterol with the weight and cardiovascular training and diet.

I might add that my father, who is vigorous at 85, took up weight training for the last year as part of a university study on ageing and the use of growth hormones. He moves around like a person 20 years younger. He was also an athlete in his youth so he came naturally to the weight lifting and swears by it.

Gypsy replies:

Unlike you, I am a recent initiate into the world of athletics. I had raised many children and found myself, after 10 years of sit down computer and bookkeeping jobs, weak and lumbering. Though I had not spent my youth athletically, I was used to being strong and agile. Since I was not yet ready for the sedentary life, I looked around for the most convenient way to get back to (at least physically) my old self. A gym was located close to where I live. It was a grunt gym, with mostly men at the time. I was a little uncomfortable when I first approach the people in the gym. But they were very forthcoming when I told them what I was up to and helped me get started in a lifting program. After two weeks I was already feeling, if not seeing the results. I felt younger and stronger quite rapidly-instant gratification. After that I became a believer and went to the gym as one goes to church or baseball games or movies or whatever makes one feel good. After 3 mos. I started seeing the physical changes. Fo r aerobics, I used the stairmaster and learned how do basic resistance exercises. At six months, I began to feel that this was the best kept male secret and had to be told to others. I started training with a world class body builder and chiropractor, who agreed to train me to train as well as teaching me lifting techniques. To enhance my knowledge I studied anatomy, dietary needs and devoured magazines and periodicals on lifting and body building. I learned some of the latest adjustments of old theories of health and fitness, as well as the tried and true methodologies. I worked hard and persistently, even learning what happens when you over train (my gun-hoedness at some point got the better of me). The hard work paid off. After three years now of training and teaching, I have gone into partnership with my boxing coach (the strength training lead me to kick-boxing and recumbent-tandem biking with my husband) and lifting partner in a full fitness gym. I will also be doing a body building show come sp ring at the age of 53-Never in my wildest dreams! From the day I began, my goal was to get stronger. My dietary needs changed as I became more physically active. Too much fat made me sick. Too much sugar made me loggy. Eating too much was an extra burden on my body. It all melded together in a healthy synthesis. If you haven't done so, check out the column in Gift of Youth called Fatty-Fatty Two-By-Four Can't Get Through the Bathroom Door.

Re: Cholesterol: A low fat diet can help you lose weight and lower your cholesterol. To achieve such goals, reducing your intake of "all" fats, rather than omitting meat, butter or other foods rich in fats, will reduce your blood level of cholesterol. Less than 20 grams of fat each day will suffice. Sensible diet (not dieting) along with sensible exercise programs are a good formula for successful weight reduction. A vegetarian diet provides many dietary advantages-less fat being one of them. It also contains more complex carbohydrates and fiber. There is less exposure to unnecessary toxins or poisons and it uses less resources. A well-balanced non-meat diet can provide needed proteins. Some protein complementary foods are: beans and corn, bread and milk, or sesame seeds and garbanzo beans. If you eat no meat or milk products a vitamin B 12 supplement is recommended. Dark leafy green vegetables, cabbage, cauliflower, carob, seaweed and almonds contain calcium. More body builders today are switching from high red meat (in particular) to higher carbohydrate-vegetable diets-including my own family. As for weight training, I am sure you will find, it will improve your muscular endurance and stamina. Build your quadriceps, hamstrings and lower back. If you are new at it, getting an experience trainer to work with you for a while will teach you to lift safely and productively. Lifting can be a bane or a boon, depending on how you go about it. Training programs for cycling depend on what event you are training for. The same program used for endurance cycling can be applied to sprint racing, using more weight and doing fewer reps. Cycling is a great cardiovascular strengthener. Since you are on forms of medication, check with your health practitioner if there are counterindications as far as resistance training. For instance care must be taken with medication that is taken for blood pressure. You may still exercise, but caution is recommended. Congratulations to Dad. More and more people are finding that resistence exercise can be taken up at any age. From lifting alone, new muscle cells grow and there is even evidence of bone mass growth from lifting.

Injured writes:

While playing tennis this morning I felt like I had been hit in the left thigh, about 4 inches above my knee, by a 100 mile per hour fastball.

I am currently putting an ice pack on the leg for 10 minutes on and 10 off. Do you have any idea what happened to me and am I treating it correctly.

Gypsy replies:

You did right. What happened to you is you had an injury that occurred suddenly (traumatic). This is called an acute injury. Icing right away was the correct way to go. Cold applications constricts the blood vessels in your skin, which limits swelling. The greater the swelling,the longer it takes for the tissue to heal.

Check out my article in the Gift of Youth on injury. It is titled An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Pain. This article has some good advice that I've gleaned through experience, reading and other people with whom I network. You will come accross the R.I.C.E formula (rest, ice, compression and elevation). This will be helpful to you in the future. As I said, your instincts were correct. Be careful icing. You do not want to leave a compression ice bandage on more than 15 minutes at a time. Longer than that will cause the swelling to increase, rather than decrease. The skin will start to turn red, swell, burn and hurt. Remove ice for 15 minutes before reapplication. Repeat treatment once or twice. Also read the part in the article about rehabilitation. Your aim toward rehabilitation, when you get back to playing tennis, will be to strengthen all major muscle groups, create proper muscle balance and prevent injury. St retch year round (I also have a stretch manual also in the Gift of Youth, under the title They Told Me I Looked Like Arnold Schwarzenegger, But I Thought That A Bit of a Stretch and make sure you do torso work (abdominals, obliques or erector spinal (lower back). Some exercise options would be circuity training and par course training, weight racquets, stairs and stadiums for agility (footwork-cardiovascular), Polymetrics (depth jumping) Short sprints and agility runs,running the lines on tennis courts-up, back, across-, overload on-course workouts, aerobics dance classes and Isokenetic training. Hope this was helpful. I've only played tennis a few times in my life. Boxing and bike riding are the joys of the sports world for me. As in all other athletics, I must, like you stay strong and flexible. Yes! I follow my own advice.

Rock On writes:

I really enjoy reading your page.

I am a Chinese-Burmese dudette working and living in Singapore. My father was born in Beijing some 60 years ago and came to Singapore when he was eight.

My mama was born and lived in Burma for some 20 odd (very odd) years. She now lives a block away from me in her own apartment with my older brother (she should have kicked him out by NOW).

My father left us when I was about three years old. My parents have been divorced for almost 25 years. I am 25 years old.

Was married for 7 years, am now divorced. Was very, very sad, but there is life after (almost) everything. I could almost hear you in my head saying, :"Rock On!"

Gypsy replies:

What a wonderful surprise in the New Year it was to come to check my mail and find your letter. I have come to believe that those of us, who have had what is often called an old Chinese curse "an interesting time," have developed strong character and abilities to cope with what life has to offer. Sometimes when there is no struggle in our young lives, we have a hard time coping with problems later on. We all have to face struggle at one time or another. Everyone has to take their turn in the barrel (this is in reference to an old US army joke). If we are forced to struggle at a young age, we become strengthened and are able to cope with life's slings and arrows. Once we solve our old problems we also gain the joy of savoring the times of peace and prosperity. I never regret my struggles anymore, because I know once they are settled life becomes more interesting from a new perspective. When a problem arises we can learn to take joy in the process of solving that problem, knowing that we will have lear ned something new in the end.

As for your brother: many young people in the United States are having a hard time coping with the adult world. We also have older children living with their parents. Perhaps your brother will some day be able to take wing. We also have had a rise of grandparents raising their children's children. At least someone is taking care and we all need help from time to time.

Once again I thank you for your generous compliment.

I hope 1996 brings you and your loved ones health, joy and prosperity.

You may send your comments and suggestions to Gypsy --- The Gift of Youth via electronic mail by sending email to:

gypsy@dreamagic.com (Gypsy)

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