Thursday, May 12, 2011

Call me Google, ‘cause I’ve got answers

*this week's article from my column in the local newspaper

Every once in awhile my husband finishes my sentences for me. I get halfway through my brilliant comment then he pipes in and blurts out the ending. I’m not gonna lie, it irritates me. Which I make very clear when it happens. Since my irritation has nothing to do with my well-meaning husband, and everything to do with the fact that I am female, I don’t feel too bad mentioning this area of contention in our marriage. Don’t worry, I’ll get over it and stop believing that when I’m interrupted halfway through my monologue I’m being slighted.

I’m convinced that Google must be male, because it has the audacity to finish my sentences for me as well. I type no more than two words and up pops three ways of saying exactly what I’m trying to say. Out of pure spite, I ignore all three correct options and finish typing out my search for myself. I realize the lack of efficiency involved with that. I could save myself five seconds and just click on what I’m wanting. Any normal person would be glad to see that Google guessed their “search” and saved them the time of typing the whole thing out.

With that in mind I’m going to assume that you are more normal than me, and that you’ll be pleasantly surprised as I attempt to “guess” your health & fitness questions/searches. So today I’m going to act like my husband and Google and answer what I think you might want to ask about exercise, nutrition, or overall health.

Google Guess #1 – “When is the best time of day to exercise?”

Answer #1 – There actually is no “magic hour”. The best time to exercise will be different for every person. It depends on your schedule, location, circadian rhythm, and temperament. There are pros and cons for every exercise time. If you workout first thing in the morning you get it done and over with. If you are a procrastinator morning workouts may be best for you. A morning workout also kick starts your metabolism and may make you burn more calories during the rest of the day. Exercise releases endorphins, so morning exercise often makes a person feel better about the rest of their day. On the flip side, in the morning your muscles are more rigid and tight and you’ll need to take time to adequately warm-up before you can really push yourself hard in a workout. You’re body is also low on fuel first thing in the morning and you could easily lack intensity in your workout without eating something first. Afternoon or evening exercise is often a great de-stressor. Your muscles are also warm which makes injury less likely. A con of evening exercise is that if you are working out too close to bedtime it may leave you amped up so you don’t get a good night's sleep. Also, as you go through your day and responsibilities pile up, working out is more likely to get pushed off of the to do list. So really the best time to workout is the time that works best for you.

Husband Hypothesis #2 – “Should I exercise if I am sick?”

Answer #2 – Here are the facts: Exercise, psychological stress, physiological stress, and immune function are all intertwined. The body can only handle so many demands at one time, and when it is laboring in response to exercise and stress it suppresses immune function. Likewise, when the body is fighting off illness, the physical effort of exercise is negatively impacted. Other stressors such as lack of sleep, poor nutrition, or mental stress can magnify this impact. My advice is that stressing the body in too many ways at once is unwise. Since you’re ability to exercise is greatly hindered by being sick and it may weaken you’re immune system by over stressing your body it’s best to take a few days off and fully recover before you workout again.

Google Gander #3 – “Do I really need to warm-up before exercise and cool-down after?”

Answer #3 – YES! - to both. Warming up greatly reduces the risk of injury and improves your athletic performance. A warm-up or cool-down typically involves doing your activity at a slower pace and reduced intensity for five to ten minutes. The main purpose of warming up is to increase your heart rate slowly which then raises your core body temperature and increases the blood flow to your muscles. This prepares your body for more vigorous physical activity. Some people equate stretching with warming up, but really stretching should be done at the end of a workout, not during a warm-up. A warm-up may include things like walking, light jogging, jumping jacks, jumping rope, or light aerobics. When you are finished with your workout it is important to cool down. Many people skip this phase, but cooling down is another way to prevent injury. The cool-down reduces your heart rate, and it helps the extra blood in your extremities return to your heart in order to rid the muscles of lactic acid. If you stop suddenly, the blood will pool in your legs instead of returning to your heart. Dizziness, nausea, and a "worn out" feeling are common symptoms of an improper cool-down. Slower walking is a great way to cool-down along with stretching at the end of your workout.

Husband Hunch #4 – “Why do I get a side-stitch, and how can I make it go away?”

Answer #4 – There isn’t one clear cut explanation as to why people get that painful burning sensation near the upper part of the abdomen or side. But, there are a few potential causes of a side-stitch. It could be caused by a jarring and pulling on the ligaments that attach the stomach to the diaphragm. It may also have something to do with your breathing. Taking deep full breaths during exercise typically helps in avoiding a side-stitch. Eating too soon before exercise can also cause a side-stitch. A few ways to relieve side-stitch pain are to reduce the exercise intensity level until the pain subsides, focus on taking deep full breaths, tightening the abdominal muscles while bending forward, always doing an adequate warm-up, and waiting at least two hours after eating to exercise.

I realize I’m not as proficient at the “sentence-finishing” as my husband or Google, but hopefully I did ok. If I didn’t answer a question you have, or if like me, you’re annoyed at having words put into you mouth; then email me at and tell me what health, fitness, or nutrition related questions you need answered. You may just get lucky and read your answer in my next article!

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