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To Intensify Your Workout, Make Walking an Uphill Battle

May 24, 1999|KATHY SMITH

I made a recent trip to the mailbag and selected three questions for this week's column:

* Leslie Stevens of Los Angeles, asked: "How do I maximize my walking workouts?"

Head for the hills! I can't say enough about how much walking hills, or increasing the incline level on a treadmill, intensifies a walking workout. Not only do hills make for more challenging cardiovascular exercise, they also shape your legs and buttocks like you wouldn't believe. I'm lucky to live in a place where there's tons of great hilly walking to be done, right in our backyard. (A few of my favorite walking spots are in Will Rogers State Park and Temescal Canyon.)

And if you want to create your own hill workout on a treadmill, try this: After a five-minute warmup increase the incline level by 2 percentage points every two minutes until you max out at 12%. Then do it in reverse, decreasing the incline by 2 percentage points until you reach the flatlands and walk for five minutes, until your heart rate recovers.

I also recently discovered the Power Belt, one of the only effective walking-related exercise tools I've found. It's essentially a belt with handles that are attached to retractable cords, which you can set to different resistance levels. It doesn't disrupt my walking stride at all, and I get a great upper-body workout while I walk. (The Power Belt, made by Inergi Fitness, costs less than $50 and is available at stores like Target.)

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Monday August 30, 1999 Home Edition Health Part S Page 3 View Desk 2 inches; 64 words Type of Material: Correction
Kathy Smith--In the Kathy Smith column in the May 24 edition of Health, Smith recommended a walking-related fitness product called the Power Belt. The Times recently learned that before publication of the May 24 column, Smith appeared on an instructional video for the Power Belt, endorsing the product, which was sold over the Internet shortly after her column was published. This business relationship violates The Times' conflict of interest policy.

*

George McGuinness of Burbank asked: "I recently added swimming to my aerobic exercise routine (I also run) but wonder how much of each I should be doing. Also, as much as I love swimming, it really dries out my skin. Do you have any moisturizing products you'd recommend?"

Sounds to me like you've found an ideal cross-training combination. Running is great aerobic exercise, but it really pounds your joints. Swimming, on the other hand, is the most joint-friendly exercise you can do. And it's so relaxing that it really complements running. I'd suggest that you aim to do each twice a week, alternating between the two.

As for your dry skin, this is one of my biggest complaints about swimming. As much as I look forward to this time of year when I swim as part of my exercise routine, it wreaks havoc on my skin, hair and eyes. Over the years, I've found a couple of things that help. For dry skin, you might try a cream instead of a lotion. I like Eucerin Dry Skin Therapy Moisturizing Cream--it's unscented and does a great job of keeping my skin moisturized. After swimming, I also rinse the chlorine off my skin and then immediately slather on Palmer's Cocoa Butter formula with Vitamin E to lock in moisture.

To protect my hair, I put conditioner on it before I put on my swimming cap. I also occasionally use a special shampoo like Ultra Swim or Aveda's Hair Detoxifier, which help get the chlorine out. As for the best way to prevent the dreaded red, burning eyes, wearing a snug-fitting pair of goggles is your best bet. I like the way Barracuda's fit because the foam padding around the eyes is comfortable and really keeps the water out.

*

Carmella Turincio of Rowland Heights asked: "Do you know if there are different levels--beginning, intermediate and advanced--of the hot new Tae-Bo workout? And when I do this kind of workout, what kind of shoes should I wear?"

Seems like everyone's talking about Tae-Bo these days! Tae-Bo, a combination of kick boxing and taekwondo, is a trademarked workout that is offered only at Billy Blanks' studio in Sherman Oaks. However, kick boxing is one of the hottest workout trends from coast to coast. I urge all novice kick boxers to be very careful when they start.

Here are some things to keep in mind. Arrive at class early so you can get a spot where you can see the instructor clearly. Watch carefully what he or she does during each move so you learn to do the workout safely. The combinations of energetic kicks and punches, combined with intense cardio work, could lead to injury. In fact, for the first six to eight weeks that you take kick boxing, don't fully extend your arms and legs during kicks and punches. Kicking above knee level can pull hamstrings and injure your back, and you shouldn't spend more than 20 minutes per class kicking. Even doing a kick boxing workout at 50% intensity will still make you sweat.

I know that sounds like cheating, but, trust me, even at half-effort you'll get a great workout. As for the shoes, I can suggest basketball shoes. They have a smooth sole, provide plenty of lateral support and protect the ankles.

Thanks to all my correspondents. Keep those cards and letters coming.

*

Copyright 1999 by Kathy Smith

Kathy Smith's fitness column appears weekly in Health. Reader questions are welcome and can be sent to Kathy Smith, Health, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053. If your question is selected, you will receive a free copy of her new video, "Kickboxing Workout." Please include your name, address and a daytime phone number with your question.

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