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To Our Health - Reader Input

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Groin Grimacing Gal asks:

I've been weight training for about two and a half years. About six months ago I noticed a swelling in my groin. It turned out not to be a muscle, because when I pushed in it sinks back in with a creepy gurgling noise. So, at my next physical I asked my doctor about it and she told me it was a hernia. She said as long as it wasn't painful or didn't become strangulated nothing should be done, but that I should start wearing a weight belt (which I hadn't been doing). My problem is that now that I'm aware of it (the hernia) I find myself holding back on increasing weight when doing squats or anything else that causes a lot of pressure on the area. Should I be concerned?

Gypsy replies:

It usually follows that the best treatment for only severe hernia cases that a surgical operation is necessary, designed to replace the herniated contents into the abdominal cavity and repair the defect in the abdominal wall. Otherwise an operation is not justified. Do not attempt to hold the hernia in place with a truss. It is both insufficient and dangerous. I have also learned that sleeping with the head of the bed raised is helpful and one can often gain relief by sitting up when troubled at night.

Remember when lifting bend your knees and use your legs not your back. Keep your weights close to your body. A belt is a matter of personal preference. Getting your back and legs stronger is the key. (Check out columns: 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" and An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Pain). Go about your lifting with confidence. Use common sense. If you find you are causing yourself pain-pull back (belt or no). Be aware and cautious, but keep on going. Wait for the signs to start showing up: The abdominal wall will uncomfortably swell and often pain on straining. By using steady pressure you can often return a hernia into the abdominal cavity. If this cannot be done you have a "trapped" hernia. This is potentially dangerous and can get gangrenous. In cases like that an operation is a must.

Be most cautious working abs. Though strengthening those muscles will help in any event.(See column: Mother Nature - Mother Love - Mother of Invention - Mother Fucker - Mother of Us All - Yo' Mama) Like I said before, go about your business as usual and listen to your body tell you what has to be done. If your pain is severe get it taken care of. If you do need an operation ever, there are good rehabilitation programs. Keep this in mind.

Battling Bulging Belly writes:

Help! I have lost 57# in 18 months, am 53 years old, exercise aerobically 60-70 minutes 5 times a week. Can't lose the extra inches off my waist. I lost 11.5 inches from my hips, 7.5 inches from bust and waist and decreased body fat by 16% (from 39.4 to 23.4) As a young girl my waist was quite small but now...any ideas for exercise? I consume 1800 calories (30%) fat daily. What else can I do?

Gypsy replies:

I know what you mean. Myself and many women I teach have wondered about that extra bulge in our bellies. There is a certain amount of nature that goes into women's rounded abdomens (more so as we get older). A series of abdominal exercises, especially those emphasizing the lower abdominals will be helpful. Side to side bends (stand with soft knees and arms straight down-bend to the right-straighten then bend to the left. Do about 15 repititions for three sets with a rest between sets. Given how much work you do, I hope you understand about rest time. Rest time, besides keeping the body from burning out, allows your muscles to grow. When I was working toward a body building show, my partner and I went on a very strict high protein-low carb diet. This meant basically for six weeks we ate tuna fish and greens, with oatmeal for breakfast. This meant all sugar was cut out including the sugar gleaned from fruit. I drank lemon in my water and supplemented vitimen C tablets so as not to get scurvy. In six weeks my waist had dropped two sizes. Though I no longer am on that diet and have definitely put on a few pounds (my normal weight being 126 lbs I had gone down to 112 lbs in those six weeks), I still maintain the small waist. That diet seemed to change my metabolism and after six weeks it became easy to curb my sugar (though I love fruits). Like I said I found this a drastic diet and would not stay on it for too long. You need your calories for the amount of work you do, so if you go on such a diet be careful. Check out my abdominal workout on my site. You will find it in my column on mothers: Mother Nature - Mother Love - Mother of Invention - Mother Fucker - Mother of Us All - Yo' Mama. If you click on the various pictures it will open up to tell you how these exercises are best worked.

Questing Chest Querier asks:

I have just started doing chest exercises, about a week ago, how long should it be until I start to see some results? I work my chest twice a week.

Gypsy replies:

If you are doing a routine where you are working 3 sets of chest exercises at 10-12 repetitions apiece, you will feel the results the very first day, but it will be about 3 weeks before you really see any results. The first week you may feel a little sore (pumped muscles do that). You will feel the pump for about an hour after lifting. After the first few weeks you should no longer feel sore. The second week is always easier. By the third week you may see some definition showing. If you do not notice a change do not feel bad, since some people take a little longer than others. By two months almost everyone who has worked hard will see changes. Your chest will develop to a firm muscle that begins to form in the lower part of the pecs.

All of this development will depend on how consistent you are in maintaining your form and effort.

Check out my chest exercises in my column: Daughter to Father: Does That Mean We Can't Get Married, Have Children And Go On the Oprah Show? Remember, clicking on the pictures will give you and explanation of how to work chest area.

Armchair Fitness writes:

We visited your site The Gift of Youth and thought you might like to know about Armchair Fitness, a new kind of exercise that gives an aerobic workout,stretching and strengthening without undue stress or strain. Perhaps the most enthusiastic audience for the Armchair Fitness videos have been diabetes and geriatric educators, physical therapist and nutritionists. The videos help them help their clients improve their health. We will be pleased to send health professionals a ten minute sample video of the series if you fax or mail us a request on your letterhead. You can get more information about the videos at our website. The programs feature women, men, old and young from various ethnic groups exercising with Betty Switkes, 68, and Pat Hulbert, 65. USA Today says of the original cassette: Those of us who can't manage Jane Fonda's Workout or who can't bear to see another aerobic video led by some slinky young thing can take heart... Armchair Fitness is the e xercise video for anyone who's unable or unwilling to take part in strenuous activities. In Library Journal, Kathy Breeden of the University of Tennessee Library at Chattanooga calls the Armchair Fitness videos suitable for viewers of all ages and for people at all levels of ability. It has easy-to-follow routines and enough variety to keep exercisers interested even during repeated viewings... An alternative to the plethora of highly energetic aerobic tapes on the market. We hope you might make our URL available to visitors to your site. We are interested in your comments about our site and please let us know if you want brochures for your clients.

Gypsy replies:

Many, many thanks for the info. I will put it in my advice column. This is excellent information not only for older folks, but for people who (even youthful ones) sit at their desks all day. I have given some "armchair exercises" to some of my younger students. I also found it worthwhile for an older woman (80+) that I worked with when she was recuperating from a hip operation. She did not feel comfortable doing stretches on the floor for fear she would have trouble getting up. The armchair exercises, plus some ballet barre work gave her the confidence she needed to start walking on her own again. That is wonderful that they have been put on tape. I have developed my own set of exercises over the years of being a trainer, but the more the merrier (variety adding spice to life). I will definitely put this out to the people who read me and also give your URL to the students I teach.

So, dear readers, be sure to look in on their site: It is at http://www.cc-m.com/fitness.html.

Cautiously Concerned's Cousin writes:

I was reading your article on straight leg dead lifts. I have a question and concern. In the picture you show your hands in opposite directions on the bar. I've read were this hand placement puts uneven tension on back muscles. The concern I have is that showing a picture of the "proper way" to do a dead lift, using a bench to stand on, is not good. A beginner would think to use this unstable platform is the way to do it.

Gypsy replies:

Thank you for your letter and concern. I went back into the column and changed it to allow for hand placement preference. If you alternate the placement with each set (I noted that in my revision) you should maintain a balance that will not damage your back. Most problems with back injuries and lifting is from lifting too much too fast. I prefer the alternating positions when I work, but I realize that is not everyone's preference. My back is stronger than ever. My collaborators, one who has been a body builder and trainer for twenty years and the other a world class body builder (10 years) and a chiropractor, both prefer the method of alternating hands.

I also noted that beginners should certainly start out doing deadlifts (In general I do not recommend deadlifts for beginners until they've gained substantial back strength) on the floor.

Many people tend to think that the "proper way" to lift and the "personal preference" in lifting are contradictory. I happen to think proper training through information and practice, plus the common sense of what each of us feels comfortable doing is our best bet to maximize how much physical progress we make with the amount of time we each can spend achieving our progressive goals.

Cautiously Concerned Coed writes:

To the readers of the advice column: This is an interesting and useful piece of info, sent to me and I am passing it on to you.

While scanning the various web pages, I came across your interesting and informative muscle of the month. I thought the pictures were good, but I have to admit, your back was VERY arched during the "chest press" exercises you were performing on page 1 of 4 of Let's Talk Sex.

Please note that if you click on pictures in the articles, you will find the explanation to how you work the muscle groups along with suggestions and cautions.

Your arched back, was not in dynamic spine. This arching in the back can cause abnormal stresses on the discs of the spine. A suggestion, maybe talking about "dynamic" or "neutral" spine would be very helpful to individuals and keeping their back down on the bench. I hope that you don't think I am just being critical, but I would like to share some academic instruction I received.

If I may, here are a few quotes from a very intense ten week class I took at Cal State Hayward on strength training.

A. This is the academic part

Maintaining Neutral Spine Position (Stabilization)

The ability to maintain neutral or to control movement through the pain free range is dependent on the strength of the pelvic girdle muscles, specifically the abdominal, hamstrings, gluteus maximus,lower portion of the erector spinae, and hip flexors. Because these muscles attach to the pelvis, they directly affect pelvic movement, and because the lumbar spine sits on the pelvis, the lumbar spine is affected by these muscles. When the hamstrings, abdominals, and gluetus maximus contract, they tilt the pelvis posteriorly, decreasing lordosis or hyperextension of the spine (the erector spinae and hip flexor muscles relax during this movement so good flexibility of these muscles is needed). When the erector spinae and hip flexor muscles contract, they tilt the pelvis anteriorly increasing the lumbar lordosis, or hyperextension of the lumbar spine (the hamstrings, abdominals, and gluetus maximus relax during this movement, so good flexibility of these muscles is needed).

The pelvis girdle muscles work in cooperation with each other and are responsible for maintaining the pelvis in ideal alignment. The muscles require a combination of strength and flexibility, they must not only be strong in order to stabilize the pelvis, but they also must be flexible to allow unrestricted movement and motion to happen.

B. This is the instructional part.

  1. The safe lumbar spine position

  2. The dynamic lumbar spine pain free range

    Your lumbar spine needs to be in a safe position whenever you are performing any type of physical activity. If your lumbar spine is not in a safe position, there is a greater potential for injury to your spine. The position the lumbar spine needs to be in is not a fixed position but more of a range. This range is referred to as the DYNAMIC LUMBAR SPINE PAIN FREE RANGE and represents the total pain free range between anteriorly tilting the pelvis and posteriorly tilting the pelvis. The amount of range an individual has will depend on whether they have any low back problems, and the strength and flexibility of the muscles that control pelvis movement. Because the range is dependent on these factors, not all individuals have the same range. It is therefore important for you to help each individual find their own pain free range.

  3. Finding the dynamic range in standing

    Fitness instructors need to discuss the importance of the pain free range with clients, be able to demonstrate the pain free range, and then be able to assist their client in finding their own pain free range. After discussing the importance of the range as discussed above, demonstrate the pain free range on yourself while in standing. Stand with your feet apart and knees slightly bent. Start by anteriorly tilting your pelvis. To tilt your pelvis anteriorly, relax your abdominal muscles, and stick out your buttocks, this position involves extension of the lumbar spine (lordosis or hyperextension) and slight flexion at the hip joint. Next, posteriorly tilt your pelvis by tucking your pelvis underneath you. To tilt the pelvis posteriorly, contract your abdominal muscles, and gluteus maximus (buttock), which will decrease the lordosis and hyperextension, this position involves flexion of the lumbar spine and extension at the hip joint.

    Demonstrate going through your range several times by anteriorly and posteriorly tilting your pelvis. Inform your client that if you were to experience any pain the range you would not go to that range, that you would stop short of the pain. Also tell them that you are not going to the extreme end ranges of the movement. Going to the extreme end ranges may place stress tissue or structures that are not designed for such stress. After your demonstration and instructions, have your client find their own pain free range just as you demonstrated. Tell them they will need to practice going through the pain free range over and over again until it becomes automatic. By practicing going through the pain free range they will automatically and unconsciously always assume a safe lumber spine position whenever they are performing any activity.

    Remember to stress to your client, that although there can be movement of the lumbar spine during any physical activity, the movement should be in the pain free range, and only under muscle control of the pelvis. When doing activities such as rollerblading, or cross country skiing, or running, the lumbar spine naturally moves because of the movement of the pelvis, however pelvic movement needs to be controlled, for example not going to any pain or the end ranges of motion.

    Because our daily activities, exercises and sports are done in a variety of positions beside standing, individuals need to be taught how to find their dynamic lumbar spine pain free range in a variety of other positions as well as in sitting, lying supine, etc.

  4. Finding the dynamic range in supine

    To find the dynamic range while lying supine, have your client lie on the floor with their knees bent. Instruct them to pooch out their stomach, rolling up on their tail bone, then have them contract their abdominal muscles, lowering their back on to the floor. Have them practice this movement over and over instruct them not to go to any pain or to the end ranges. Next, have them find their dynamic range in supine with their legs straight out. Having the legs straight out increases the lever arm acting on the pelvis and therefore makes this exercise a little more difficult for some people to do, especially for those with weak abdominal muscles. There is a tendency in this position with the legs straight out for people to go to the end range of extension, so watch and instruct your client to be careful not to do this.

Gypsy rejoins:

Thank you very much for your kind words and information. However before we get to carried away with a ten week intensive class, I would like to remind you that we are all different and what is a viable "warning" for one is of no concern to another. I have an extremely strong back now, due to pull ups and rows and back extension exercises and some limbering back stretches. You know what I mean? Not everyone has to watch their cholesterol. Some of us have no trouble with breaking down our cholesterol at all. Not even everyone must quit smoking in order to live a good healthy life. There are some moderate smokers who enjoy one to two cigarettes a day (I am not one of them) who are in fact correlated to be healthier than non-smokers (This of course may be due to the ability to be of moderate behavior, rather than the extreme ends). I have trained many people over the past three years. These people have been of varying sexes, sizes, shapes and states of health. I find that I must be flexible and not im pose one person's cautions on another.

For myself, I do chest presses and I find that by extending the way I do, I apply initial resistance to my lift, thereby giving me a little more reward for my effort and since my back is no longer an issue (I read my own body quite well these days), I find this to be a more economical way to build up my pecs. I am also going into a body building show (which at 53 years of age has caused quite an amount of surprise amongst many people) and am trying to work at an intense level. If you look at the explanation in my chest exercise section that explains doing flat bench chest presses, you will note that I warn against this position under certain circumstances. A wise person once said that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I would add that a little knowledge applied to a great body variation can lead to discouraging attitudes about exercise. All in all exercise is dangerous if done carelessly and sloppily (I mean I've hurt myself more, carelessly lifting a laundry basket than I ever will pressing the 135 lbs that I do on the flat bench). Please remember, as many health and fitness "religionists" seem to forget-We have different ideas about what risks are worth what gains. And just as in the matter of women's choice in child-bearing, so should it be our individual choices as to those risks. I get really tired as I watch the Olympics listening to the "tsking" and "tching" over how these wondrous athletes are really victims of abuse, these sports people who have chosen to do what they are doing (yes even those young gymnasts-teenagers are very hard to force into doing things they wish not to do) and are being honored world wide. O yeah! Let's not forget those endorsements! Rather a "victim" of the Olympics than a victim of poverty I say and I'll bet so do a lot of those Olympians.

Note: Any of my readers, who have information on health and fitness are free to send me letters with info, which I will then put on the World Wide Web.

Plaintive Plantar People query:

My husband was playing basketball with his 16 yr. old nephew, which he always does when he visits his home town. You know the story, they play pretty hard and boom, ouch, the emergency doctor told him it's his Plantar (small muscle). He heard a pop! What does this normally mean? Is it a few months of healing or less? How to rehabilitate this? He put ice it immediately and will keep icing it. He has a cane to help him go to the business meeting he is supposed to go to! Any advice would be greatly appreciated!! thanks.

Gypsy replies:

The plantar fascia (layers) is a band made of tough connective tissue. This tissue supports the bottom of your foot. The muscle layers start at the base of your five toes and runs backward along the bottom of your foot, attaching to a place located on the mid-bottom of your heel bone. The plantar muscles are arranged in four layers. The abductor moves a part of the foot away from mid-line. The flexor decreases the angle at the joint. The abductors and flexors control the toes, sole and heel of the foot. Pain is usually caused by a tearing away of the band where it attaches to the foot. If you injure the plantar you must stop running and reduce walking until the band can heal itself. You can try alternate sports like cycling and swimming. This will place minimal stress on the plantar layers. There are special supports that fit in low -heeled lace-up shoes. Pronation (turning) causes toes to move forward and stretch the muscle tissues. Limiting the out turning with the use of arch supports takes th e pressure off the plantar. Make sure that your shoes have a flexible sole that bends behind your big toe. When you run you land on your heel followed by stepping up on your toes. If the sole is stiff and has a tendency to bend where it shouldn't (in a different place than your foot would naturally bend) extra force is put on the plantar and it can tear. Gently stretch your calf muscle. The calf muscle is an extension of the plantar fascia. Stretching (See my column on stretching, They Told Me I Looked Like Arnold Schwarzenegger, But I Thought That A Bit of a Stretch) the calf muscle makes that muscle more flexible, lessening the forces on the plantar. You might want to ask the medical professional (podiatrist, physical therapist, orthopedist) for a special taping called low-dye strap, which can be put on the foot and take on some of the work that the plantar would normally do.

A basic rehab program for tendon and ligament injuries is to start out slowly with strengthening exercises for the legs. You will find some exercises that will help in my Muscle of the Month section on leg muscles. Do not strain. You should finish a set of exercise and feel you could do two or three more reps. In the first two weeks of rehab watch for swelling or tenderness. If swelling subsides before the next work out continue exercise. If not wait until swelling is down and work with lower weights. In the 3rd or 4th week increase amount of exercise. Continue until there is little or no post-exercise swelling. Continue into the fifth and sixth weeks increasing weights and developing strength. After six weeks you should be able to return to normal activity. However differences in peoples healing ability can prolong or shorten the extent of rehabilitation. Tendon and ligaments are tough, fibrous and inelastic tissue with very little bloo d circulation, thereby causing slower healing. Please be patient. If you try to hurry the healing process along too fast, you will be back where you started from. So if it takes 8-10 weeks, don't try to rehabilitate in 6 weeks.

Read my article if you haven't already called An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Pain.

Willingly Open writes:

It seems to me that many feelings of superiority are a cover for feeling jealous and left out. Many people of my white culture have not taken the opportunities to participate in social events with families of color. Most people of color are very familiar with white cultural traditions and family events. The closeness of the Hispanic family and the traditions of the African-American families are, I believe, a source of enrichment for all families, but many Euro-Americans shun these traits and being so stubborn and self-reliant(a great way to be when your out in the middle of nowhere like in the early white settlements) really lose out on growth and change and stick to their old ways, calling their ways traditional and assuming that everyone should be like themselves. Being open and willing to change for me required a lot of travel and time spent with other cultures. Today, perhaps that is one way we can learn to learn from each other.

Gypsy joyfully rejoins:

I enjoyed your letter immensely and agree with you 100%. When we get to know each other on a more intimate level, many of our fears of other cultures and ways of life dissipate and give way to new friendships and new loves. We become more enriched as we exchange our ways of life. We find out that we all long for the same basic things: Love, Belonging, Friendship.

When we become a true part of the Human Race, we will be a healthier and happier society. I see the world changing and we humans of course must change with it. The more information we can exchange with each other, the better we will be able to fulfill the human promise and our destiny to produce a finer world for all and the lion may yet lie down with the lamb. Love your attitude.

Awakening Awareness wonders:

I've read a few of your essays and enjoyed them immensely. Your take on It's Not a Hot Flash! It's a Power Surge! menopause (not the pause that refreshes) as a power surge shifted my perspective dramatically and allowed me, in an instant, to view this upcoming stage of my life totally differently. I'm 42 and menopause has been hovering just outside of my experience, something to be dreaded and feared and endured. I can almost imagine looking forward to that time in my life.

At any rate, I was wondering if you've given any thought to race and race relations and if so, what kind of an essay you'd write.

Gypsy replies:

I am glad you enjoyed the article It's Not a Hot Flash! It's a Power Surge!. This was the first article I wrote on the WEB. I wrote it out of the frustration in trying to find information and since then I have seen more and more info come out of the closet. Menopause seemed to be a well kept secret, but I think , as the baby boomers are coming into their own, we are more insistent on getting knowledge out to each other. The information age has been a big boon to all of us.

I do have an article that I wrote shortly after the O.J. Simpson trial called Life Is a Race Charley Brown! or Stop The World I Want to Make Love!!. My family is a Rainbow Family with a mix of European-Slavik-Asian-African-American Indian with a variety of religious beliefs that would be too long to list. Since race was so talked about and around during the Simpson trial and since I believe that human relations plays a large part in our individual (as well as societal) health, I thought it appropriate to include an article on race.

Pridefully Unprejudiced writes:

I loved your essay on race Life Is A Race Charlie Brown or Stop the World I Want to Make Love!! (as well as other essays on your {"The Gift of Youth."website}. The key to peace and harmony in our future lies with the children of today. Children are remarkably understanding and resilient,smart! Children don't LEARN words like "Spic" or "Kyke" or "Nigger" unless someone TEACHES THEM ..It truly is up to us adults to monitor ourselves around the children, so that they don't grow up learning how to use such hateful, burning words.. or in general.. how to>hate.

My father grew up in a piss poor Italian neighborhood in Chicago during the 1940's. His father died when he was 6 years old, leaving his mom (my grandmother) to care for 2 small children all by herself. Without the help and kindness of the very racially mixed community they lived in, the kids would have certainly been taken away from her by the social services. Dad tells stories of being fed fresh tortillas by a kind Hispanic woman who lived next door. He also has very fond memories of "sneaking off" to the "black" churches on Sundays to hear gospel music. When my parents married in the 60's they moved to the suburbs, as so many of their generation did. My siblings and I were raised not to hate anyone, not to be afraid of anyone just because they look different. When the first black family moved to our very white suburban neighborhood, my dad was one of two people who actually went to their home to welcome them.

I plan on raising the children I hope to have someday not to be afraid, and to be wise. When they are old enough to understand, I will tell them the stories about man's inhumanity towards man. I want my children to grow up to be the first one to lend a hand to a neighbor who might be in need (so many people nowadays close the blinds and their minds when they fear a neighbor family might be in trouble!) I want my children to be able to love and marry anyone who suits their fancy, as long as they are good hearted human beings with good intention. Perhaps.. someday... if we all teach the right lessons... we can all move the steering wheel!

"Love's in need of Love today..." S. Wonder

Gypsy replies:

It warmed my heart to read words of a kindred spirit (in fact we all are such as far as I can tell, only some of us don't know it). It always amazes me when you size up our differences as humans - we all love and hate and are sad and happy and have good times and bad times and yes we can all mate - how trivial the ones we pick to proliferate. One of the nice things about the internet is how little it matters what we look like or what culture we came from or what our sexual preferences are. I really like this place on earth. We can get to know each other without the superficialities that often keep us apart.

When I was growing up in New York, one of my best friends was a white Anglo Saxon protestant working class girl. Her name was Claire. Her parents were very prejudice and because of that (she was my first true love at 10 years old) I refrained from telling her that I came from a Jewish background. When we became close and I trusted her more I finally told her. She never told her parents and we continued to play together and were best of friends. Through each other we learned the value of friendship and swore we would be friends through thick and thin. At school I had many other friends who I liked and from time to time they would visit and play in my neighborhood with me. One of my friends was a girl named Paula. After Claire she was probably my next closest friend. One day when Paula and I were playing potsy (a form of hopscotch played in my neighborhood), Claire came outside. I shouted and yelled to her to come over and play with us, but she looked sad and would not come across the street. Later that day after supper Claire knocked on our apartment door. She told me she had snuck out of her house to see me and with tears in her eyes she told me she could never play with me again. Of course I was devastated. It turned out her parents had seen me playing with Paula and told her that if I insisted on playing with that "nigger" girl, they would not allow Claire to play with me. I had already, through my parents (as it seems to be the case with you) developed a higher moral principal and of course I would not give up my friendship with Paula for such a flimsy reason. Claire and I cried (because she too knew what the outcome would be) and cried in each others arms. From that day forward we never spoke or played with each other. Even when I finally moved away I never said good-bye. To this day it gives me a painful tug to think of a beautiful friendship destroyed by such a trivial reason. It is sad and painful to deal with such prejudice, but deal with it we must and perhaps some day we will have something more important for which to struggle-like how are all us humans going to survive and not go the way of dinosaurs. As Anthony said to Caesar "The fault dear Caesar is not in our stars, but in ourselves.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Power Surge Sister asks:

I've read a few of your essays and enjoyed them immensely. Your take on "menopause" (not the pause that refreshes) as a power surge shifted my perspective dramatically and allowed me, in an instant, to view this upcoming stage of my life totally differently. I'm 42 and menopause has been hovering just outside of my experience, something to be dreaded and feared and endured. I can almost imagine looking forward to that time in my life.

At any rate, I was wondering if you've given any thought to race and race relations and if so, what kind of an essay you'd write.

Gypsy replies:

I am glad you enjoyed the article It's Not A Hot Flash --- It's A Power Surge. This was the first article I wrote on the WEB. I wrote it out of the frustration of finding [little or no] information and since then I have seen more and more info come out of the closet. Menopause seemed to be a well kept secret, but I think , as the baby boomers are coming into their own, we are more insistent on getting knowledge out to each other. The information age has been a big boon to all of us.

As to race relations, I do have an article that I wrote shortly after the O.J. Simpson trial called Life Is a Race Charley Brown! or Stop The World I Want to Make Love!! My family is a Rainbow Family with a mix of European-Slavik-Asian-African-American Indian with a variety of religious beliefs that would be too long to list. Since race was so talked about and around during the Simpson trial and since I believe that human relations plays a large part in our individual health, I thought it appropriate to include an article on race. Hope you read it and enjoy.

Menopause Maven writes:

I am an R.N. I have been doing as much research as possible on HRT [hormone replacement therapy]. I had a hysterectomy at 42 and was put on Premarin. Later I switched to the estrogen patch. Now at 49 I have decided to become an advocate for MYSELF. I have been reading every available publication on menopause and HRT. You are right. It's Not a Hot Flash --- It's a Power Surge. The doctors treat everyone with the same dosage of estrogen and are unwilling to look into other methods of treatment. The doctors and pharmaceutical companies work hand in hand. I worked in an OB/Gyn office and it was amazing. The drug companies would provide a lunch or other incentive for the doctor to use their product. The drug reps had been trained by their respective companies and would spout back the company line to the physician (who was overworked and didn't have the time to research information on his own). I have read two wonderful books: "What Your Doctor May Not tell you A bout Menopause,The Breakthrough Book on Natural Progesterone, by John R. Lee, M.D. and "Without Estrogen, Natural remedies for Menopause and Beyond,"by Dee Ito. Both books chronicle the use of Natural Progesterone Cream. I removed my estrogen patch on June 1st. That day I began using Pro-Gest Cream. I have not had one hot flash or other unpleasant side effect. I highly recommend both these books. I think its time that we as women begin to take our futures and our bodies into our own hands. When we do the medical industry will change to meet our demands.

Gypsy replies:

Thank you so much for your letter and information. When I first went into my pre-menopausal phase of this wondrous though often frustrating change, I could find so little info about it. Now more and more literature is coming out about menopause. Must be the baby boomer effect. It is very heartening and I will try to get a hold of the literature you've suggested. I will definitely put your letter into my advice column. I thing there are many women who would like to know there are people like you in the medical field who believe we women know what is good for us. It would be nice if the medical profession would stop looking at menopause as a disease, but as one of the many changes of life that is natural and often liberating in many ways. I have another book to recommend called "Menopausal Years-The Wise Woman Way" written by Susan S. Weed. She spent several years talking with more than 10,000 women about menopause. She spans a large variety of info, presented in an easy and often poetic format. I re ally enjoyed the book. Hope you get a hold of it.

Dreaming of Splits asks:

After having seen your page on the Net ( you have got a wonderful page) I have had many questions answered, but I have still got a question to ask: Why do my hip/groin joints ache for days after I do a good stretch? At the time, I do not feel any aches, only a certain tension in the area. (My greatest dream is to be able to do front and side splits)

Gypsy replies:

Often when people stretch they do it as if it were a resistance exercise. Stretching should always be done in a relaxed and easy manner. There should be no tension in the stretch. When you start your stretch, lean into it as you breathe out and feel as slight tension in the muscle you are stretching. Hold that stretch for about 30 seconds. If within a few seconds (3-5 seconds) you still feel tension, be sure to pull back from your stretch until you can comfortably hold it for 30 seconds. After 30 seconds relax, then stretch again using the same procedure and hold a second time for 20-30 seconds for a more advanced stretch. If you find yourself holding you breath, this will indicate you are overstretching the muscle. Breathe in and out in a relaxed way while doing your stretch. DO NOT BOUNCE INTO YOUR STRETCHES!! This can create what is called a stretch reflexive action and will only tighten you muscles, which is counter-productive. Try not to be in a hurry. Patience and persistence are the going word with stretching. You don't have to do the splits right away. You just want to get more flexible-gradually. Warm up with straddle stretches for the groin area. Then see if you can go down into the splits very carefully. If you read my column on stretching called: "They Told Me I Look Like Arnold Schwarzenegger, But I Thought That A Bit of A Stretch." I think you will find some good general and muscle specific stretches and some advice on how to get the most out of stretching.

If you stretch first thing in the morning make your stretches a gentle wake up call to your muscles. Later after doing exercise (pumping iron or other sports), you can do a more thorough stretch session before and after physical exertion. Stretching right before going to sleep (this too done gently as you put your muscles to bed) and you will find a more limber body come morning.

Soccer Stretcher asks:

Your web page is great. I play soccer on a high level, and need to stretch as well as possible, and your leg and back stretchs are great. ("They Told Me I Looked Like Arnold Schwarzenegger, But I Thought That A Bit Of a Stretch. Do you know much about strengthening your hip flexor and calves for speed? Or know any exercises for increasing speed? On the level I play speed is a great asset and is a must. If you don't know anything about it do you know someone who would?

Gypsy replies:

For increasing speed avoid isometric type exercises a la Charles Atlas and dynamic training. Though the advantages of such training can produce maximum muscular contraction and can be done anywhere in a short period of time, this type of training can lead to a reduction in speed of movement. These exercises are also boring and feedback is hard to achieve. Better to go with Isotonic (equal tension or weight) and better yet use Isokenetic training ( a form of isotonic exercise). Choosing a weight you can lift throughout your exercise where the muscles are the weakest (like the first part of a hamstring curl). A partner can be very helpful in getting you through the weaker part of the lift, allowing your strength to smoothly take over on the easier component This will allow your muscles to work to the fullest. Some of the exercise machines (Nautilis, Cybex etc) will somewhat accomedate a resistance proportional to whatever effort you apply to it. One of the newer forms of exercise being used today is p lyometrics. This is used in sports that require agility and speed. These exercises can improve strength as well as speed, when combined with a good weight training program. A typical plyometric exercise is jumping onto a low bench onto the floor and then quickly jumping back onto the bench again (sort of a quickened form of step aerobics). That will get your fast twitch reflexes working. For an upper body exercise try (for twitch reflex) a 12 lb medicine ball thrown back and forth as quickly as possible. Care should be taken, because like all exercise this can be dangerous if the athlete does not have sufficient strength to withstand the forces generated. Coordination is important and proper technique should be used. Land full foot to avoid knee or ankle injuries. If you are not sure contact a good trainer who understands pylometrics and how it works.

Also build up your cardio vascular endurance as well as local muscle endurance. Squats (done to parallel to avoid knee problems), cable or wall pulley work, hip extensions, flexion and adduction/abduction exercises are all good ones for soccer players. Toe raises (standing or seated) will help your calves or if you have a friend donkey calve raises (see muscle of the month on legs) are fun and intense. And of course don't forget those crunches since abs are an important part of full body strength.

In the next few weeks you can look at my muscle of the month and find some good leg strengthening exercises. As for stretches, my favorite for hip flexors I call sciatica-no-more. Lie on your back and cross one leg over the opposite one just above a bent knee. Then pulling gently on the bent knee trying to bring your leg that is accross said knee to your chest. Pull in straight so the full length of crossed leg comes toward your chest. Then there is the spinal twist: Sit with right leg straight out. Bend your left leg , cross your left foot over and rest it on the outside of your right knee . Then bend your right elbow and rest it on the outside of your upper left thigh just above knee. Let the elbow keep this leg stationary, controlling the pressure to the inside. Let your left hand rest behind you and turn your head to look over your left shoulder as you rotate your body toward your left hand and arm. This is sometimes called a baseball stretch. Hold quietly for 20 seconds and do the other side. (These stretches are also in the fore-mentioned article on stretching).

Check out a book called Getting Stronger by Bill Pearl. You will find it at any bookstore under exercise or athletics. It is quite good.

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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